Is an E-Cedula Necessary?

An E-cedula is an official Panamanian ID card.  Every Panamanian has a cedula, expats can get an E-cedula.  It is used at banks, to get on a domestic airplane, to register a car, etc.  The number on the card is similar to our Social Security numbers used for identification.  For an expat to get one, it means that we plan on being a part of Panama.  It does not give us citizenship and we can’t vote here.  It does give you a higher status, showing that you are assimilating into Panamanian life.

I lived in S. Florida almost my whole life.  I was there when the first Cubans fled Castro’s Cuba and there when the other immigrant groups from the Caribbean and Central and South America arrived.  Many assimilated quickly.  I was always shocked and appalled that many did not.  They congregate in areas like Little Havana and make no move to learn the language, culture or customs of their new country.

I vowed never to be like that.  To me, getting an e-cedula is thanking a country who has welcomed us with open arms.  It is necessary.  It is also a huge convenience.  Currently, our bank account, drivers’ licenses and car registration are tied to our passport number.  Without a cedula, when we renew our passport, we would have needed to change all the numbers on our license, bank account, etc. because our passport number will change.  The e-cedula number stays the same forever.  Once we transfer everything to our new cedula number, we will never have to change it.

Is an E-Cedula necessary?  For me, the answer is a resounding “Yes”.  It shows that we are participating residents of Panama.

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8 thoughts on “Is an E-Cedula Necessary?

  1. I read one can get a Cedula E without using an attorney. Do you might sharing your experience with the process? I think I need to upgrade.

    • I’ve heard that too. If we more proficient in Spanish, maybe we would have inquired about doing it ourselves. We also live in Boquete, not PC. Between those two things, we decided to use our attorney.

      • It is virtually impossible to get you cedula without an attorney(abrogada or abrogado) . The rules and regulations change almost weekly which is a pain for the attorney as well. You best have all of your documents together all at once and file as soon as possible. Then do not leave the country for any reason until the thing is approved. They will assume you have committed some crime in whatever country you went to while waiting and you will have to start all over again. Trust me. I started 3 times before finally getting it. If you get your temporary card, then you can get your Panama driver’s license with your US driver’s license if you have at least 6 months left on it before it expires. There is a change here on that. You can drive with your US license for 90 days only but stay in Panama for 180 days with a tourist Visa. If you get caught driving after the 90 days in the country, there is a big fine. Not a good idea. Some run across the border to Costa Rica for a day or two and then come back to Panama. In order to do this, you must have a return ticket to the USA or wherever you come from, 500 bucks in cash on you (which is dangerous), and whatever new rule they come up. There are people who have been here for years on a tourist visa. The Panama government is trying to stop these people from doing this. They are basically overstaying their visa and getting away with it.

      • We were very lucky finding a great attorney. He was very specific with what we needed and everything was done pretty quickly. I think asking some of the long-term expats their recommendations is the key. People that just arrive and begin making life changing decisions are just asking for trouble. I also know people who are here over their 180 days on their tourist visas and driving way over the 90 limit on their US license. Bad decision which could result in big problems and having their car impounded.

  2. I agree, it does show respect for Panama, just as learning Spanish. I appreciate the excellent info you’re providing us. Mariah

  3. I’ve been here 5 years now and am in the process of getting my carnet changed to an E Cedula.

    I lived in FloriDUH for 35 years, except when I was going to the U of M in 61 it was all in Broward County mainly Lauderdale proper. I was there for the Pedro Pan flights but missed out on Mariel. I was living in New Orleans at the time.

    But you know the reason those first Cubans of the early 60s didn’t make an effort to learn English and assimilate? The answer is quite simple…they were all going to be going home in a year or two.

    The ones who are in Miami/Dade now who don’t speak English are simply lazy. It’s like why the gringos here in Chiriquí flock to Boquete. There are so many of their own kind that they can get along just fine using only English. They’re lazy. Oh, they come here with all the best intentions. Sign up a Habla Ya go to a few classes and then drop out and hang with their buds and chat with each other in English.

    I can’t tell you how many times when I was down in Miami when I had people come up to me and say, “¿Habla español?” I always liked the looks on their faces when I said, “Si, pero no aqui. Es los estado unidos, aqui, hablamos inglés. Quando estoy in Panama o Mexico yo hablo español, pero no en mi propio país.” And I feel EXACTLY the same way down here. Don’t EVER walk in somewhere and say, “¿ Habla inglés?” At least have the decency to learn a few phrases beyond “¿Donde esta el baño? And “Una mas cerveza.” At LEAST learn, “Lo siento, yo no hable mucho español” THAT will go a LONG WAY to making your life easier…

    Sorry for the rant.

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