Getting a Panama Driver’s License
Foreigners using their country’s driving license can operate a motor vehicle in Panama legally for up to 90 days. After that time period, foreigners are required to obtain a Panama driver’s license. Once a tourist becomes a temporary resident of Panama he or she will be required to apply for a Panama driver’s license right away (even if it less than 90 days).
The Panamanian government contracts with a private company called SERTRACEN to examine applicants and issue the driver’s licenses.
This is the process for obtaining a Panama driver’s license:
All U.S. citizens are required to go to the U.S. Embassy and visit the American Citizen Services (ACS) office during normal working hours to request an affidavit. There is a standard form for requesting a Panama driver’s license. The Consular cashier will charge $50 which includes a public notary to authenticate the signature on the affidavit.
Citizens of other Countries
Citizens from other countries must contact their nearest embassy or consulate to obtain the forms necessary to apply for a Panama driver’s license. This will also include an affidavit similar to the one provided by the U.S. embassy.
Panama Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) used to be located in Edison Plaza on Ave. Ricardo Alfaro (called Tumba Muerto) but has moved to another building on the same street several blocks in the direction of the international airport. The MFA will authenticate the embassy’s affidavit and a copy of the original foreign driver’s license.
No Blood Type
If the original driver’s license doesn’t list the driver’s blood type you will have to go to a medical laboratory which is certified by Panama’s Transit Authority (ATTT). The website of the SERTRACEN has a web page listing all of the certified medical labs throughout Panama. There are 65 of them in Panama City. The website link is: www.sertracen.com.pa/
Bring the proof of blood type medical report, your passport, original driver’s license, residency immigration documents (if applicable), and the notarized affidavit and MFA documents to a SERTRACEN service center whose website lists where their service centers are located in Panama. Their phone number is 315 – 6500.
The fee for applying for a Panama driver’s license is $40 USD.
At the service center you will take an eye exam to determine whether you will be required to wear eye glasses or contact lenses. If you fail this test you must get a prescription and purchase eye wear before returning to retake the eye exam.
A hearing test will also determine whether you can hear cars honking and other noises while driving.
After passing these two exams your photo will be taken along with your home address information.
It only takes an hour for the new Panama driver’s license (with photo) to be issued.
The Panama driver’s license is valid for four years.
Here is the entire step by step process to obtain a Panama Driver’s License:
• Certify the License in the embassy or consulate of the country where the license was issued.
• Authenticate the embassy’s Certification in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
• Provide original and copy of the passport;
• Provide original and copy of the immigration card;
• Provide original and copy of foreign license;
• Provide results of blood type test issued by one of the certified laboratories (If the license has the blood type it will not be required);
• Perform visual and auditory exams in the branch where the application is being processed.
• Be in good standing with A.T.T.T;
• Pay $40 USD in cash (includes visual and auditory exams);
• Payment must be made in the checkout counters of the ATTT located in SERTRACEN’s branches where the license is being processed.
** Certification by the Embassies or Consulates must provide the following information:
• The term “certifies or declares, certifies or establishes” must be used.
• Name of the Consul or autonomous person in charge of validating the information must be provided.
• Applicant´s Name and Passport Number as established in the passport of their country must be included.
• License number to be validated and expiration date must be included.
• Place or country of issuance of license must be included.
• Describe the vehicle license categories (if the license has details on the categories, it won’t be necessary for the certification to detail them. A copy of both sides of the license must be presented.).