February 28, 2013

Having a Baby in Panama...

I know its been forever since I first started the posts about living in Panama and some of the paperwork that is required. What can I say? Baby, husband, laundry, cooking, other blog all keeps me busy. So here I am finally going to continue on the information highway and give you more insight into how to have a baby in Panama. I know that when Seth and were looking into this topic, we found pretty much nothing out there. So hopefully, this post finds someone looking for the same information, and it is beneficial.

I've already raved on and on about the medical care in Panama. It is fantastic! You will be very hard pressed to find anyone who will tell you that they had a horrible experience at a Panama hospital. So even though the healthcare industry is fantastic! Getting all your paperwork together after you have that little love nugget can be quite daunting to say the
least. Hooray to anyone who gets all their paperwork on the first try! Big, big Hooray!

While you are in the hospital, they will prepare all the paperwork that is required in order for you to get your US birth certificate and passport. However, it takes time and patience to get all the little parts to complete the whole picture. If you do not speak Spanish fluently, then you must, must, must get someone to translate for you. (If you need a contact person, email me because I know someone fantastic!) Even with a translator, expect all the paperwork in the office in order to get your birth certificate to take at least an hour. There are only 2 people in the office, and if one is gone, then it will take even longer.

You must have the mother's passport to complete the paperwork requesting the birth certificate. The child will take the mother's last name or whatever appears on her passport. I did not have my name changed on my passport yet, so Taelyn's last name in Panama is my maiden name. Her US passport has our married name, Schnelle since the US recognizes the father's last name.
The hospital will also give you the original of your child's footprints and birth information. Don't lose this either because a we found out in Mexico, it has some important medical info on it that you future doctor may need about the child when they were born. Who'd a thunk? 
After you get the form from the hospital giving you permission to obtain a birth certificate, you must go to the government office for birth certificates. Lucky for us it was right across the street from the San Fernando Hospital where Taelyn was born so no driving on crazy Panamanian City streets. Ironically, getting the birth certificate only takes a couple of minutes, and they print it for you right there. Of course, its stamped a few times to make it authentic.
Once you have your birth certificate, then you can apply for your cedula which is basically a Panamanian social security number. This number will be used on everything in the future to identify your child. People use their cedula's with their signatures on all official documents. So don't lose it. Its not like it can't be replaced, but as is everything in Panama, it will take time to retrieve the number from a government office in the future.

Because we were US citizens, it took us 7 days to receive our cedula. So if you are in a time crunch to get your US passport like we were, then you need to plan on at least 2-3 weeks to get all the paperwork required in order to apply for your US born abroad birth certificate. Also, one important thing to remember is that any paperwork that is stapled no matter how trivial it appears must stay stapled together. It usually has been stamped in an overlay pattern that is necessary for another piece of paperwork.

Hooray for you when you get a copy of your child's cedula! The hard part is over. Now, you switch over to the US side which is much quicker and easier to understand. You will now apply for a US Born Abroad Birth Certificate and Passport. The consulate will do both for you at the same time as long as you have all the required paperwork. At this point, all you need to do is schedule an appointment online for your birth certificate and get passport photos for your newborn. These can be obtained at all Sacks department stores and only takes about 30 minutes.

Here's what you must have when you go to the consulate:

  1. Passports of both parents
  2. Marriage license of parents
  3. Panamanian birth certificate
  4. Panamanian cedula
  5. Passport photo of newborn
And then in a matter of just a week the consulate sends you an email and tells you that you are the proud owner of one these...
...and one of these...
Ironically, Taelyn will never be able to become the President of the United States because she was not born on US soil. However, she can become the Panamanian President. I think its kind of funny in a way. The most important thing for us is that in the future, if Taelyn should ever want to return to Panama she will be recognized as a citizen and has rights to medical care and land ownership not available to foreigners. That is why it is imperative to us that she learns to speak spanish fluently so that she always has options for her future. 

Disclaimer: I apologize for the crude pictures, but being a busy mommy I was too lazy to get everything scanned at the photoshop. I also know that all the paperwork has great big sections whited out. Crazy me for not wanting the world to know my child or other's cedula. 


  1. Wow, I'm sure this information will be so helpful for someone! The process seems surprisingly smooth and everything! I was terrified to get my wisdom teeth out in Germany, so having a child would probably just end me.

  2. Who is a good contact I need some good contacts in Panama to assist with US Citizenship

    1. Are you a US citizen or another nationality? If you are a US citizen, then contact the US Embassy in Panama. They will assist you with your needs. If you are another nationality, then I'm not sure who you would contact to get US Citizenship.

  3. Thanks so much Kristen! I haven't found much on this subject either. I would love to speak with you further and get your translator's information. My email is Hopefully we will talk soon! :) ~Emily