July 8, 2015, and we’re meeting our attorney at Chiriqui mall in David to hopefully get my temporary pensianado visa. Having finally gathered all the required documents,
- Apostilled FBI background check (far and away the most time consuming)
- Apostilled verification of income (in my case, as in most, this is SSI)
- Certificate of Health (a joke, but still a requirement)
- Six passport photos
- A copy of our lease agreement in Panama
- A copy of our electric bill
I was ready to go for it. My lady love could only watch as I went through the procedure. Her FBI application had bounced because of unsatisfactory fingerprints. She had to start the whole process all over again. Three months or more lost.
Many if not most people apply in Panama City instead of David. Everything of real importance happens in “the city”. But if the stars line up right and the government folks in David are of good humor, it’s possible to get the temporary visa there in a matter of hours. Instead of 2 or 3 days in Panama City. I was told to bring $150 in cash for various charges if indeed they accepted the application today.
The immigration people are located in Chiriqui mall, immediately west of PriceSmart, the Sam’s Club of Central America. They occupy two levels of an office that has about 2500 sq ft on the bottom and 2,000 or so on top. I’m told the top is basically the IT department. Four cubicles below and three free-standing desks support more than a dozen federal workers.
We arrived prior to their opening at 8AM and waited 15 minutes or so for everyone to get settled before going in. Our attorney walked up to a clerk, presumably to tell him why we were there, and we were asked to take a seat. No other customers at all were present. Before long we were asked for $5 for the application fee. More waiting. Then I signed some forms, at my attorneys bidding, and waited some more. Then my attorney had me sign five copies of another sheet of paper, and we waited. It was about now that the attorney said we were home free. The application would be received and processed here. No trip to the big city would be required until the permanent visa was issued. How wonderful that simple bit of news sounded! Two or three days in Panama City dealing with slow-moving bureaucrats held no appeal for me. None at all.
I was asked for more money, $100 this time. $50 was for a multi-entry permit and $50 was presumably for the temporary visa. Unless one has the multi-entry permit, which is a stamp in the passport that says “Residente en Tramite”, one cannot leave the country after obtaining the temporary visa until the permanent is granted, typically 4 months. Don’t ask me why.
After a bit more waiting I was called in to sit for my visa photo. A Skype-type portable camera was hung from the clerk’s computer monitor. On his desk to the left was a small machine that prints out a professional-looking card that says really nothing of consequence that I could tell, but it’s the temporary pensianado visa. It has the full force of the permanent visa but it expires in one year.
The whole affair took about two and a half hours. All things should go so smoothly.