Our trip to Panama City was a mix of good and not so good. The good is that we’re now ‘officially’ in the system and we have our temporary Panama ID’s in our hot little hands….Yes! Our permanent ID’s should be in our possession in a few months time. The bad part of our trip was the disappointing realization that our plans to fly to California had to be cancelled at least temporarily. This due to a tiny little detail our attorney neglected to make perfectly clear to us clueless Gringos…. When I asked our attorney if it would be okay for us to plan to return to the states as soon as our application was in process she said,”yes, as soon as your application is in process you can leave Panama”. Okay, that seemed clear to us so we booked the trip for the day after meeting with her. But when I mentioned we were leaving on Saturday, (the very next day) I got…”What?, you cant do that!” SCREEEEEECH! (this is the sound of our plans coming to a screeching halt!)
We were aware of the necessity to have a multi entry visa, no problem. The tiny little part that we did not know on Thursday was that we would be submitting our request for the multi entry visa on Friday , after our application was formally in process and said multi entry visa takes two business days to process! Being a Friday that meant we would not have that ever important document until late on Tuesday! Ugggggg! In addition, if we were to leave Panama while our residency visa was in process we would be fined $4,000.00! Yikes! Well, that would have been nice to have known before we planned a trip to California! Big giant eye roll here! Gulp! Well…let’s just get this immigration thing done and deal with that little snafu later….Our minds were racing thinking about all the phone calls we were going to have to make and all the money we would be losing because of this miscommunication. Oh well, nothing we can do about it…
May I say, in spite of the little communication problem our attorney, or shall I say her assistant (who happens to be her husband) really really earns every dime he gets for the services he provides! Both Thursday and Friday we spent three hours each morning at that crowded, confusing, and noisy place following him around from window to window like two little baby duckies following Mama duck! We both agreed that without him we would have been so lost and likely would not have gotten anything accomplished with any semblance of sanity left! We stood in a long line wrapping around the building at 7:30 in the morning until the door opened at 8:00 then after getting inside proceeded to a new line to get a number…went downstairs with our number in hand and waited for those windows to open at 8:30 then when our number was called we went to the window, signed papers, got our fingerprints taken and a photo taken and marched over to another window to pay $10.00, marched back to the first window to hand in our receipt of payment, marched back upstairs and got another number from the grumpy lady at the front desk then went and sat down to wait for that number to be called, then went to the next window, handed him more papers and that was the first day to get our residence application submitted and officially in process.
Day two started the same way outside in the long line , then inside to get a number then downstairs to window number one then to the paying window to pay $200.00 then upstairs to get another number and then to the window to have our picture taken and get our Panama ID card. I’m gonna tell you, when the nice lady handed me that little card I felt tears well up in my eyes! I know, goofy, but Man…it’s been a long road to that little ID card! Sheesh! And all along our attorneys assistant was right by our side guiding us all over and making it as painless as possible, he really knows his way around that immigration office. You can tell he spends a lot of time there because everyone seemed to know him and called him by his first name. We felt like we were in good hands.
Some would say that our personal journey to get our residency visa has been fraught with trials. Indeed our patience and endurance was tested quite a bit as we’ve jumped through all the hoops necessary to prepare all our documents. There are many people who’s story is very different, and much less complicated than ours has been. Then we’ve spoken to some who had even more trouble than us and even shed some tears along the way, maybe even nearly committing murder due to extreme tests on the endurance of their patience.
Not unlike this entire ‘expat’ life, everyone has a different story to tell. A different nightmare, or a series of disasters and frustrations that tested their desire to live here. But there are those who tell of going through this visa process with no problems at all, smoooooth sailing all the way through each step. Humph! Whatever! I say with a sassy tone….as I roll my eyes! Hah! Our process has been a bit bumpy but we’ve persevered and taken lots of deep breaths while desperately hanging on for dear life to that ‘tranquilo’ that we love so much. Both Scott and I tend to be fairly patient people by nature. Our outlook on life and trials that come our way is a simple one. Is it really going to change anything to lose our temper, yell and scream, and be miserable? Not likely. We try to remain as calm and level headed as we can. If one of us is going to lose it, it will normally be me. Scott is ever the logical thinker, not letting a setback cause too much stress. Which was the case on this trip to Panama City. I’m always so grateful for my calm, cool and collected husband. If not for his ever mellow and logical personality and outlook on life I don’t know how I would make it through some of these types of situations without a little crying and maybe a little screaming here and there, hah!.
We still have a couple more steps in this process to be legal here. Although, none nearly as lengthy and complicated as what we just endured. As soon as we receive our official Pensionado visa our attorney will apply for our Cedula. This is a different ID card that is similar to our U.S. Drivers license, in that it will be associated with an ID number that never changes the same as our license number. Because the Pensionado Visa is associated to our passport number when our passport expires and the number changes it will no longer match, so we will need to get a new ID, it’s just a little easier to have a permanent ID that will never ever change. That way when we use that ID number on other documents like our car registration we will never have to change it. The process to get the Cedula is not complicated and like I said the attorney will take care of it for an extra $100.00.
The other thing we need to do within a month of getting our ID is to get a Panamanian Drivers license. Again, not a big deal, no test or anything like that. We will need to go to the American Embassy in Panama City and they will notarize our U.S. drivers license and then we give that to our attorney, they will take the notarized copy and have it authenticated and send it to us. We then take that and our blood test ( Blood test? I know, weird, but shrug, whatever!) to David and get a drivers license. That Panama drivers license is the document that puts an end to those dreaded border runs that we have to do every 90 days! Yea! And that’s the final step to being legal in this new place we are now calling home.
I know lot’s of our friends and family are finding all that we’re going through to be quite tiresome, complicated and confusing. Many are shaking their heads in disbelief that we actually ‘chose’ to put ourselves through so much apparent difficulty for this new adventure we’ve decided to pursue. And to that I say, as I’ve said before, the decision to expatriate and create a whole new life in a different country is a life decision that’s surly not for everyone. Most prefer , understandably, to remain where everything is familiar, comfortable and safe. And its only fair that we get to shake our heads in disbelief as well at the thought of not experiencing this truly exciting adventure. In my mind, I find the thought of staying put and continuing down a path that was, for me,
becoming predictable, boring and more and more stress inducing, to be much more Tiresome, Complicated and Confusing than this exhilarating adventure we’ve chosen to pursue. So as we jump through the necessary hoops and stand in all the necessary lines to get documents stamped and processed and blah blah blah, it may be tedious at times but in the end, we’re where we want to be, doing what makes us so happy and, to be sure,….we are thrilled with each accomplishment and each hurdle that we manage to conquer during this Adventure. Next up is our rescheduled trip to California to facilitate the packing and shipping of our container of household goods. And we’re both looking forward to visiting with friends and family. Fingers crossed that all goes as planned or there just may be a bit of crying and screaming coming from this Adventurer!! Humph!! Oh, relax, I’m just kidding…..Kinda! 🙂