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Child and Family Matters
May 1, 2019

Issue Affecting Minor Children

Minors (children under 18) who are citizens (including dual citizens) or legal residents of Panama are required to present both parents’ identification documents, birth certificates, and notarized consent (in Spanish) in order to exit the country if not accompanied by both parents. (PLEASE NOTE that the notarized consent should also be apostilled if the consent is signed in the U.S). Any child born in Panama automatically obtains Panamanian citizenship.

This documentation is required at all sea and air ports as well as at all border crossing points.

Even if minors are not documented as Panamanian citizens but are documented as U.S. citizens, they may be denied departure without the consent letter and birth certificate. Before being accepted at Panamanian immigration entry and departure points, consent documents notarized in the United States need to be authenticated in the U.S. with an apostille by the designated authorities in each jurisdiction, generally the Secretary of State’s office. Electronic scans of documents that have been e-mailed, or faxes of the documents, will not be accepted, only the original documents. You must bring the original documents with you from the U.S. if your children are accompanying you to Panama.

Curfew for Minors

The Government of Panama strictly enforces the juvenile curfew law, which requires minors under 18 years of age who are not under the supervision of an adult to be off the streets between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.  The curfew law applies to both Panamanian and foreign citizens.

Minors who commit a curfew violation are subject to detention at a police station until they are released into the custody of their parents. Parents may be fined for the violation, and the amount of the fine is up to the discretion of the Corregidor (magistrate) of the local area.  Students attending night classes must have a carnet issued by the school.  Minors who are employed must obtain a certificate of employment.

Marriage in Panama

Fill out the application for a marriage license before the competent court for the jurisdiction where at least one of the parties lives.

  1. Health Certificate for both parties, which includes: a) General Medical Exam; b) lab tests: VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory), Biometría hemática (Complete Blood Count), Electroforesis de hemoglobin (Hemoglobin Electrophoresis), Urinalysis, HIV/AIDS test. The health certificate must be issued within the 15 days prior to the ceremony by a registered physician.
  2. Birth Certificate, issued in your country of origin.
  3. Birth Certificates of existing children of either party.
  4. If the parties have not been previously married, a certificate of single status (Certificado de Solteria) to that effect must be presented.  This certificate should be issued in the country where you have been residing the last 2 years.  The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit does not issue such documents.  Generally, this requirement can be satisfied by signing a sworn statement attesting to your single status in front of a Panamanian notary.  Two witnesses, not related to you, must also make a sworn statement that you are single.
    For Panamanian citizens: The aforementioned certificates can be obtained at the Civil Registry Office on Avenida Peru, telephone number:  507-8000.
  5. Two witnesses of legal age, not related to any of the parties (i.e. within the fourth grade of consanguinity or second degree of kinship or by adoption). This means the following people cannot serve as witnesses: brother/sister, cousin, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece, son/daughter-in-law, father/mother-in-law or brother/sister-in-law-of the couple to be married.
  6. Panamanian ID card (cedula) or passport with corresponding visa.

For detailed information in Spanish, go to the PanamaTramita website, and search for “contraer matrimonio.”


This section provides an overview of the intercountry adoption process. The process varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of the countries where the adoptive parents and the child reside (which in the case of the United States means both federal and state law), and also in which of these locations the legal adoption is finalized. Additionally, if the child’s home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed. Prospective adoptive parents should consider all of these factors when evaluating what to expect.

Why Adopt?

“The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. … [I]ntercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin.”

-Hague Adoption Convention, Preamble

Every child benefits from a loving home in deeply profound ways.  Intercountry adoption has made this permanently possible for hundreds of thousands of children worldwide.  When children cannot remain with a relative, and new parents within their communities cannot be found, intercountry adoption opens another pathway to children to receive the care, security, and love that a permanent family can provide.

Some additional resources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway – A service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medline Plus – A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

The American Academy of Pediatrics

Who Can Adopt?

To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law.  The federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security.  You may not bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for the purpose of immigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are eligible to adopt from another country.

National Requirements

You must meet certain requirements to bring a foreign-born child whom you’ve adopted to the United States.  Some of the basic requirements include the following:

  1. You must be a U.S. Citizen.
  2. If you are unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.
  3. If you are married, you must jointly adopt the child (even if you are separated but not divorced), and your spouse must also be either a U.S. citizen or in legal status in the United States.
  4. You must meet certain requirements that will determine your suitability as a prospective adoptive parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study.
State Requirements

In addition to qualifying to adopt under U.S. law, you must also meet your home state’s requirements for prospective adoptive parents.  Learn more about individual state requirements on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Foreign Country Requirements

Each country has its own requirements for adopting parents.  These are explained in the Country Information section of this website.