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Thursday, October 30 2014 @ 07:35 PM EDT

Air Force Brat - Born In Canal Zone 44 Years Ago - Wants To Claim Panamanian Citizenship

Immigration Issues By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email: "Don, Little over 44 years ago I was born in Gorgas hospital as my dad was in the air force and stationed there in the canal zone for three years. Both my parents are white Anglo Americans from the good old southern state of Alabama...Roll Tide. I came along during that slot of time and have asked my mom several times why she did not register me as a citizen of Panama. Her answer to me has always been, "I didn't want to take the opportunity for you some day to become president of the USA." Wow mom really. What a visionary my mom has always been, still to this day.

Well now years down the road and I wish she would have. I have spent the last 20 years of my life living, working, communicating, building relationships, memories, and family all over Latin America, 10 of those years living in Mexico. I love the culture...I love the peopl, hell they have become my people.

In 1998 I lived in Costa Rica and thought about it and had an opportunity to pursue my citizenship but didn't take advantage of it. Now I wish I had. Which brings me in a round about way to you. I have a friend in Panama who has citizenship and told me to go on Panama Guide to find out how I might do it. So after reading article of yours on those Americans living there after years and becoming panamanians I'm writing to you as one born there with the birth papers to prove it as well as a USA passport that on the place of birth says Panama, which by the way has caused me problems like you would not believe over the years of traveling all over LA.

So, can you help? What do I do? Who do I talk to? Thanks for your time and whatever help you can provide. Leave a legacy, CL"

This Is An Easy One: Panama considers any person who was born in the former "Canal Zone" to be a Panamanian citizen by birth. Especially now since the Panama Canal and all of the lands of the former Canal Zone have been turned back over to the Panamanian's control with the full implementation of the Torrijos-Carter treaty at the end of 1999, these kinds of issues have become a question of national pride. For the government of Panama, anyone born on Panamanian soil - "Canal Zone" or no - is a Panamanian citizen by birth. Period. If you have the documentation proving you were in fact born at the Gorgas Army Hospital some 44 years ago, then all you will have to do is come here and present those documents to the offices of the Electoral Tribunal, where Cedulas (national identification cards) are issued. It's not hard to find because quite literally every Panamanian in town has to go there to get their cedula. Every cab driver knows exactly where it is.

What You Can Get: You are entitled to a Panamanian passport, cedula, and the same rights and privileges as any other Panamanian citizen. Of course there will be some degree of paperwork shuffle, but I assume by your email your Spanish language skills are above average due to the time you've spent living in Latin America. So, simply get all of your documentation in a large folder, come down here, and start applying for stuff. The Panamanians will simply say "welcome home." You should not need to go to Immigration for anything, because you're not immigrating into the country, you're returning to the land of your birth. You don't have to apply for "naturalization" or anything like that because by birth you are already a Panamanian - and you're simply lacking the documents issued by the Panamanian government. Citizenship by birth right is solid, as long as you can prove it. The more documents you have in your folder when you start this process, the better. Your birth certificate from Gorgas should be enough, but bring whatever else you might have, just in case. You should not need a lawyer to do any of these things. Let me know how it works out. Best of luck. And if you see that other famous Panamanian John McCain, tell him I said "hi."

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Air Force Brat - Born In Canal Zone 44 Years Ago - Wants To Claim Panamanian Citizenship | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Air Force Brat - Born In Canal Zone 44 Years Ago - Wants To Claim Panamanian Citizenship
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 01 2011 @ 11:57 AM EDT

Before you rush off to Panama to get your cedula you need to send your birth certificate to the Panamanian Embassy in the US to have it translated into Spanish by a Panamanian certified/authorized translator. I say this because when my wife and I applied for our cedulas mine was approved and hers was not because it was not in Spanish. Before the CZ reverted I knew I would one day want to apply for citizenship so I ordered a CZ birth certificate with the blocks filled in in Spanish. No problem with my application. Edie on the other hand only had a birth certificate from Gorgas with the blocks filled out in English. Even though we had a lawyer to help us (our Spanish was sufficient to get along in town but not at the Tribunal Electoral) they denied Edie's application becasue the blocks were in English. All business in Panama must be conducted in Spanish. The lawyer asked where we could find an acceptable official translator and we were told it would have to be done in the States through the Pamanian Embassy.

Air Force Brat - Born In Canal Zone 44 Years Ago - Wants To Claim Panamanian Citizenship
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 13 2011 @ 11:52 PM EDT

CL and Panama-Guide,

I just went through this process almost a year ago...and actually almost done. Well, the paper work was done, but I am returning(because of complications) to actually pick-up the cedula card...and of course "a visitar". My wife and I arrived in Panama after 40 years(born and graduate of Balboa High) with all the paperwork, but not knowing if I could do anything. We had lots of fun going through the Panamanian process and using my Spanish and patience(and studying people). It was slow and at times seem like there was not going to be an end. I just happen to run into a lady(angel) named Herminia(tocayo) at the front desk: she help me through the process and had helped other Zonians.
The following are some notes:

1) It takes lots of time and patience.
2) You are very lucky to be fluent in Spanish.
3) They do a search of your name and members of your family in their records.
4) You are lucky to have someone in Panama that you know that can sign for you.
5) In another part of the process you can just get a couple of witnesses right there.
6) All translations can be done by a guy right around the corner. He is certified to do that.
7) Start with plenty of copies of everything...B. Certificate, Passport, Travel arrangements, etc...about 5 each.
8) You will make more copies.
9) A Panamanian birth certificate will be issued in a different area of the city...you will also have to give up your original CZ...but order another when you get home.
10) My first few days were really busy, after which it was waiting.
11) If you know Spanish, the interview is a breeze.
12) My first time there was about 2 weeks. Do not do this during a holiday time period...lots of things close up.
13) The only reason I did not get the actual cedula was because of a holiday and ran out of time...I also did not have someone locally-dependable to pick it up.
14) Keep lots of $1 bills around for cositas y copias.
15 )McDonalds is also right around the corner for the wife. The translator stand has some neat cool native drinks.
16) Plan to start using your Mom's last name.
17) Oh...have all the birth dates of your family handy.
18) Enjoy the experience...this is not your "Any Place, USA".
19) Oh...another Oh...Learn and hum the words-tune to "Panameno Panameno" as you go through the process.
20) Might as well have a 20....I did not do any of this through the Panamanian Embassy or with a lawyer....although I saw a couple of people trying to go that route...I actually beat them till I hit the holiday of Nov.3.

As an update, we are going back to Panama next month and one of the first things to do is pickup my Cedula. I already have a number! My next adventure is to get my wife with dual citizenship.

Have fun, good luck, and "Zonians y Paisanos Forever", Rod and Deb Martinez