Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Panama Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise increased caution in Panama due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Do not travel to:
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Panama.
If you decide to travel to Panama:
Parts of the "Mosquito Gulf" – Level 4: Do Not Travel
The “Mosquito Gulf” is an extremely remote and inaccessible area along part of the north (Caribbean) coast.
Do not travel within 10 miles of the coastline, from Boca de Rio, Chiriqui to Cocle del Norte. Drug trafficking and other illicit activities occur in this area.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in this region as U.S. government personnel must obtain prior approval before traveling there and face additional restrictions before such travel is approved.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Parts of the Darién Region – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Do not travel to the following areas of the Darien:
Criminal elements and drug and human trafficking networks operate in these areas. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in these regions as U.S. government personnel must obtain prior approval before traveling there and face additional restrictions before such travel is approved.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Panama is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all intercountry adoptions between Panama and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law implementing the Convention.
In order for an adoption application to meet the requirements of the Hague, a U.S. consular officer must review the case file and issue an "Article 5 Letter" to the Panamanian Central Authority before an adoption or grant of legal custody takes place. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents are cautioned to carefully follow in order the steps outlined in the "How to Adopt" Section below.
Currently, Panamanian laws also allow U.S. citizens who meet required eligibility requirements under Panamanian law to adopt under a "National" adoption process, which is a different process from the Hague intercountry process. Please note that any child adopted locally (i.e. outside the Hague Adoption Convention process described below) is not immediately eligible for an immigrant visa. Instead, the child must qualify for an immigrant visa as the child of the U.S. Citizen (IR-2). This visa category requires that the U.S. citizen adoptive parent fulfill a two year period of legal and physical custody in Panama prior to filing the petition for the visa to the United States. Additional information is available from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Panama, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
Adoption between the United States and Panama is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Panama, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Panama also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
Because Panama is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Panama must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. In accordance with the Convention, the Central Authority of Panama determines whether possibilities for placement of the child in Panama have been given due consideration. In addition to Panama's requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Under Panamanian adoption law, adopted children do not need to be orphans, though their natural parent(s) must have legally abandoned them and/or have had their parental rights terminated by a court.
Panama's central adoption authority under the Hague Adoption Convention is the Secretaría Nacional de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia (SENNIAF).
Because Panama is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Panama must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600A with Panama before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more .
After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
Once the U.S. Government determines that you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Panama. Panama's adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Panama's law.
If both the United States and Panama determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Panama may provide you with a referral for a child, through your adoption service provider. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Learn how.
Bring Your Child Home: Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate (short-form, as copia integra are not issued in adoption cases) for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. It usually takes at least five business days to acquire one. It can be acquired from the Tribunal Electoral de Panama, Dirección Nacional de Registro Civil (Civil Registry), Second floor, located on Calle 33 between Avenida Cuba and Avenida Perú in Panama City
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Panama.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and Panamanian passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage.
Adopting Under Local Laws
Some U.S. citizens who meet eligibility requirements under Panamian law may also be permitted to proceed with a "National" adoption, which is different from a Hague Convention adoption. A child adopted under a National adoption process is not immediately eligible to travel to the U.S. The type of visa you would seek is an IR-2, which requires two years of legal and physical custody of the child; this physical cohabitation must occur in the country of origin of the child. To pursue this avenue, you must file an I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS.
If your adoption in Panama is nearly or already finalized, but you did not start the process with an I-600A filed before April 1, 2008, which has been extended and is still valid, you have not met the requirements necessary to obtain an adoption visa under either pre-Hague adoption visa processing or Hague Convention adoption visa processing. However, the IR-2 visa remains a path to bring your adopted child to the United States.
Please visit the Department of State's website for more information regarding IR-2 visas and other immigrant visa categories.
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s admission into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including that the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 typically allows your child to acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.
* Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Panama. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print-all in one place.
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Panama, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Panama, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Panama require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
In adoption cases where prospective adoptive parent(s) are granted legal guardianship of a child in order to adopt the child in the United States, a Panamanian judge must interview the prospective adoptive parent(s) and determine that an adoption outside of Panama is in the best interests of the child. This often includes a psychological evaluation of the parent(s) by a social worker. This evaluation can be performed by a comparable agency in the United States.
A judge must approve the departure of a child from Panama if the child is leaving without the child's birth parent(s) or legal guardian. The judge will grant the prospective adoptive parents guardianship for a trial period. This trial period can take place either in the United States or in Panama. If the judge determines that the child's adjustment has been successful, the adoption is finalized under Panamanian law. If the judge is concerned about the child's welfare, the judge may extend the trial period or cancel the process altogether.
Once the adoption is finalized, Panamanian law requires post-placement reports every six months for three years (for a total of six reports). These reports can either be delivered by the adoption service provider or via DHL or Federal Express sent to the following address:
Secretaría Nacional de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia (Dirección de Adopciones)
Avenida Ricardo J. Alfaro
Panama City, Panama
Attn: Lic. Mauad
Phone number to place on package 500-6079
We strongly urge you to comply with the wishes of Panama and complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Panama's history of positive experiences with American parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to seek support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Embassy in Panama
Clayton Building #783
Ave. Demetrio B. Lakas
Panama City, Republic of Panama
Panama's Adoption Authority
Secretaria Nacional de la Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia (SENNIAF)
Avenida Ricardo J. Alfaro
Panama City, Panama
Internet: www.senniaf.gob.pa, or http://senniaf.100freemb.com/
Embassy of Panama
Embassy of the Republic of Panama
2862 McGill Terr., NW
Washington , DC 20008
*Panama also has consulates in: Mobile, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Honolulu, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, and San Juan.
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or a Form I-800 petition:
USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax: 1-913-214-5808
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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