My Panama Marriage Visa Experience: The Interview That Sealed the Deal
As an immigration lawyer in Panama, I often see clients struggling with the complex world of immigration rules and regulations. Today, I want to share a personal story. I'm one of the few lawyers in Panama who has been on both sides of the immigration process – as a legal expert and as an applicant.
My wife is Austrian, and in 2011, after years of living and working around the world, we decided to make Panama our home. That same year, we got married in Austria, and our next step was to apply for her residence permit in Panama. Back then, the "Friendly Nations" Visa wasn't an option, so we went for the "Marriage Visa" category.
The requirements for this type of visa are pretty much like the others: we needed to provide a copy of her passport, an official police record, a health certificate, pay the state fees, and, most importantly, prove that we were truly married. This proof included our marriage certificate (registered in the Civil Registry of Panama), a letter of responsibility, and evidence that we were living together as a married couple. When we applied, my wife received a temporary residence permit for two years. After that period, we could apply for permanent residency in Panama and her Panamanian E cedula (Panamanian ID card). Applicants can also apply for a Panamanian work permit.
The Unusual Marriage Interview: A Real-Life Rom-Com
One interesting and somewhat amusing part of the process was the "marriage interview" (unless you have two children in common). To get a sense of what it's like, I recommend watching the movie "Green Card" with Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell – it's one of my favorites. The real-life Panama marriage interview is not too different from that romantic comedy.
The National Immigration Service in Panama schedules the interview, where both partners have to answer personal questions separately. The questions can be quite personal, such as the color of our marital mattress (and who bought it), the most recent gift we gave each other (and why), the color of our wallets, toothbrushes, bathroom towels, our favorite foods, and who does what household chores. The interview usually takes about an hour, and if our answers don't match, our residency application could be denied. It's important to note that this interview happens twice – once when you apply and again when you seek permanent residence.
Panama Marriage Visa: "So Test Therefore, Who Join Forever..."
During our first marriage interview, the immigration officer wanted to know when and where we first met. It sounds simple, but real life doesn't always fit neatly into legal norms. My wife and I had known each other since 1999, but remembering the exact date was a challenge. I thought we met at my parents' house, but my wife insisted it was at my younger brother's prom. We passed the interview and my wife has been a permanent resident for many years now, but to this day we still disagree about where and when we actually met.
Unpredictable Questions Await
The second interview, two years later, took an even more surprising turn. My wife was six months pregnant and it was obvious. The immigration officer's first question was, "Do you have children? Yes or no?" My wife answered with a smile, proudly touching her belly, "Not yet." Then came the unexpected questions, "Do you want to have children? Why don't you have kids yet?" My wife was confused because the answer was more than obvious. She took a deep breath and calmly replied, "I am pregnant. We don't have children yet because the baby hasn't decided to be born yet."
Navigating the Panama immigration process, especially when it comes to the Panama Marriage Visa, is an adventure filled with twists and turns. These interviews are just one part of the journey, showcasing the unique challenges applicants may face. If you're ready to embark on this exciting journey or if you have any questions, we're here to help.
Schedule a free initial consultation with us today, and let's get started on making Panama your new home!