ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
The Juzgados Seccionales de Familia have jurisdiction over adoption cases where the child has been placed under adoption by written consent of the child's birth parent(s).
ROLE OF THE COURT: There are 12 district courts throughout the provinces in Panama . In provinces that do not operate with either legal system, the "Juzgados de Circuitos, Ramo Civil" (Circuit Courts) will handle some adoption cases.
The Juzgado de la Niñez y Adolescencia has jurisdiction over adoption cases of abandoned children, wards of the court, or orphans.* The Juzgado de la Niñez y Adolescencia is the legal system for orphan adoptions in Panama. The courts generally require proof from the U.S. government such as the I-800A approval notification that the parent(s) are eligible for adoption.
TIME FRAME: Adoptions in Panama typically take 18-24 months.
ADOPTION APPLICATION: Both courts, the Juzgado de la Niñez y Adolescencia and the Juzgados Seccionales de Familia, have similar processes for international adoption.
Usually, the prospective adoptive parent(s) and their attorney will communicate with the judge's staff until the demanda is ready for review. If the judge approves the demanda, the judge will forward the documents to the "Registro Civil de Panama" (Civil Register). The adoption is not official until it is published in the Civil Register and the judge has signed a final decree.
ADOPTION FEES: The U.S. Embassy in Panama discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. “Donations” or “expediting” fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Panama at risk.
Attorney fees for an adoption in Panama vary from $1000 to $2500. Government processing fees vary on a case by case basis.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: For intercountry adoptions, the Government of Panama requires the below listed documents. English translations of Spanish documents are required. It is advisable to obtain several authenticated copies of the same document in case extra copies are requested or required.
- Birth certificate of each adoptive parent;
- Marriage certificate of each adoptive parent, and death or divorce certificate if either parent was previously married;
- Health certificate certifying good mental and physical health of each parent (The Panamanian authorities will accept a health certificate from the prospective adoptive parents’ doctor in the U.S.);
- Certificate of good conduct from local police in adoptive parents’ state of residence (The I-800A does not fulfill this requirement.);
- Letter from employer(s) stating position and current salary;
- Two passport size photographs of each parent;
- Two reference letters attesting to character, financial situation, and living conditions of adoptive parents;
- Sociological home study report conducted by U.S. social worker or U.S.-certified investigative agency approved by the Panamanian courts (Home studies conducted in the U.S. can be used if approved by the Panamanian courts.); and
- Psychological evaluation conducted by authorized medical officer in Panama or a U.S.-certified medical official approved by the Panamanian courts.
NOTE: All of the documents supporting the prospective adoptive parent(s)' authority to adopt must be translated into Spanish. Additional documents may be requested.
6. 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 for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
[How to obtain a new birth certificate for the child in Panama.]
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Panama.
[How to obtain a Passport for the child in Panama.]
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and 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. Learn more.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically 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.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
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.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you 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.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department 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.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
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 orer 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 by a social worker. This evaluation can be performed by a comparable agency in the United States. The "Juzgados Seccional de Familia" requires a special investigation by a court- appointed agency to certify that the child is an orphan.
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.
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish 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 that country’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 find 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