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U.S. Department of State
1995:  International Adoption -- Panama
Bureau of Consular Affairs

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
                      INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION - PANAMA
     
     
                                                                    
     DISCLAIMER:    THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE
     LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED
     FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY.  QUESTIONS INVOLVING
     INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO
     FOREIGN COUNSEL.
                                                                     
     
     GENERAL:    Panama allows United States citizens and other
     foreigners to adopt, but Panamanians are given preference.  The
     adoption process requires patience and the services of a
     Panamanian attorney.  Adopted children need not be orphans,
     though they must have been legally abandoned by their natural
     parents.  Children are usually adopted by U.S. citizens in
     Panama, rather than given guardianship with the intention of
     adopting in the United States.  There are no legal impediments
     to granting guardianship, but the Minor's Court discourages
     this.
     
     AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION:    Recent U.S. immigrant
     visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance
     to orphans:
     
                   IR-3 Immigrant Visas          IR-4 Immigrant Visas
     Fiscal        Issued to Panamanian          Issued to Panamanian
     Year        Orphans Adopted Abroad        Orphans Adopted Abroad
     
     FY-1991             6                            2
     FY-1992            11                            5
     FY-1993            20                            2
     FY-1994            19                            7
     
     PANAMANIAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
     
     The Tribunal Tutelar de Menores (Minors or Childrens Court)
     have jurisdiction over the adoption case if the child is
     abandoned,  a ward of the court, or an orphan.  The Juzgados
     Circuitos (Circuit Courts) have jurisdiction when the child has
     been voluntarily surrendered by the biological parent(s) to the
     adopting parent(s).  Panama has strict departure controls.  The 
     Minors Court must approve the departure from Panama of a child
     without his or her natural parent or legal guardian.  In cases
     where a person has been granted legal custody of a child in
     order to adopt the child in the United States, a Panamanian
     judge must interview the adoptive parents and determine that an
     adoption outside Panama is in the best interests of the child. 
     Adoption outside of Panama is rare.
     
     
     PANAMANIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES:  Panamanian adoption procedures
     require the services of a Panamanian attorney to present the
     necessary documentation to the appropriate Panamanian court,
     either the Panamanian Minors Court (Tribunal Tutelar de
     Menores) or the Circuit Courts (Juzgados de Circuitos).  If the
     child is a ward of the court or an orphan, The Tutelar will
     appoint the adoptive parents as the child's legal guardians for
     a period up to six months.  Six months is the most common
     length of the trial period, but the judge has the latitude to
     grant a shorter period.  At the end of this trial period, if
     the judge determines that the child's adjustment has been
     successful, then the adoption is finalized.  If the judge is
     concerned about the child's welfare he may extend the trial
     period for another six months, or cancel the adoption
     altogether.  The cancellation of an adoption process after the
     trial period is extremely rare.  If the prospective adoptive
     parents want to take the child outside of Panama during the
     trial period, a judge must authorize international travel for
     the child.
     
         A second adoption method is through the Circuit Courts
     (Juzgados de Circuito).  These courts have jurisdiction over
     adoption cases when the biological parents agree to grant
     parental rights to another couple or individual.  Unlike Minors
     Court adoptions, no trial period is required in Circuit Court
     adoptions.  Note:  Persons interested in Circuit Court
     adoptions should contact the American Embassy to be certain
     that the child meets the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act
     definition of an orphan, or if the child must reside for at
     least two years with the adoptive parents before becoming
     eligible for an immigrant visa.
     
         A Panamanian attorney must present the necessary paperwork
     in the form of a "demanda" (petition) for review to the court
     of appropriate jurisdiction.  Usually, the adoptive parents and
     their attorney will deal with the judge's staff until the
     petition is ready for review.  If the judge approves the
     petition, he will forward the documents to the Registro Civil
     de Panama (Panamanian Civil Register).  The adoption is not
     official until it is published in the Civil Register, and the
     judge has signed a final decree.
     
     AGE AND CIVIL STATUS:  Panamanian law requires that prospective
     adoptive parents must have been married for at least five
     years.  Panama has a maximum age restriction for adoptive
     parents.  The man can be no older than forty-five, and the
     woman no older than forty.  Single persons may adopt, but only
     children of their own sex.  Individuals are not allowed to
     adopt if they already have natural children.
     
     RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS:  There are no residency requirements
     for adoption in either of the two courts.  However, the
     adoptive parents must appear in person to process the adoption.
     
     TIME FRAME:  The Tutelar de Menores states that the entire
     process, from the filing of the case ("demanda") to the
     adjudication of the U.S. immigration visa, typically takes
     between three and six months.  However, with the six month
     trail period the total time required may be from nine to 12
     months.  Each case varies.   
     
     PANAMANIAN FEES:  See "U.S. Immigration Requirements" section
     for U.S. fees.  No fees are collected by the courts.  The civil
     Registrar charges moderate fees for processing the adoption and
     authorizing the necessary documents.  The major expense is
     attorney's fees.  The legal fees for an adoption are estimated
     to be between $2,000 and $2,500.  Attorneys in Panama are not
     paid according to hours worked, but are put under contract for
     a specific case with a pre-determined fee.  A list of
     Panamanian attorneys is available at the U.S. Consulate. 
     Payment of any kind to the child's parents or guardian is
     illegal.
     
     ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS:
     
     A child may be under the authority of a government institution
     or a private adoption agency.  
     
     PANAMANIAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS:
     
     Prospective adopting parents should possess the following
     documents, all translated into Spanish and authenticated by a
     Panamanian consulate:
     -   Marriage certificate (if applicable)
     -   Birth certificates of the adoptive parents.
     -   Health certificates.  This certifies that the prospective
         adoption parents are in good health.  These must be from a
         doctor of hospital in the U.S. 
     -   Police good conduct certificates or reports from their
         state or residence.
     -   Job letters indicating years worked, position and salary
         earned. 
     -   Two passport size photographs of each adoptive parent. 
     -   Two letters of reference from people who have known the
         prospective adoptive parents for at least two years, and
         who can attest to their character, financial situation,
         living conditions, and parental skills if they already
         have children.
     -   A sociological home study to be conducted by a U.S. social
         worker who is approved by the Panamanian Consulate in the
         U.S.
     -   A psychological evaluation to be conducted by an authorized
         medical official in Panama or a U.S. medical official
         approved by the Panamanian Consulate in the U.S.
     
     AUTHENTICATION OF DOCUMENTS:
     
     All documents must be translated to Spanish by a licensed
     Panamanian translator and must be notarized.  All documents
     brought from the U.S. should be authenticated under the
     conventions of the applicable state and/or locality.  It is
     advisable to bring several copies of each authenticated
     document. 
     
     PANAMANIAN EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN U.S.:
     
     Consulate of Panama                    Consulate of Panama
     1212 Avenue of the American            260 Peachtree St., N.W.
     9th floor                              Atlanta, Georgia 30303
     New York, N.Y.  10036                  Tel: (404) 525-2772/2676
     tel: 212) 840-2450                       or 6221
     
     Consulate of Panama                    Consulate of Panama
     24 Greenway Plaza                      50 Hannibal Love No. 325
     Suite 1705                             Memphis, TN 38103
     Houston, TX  77046                     Tel: (901) 525-4208
     (713) 622-4451/4459/4468
     
     Consulate of Panama                    Consulate of Panama
     Dupont Plaza Center                    1324 World Trade Center
     300 Biscayne Blvd. Way                 2 Canal Street
     Suite 914                              New Orleans, LA  70130
     Miami, FL  33131                       Tel: (504) 3458/3459
     Tel: (305) 371-7031/2907                 or (504) 469-0864 or
                                                 (504) 524-8960
     
     Consulate of Panama                    Consulate of Panama
     4326 El Prado Blvd.                    870 Market Street
     Suite 4                                Flood Building, Suite 551
     Tampa, FL                              San Francisco, CA  94102
     Tel: (813) 831-6685                    Tel: (415) 391-4269/4268
          (813) 251-0316
      
     Embassy of Panama
     Consular Section
     2862 McPigill Terrace, N.W.
     Washington, D.C.  20008
     tel: (202) 483-1407
     
     
     In addition, Panama has honorary consuls located throughout the
     United States.
     
     
     U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS:
     
     Children adopted abroad who have been in the legal custody of
     the adoptive parents less than two years must have an INS
     approved orphan petition in order to qualify for a U.S.
     immigrant visa.
     
     Get Started Early With U.S. Immigration Procedure:
     
     Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that, whether they
     identify a child prior to leaving the U.S. or locate the child
     on a trip to Panama, certain very time consuming processes will
     have to be completed before the required U.S. Immigration
     petition(s) (either the preliminary I-600A or the final I-600 
     petitions) can be approved.  These include, satisfactory
     completion and submission to INS of a home study of the
     adopting parent(s), compliance with any state pre-adoption
     conditions, a fingerprint check of those prospective parent(s),
     a certified copy of prospective adoptive parents' birth
     certificate in U.S. or other evidence of U.S. citizenship of at
     least one of the adoptive parents; certified copy of marriage
     certificate (if applicable); certified copy of death
     certificate or divorce decree, if one or both of the adoptive
     parents were married.  Individuals planning to adopt should
     contact their local INS office to clarify any questions they
     may have regarding the required documents of any of the
     immigration information round in this handout.
     
     
     Scheduling Appointment With U.S. Consular Officer:
     
     It is advisable to contact the Consular Section of the U.S.
     Embassy in Panama City at least one day in advance to check
     that the documents are in order and to set an appointment for
     the immigrant visa interview.  The Consulate currently holds
     these appointments each Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00
     p.m.   If you are outside the U.S. and the child has completed
     his medical examination, you will have a preliminary interview
     with the consular officer in order to complete form I-604
     "Request for and Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation".  The
     child must be present at the Embassy in order for the immigrant
     visa application to be processed.  The medical examination must
     be performed by a U.S. State Department approved panel
     physician.  If there are special circumstances, such as a
     physical handicap, indicating that the child's care will be
     extraordinarily expensive, the adopting parents will not be
     required to provide further proof of their financial solvency.
     
     What Documents to Bring With You to U.S. Embassy:
     
     Note:  Since each case is different, it is possible that the
     Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary
     review of the adoptive child's immigration petition.  Documents
     which are originally in Spanish should be translated into
     English (e.g. the adoption decree).  The standard documents
     that are required to process the child's petition are as
     follows:
     
     1.  Certified copy of child's birth certificate issued by the
         Civil Registrar of Panama, indicating the name of both
         parents if known.
     2.  Certified death certificate issued by the Civil Register of
         Panama if the child's biological parents are deceased.
     3.  Legal statement of relinquishment of parental rights, and
         permission for the child to travel outside of Panama
         without natural parents for the purpose of adoption
         executed by the biological parents in the presence of the
         Tutelar de Menores or Juzgado Circuito.
     4.  Official adoption decree issued by the court of appropriate
         jurisdiction or decree from the Tutelar de Menores
         authorizing the child to travel outside Panama for the
         purpose of adoption.
     5.  Valid Panamanian passport for the child.
     6.  Two 1 3/4 inch color visa photographs.
     7.  Medical examination by an Embassy approved panel
         physician.  If the minor has a physical or mental
         disability, a notarized statement will be required from
         the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States
         indicating that they are fully aware of the disability of
         the minor.  This statement can be included in item 19 of
         form I-600 and also in the home study if more convenient,
         in which case a separate notarized statement will not be
         required.

     8. Mentally disabled children must be evaluated by a panel
     physician to ensure that they are not a threat to themselves or
     to society.  The evaluation must also indicate if the child is
     fit to live with the parent(s) in their residence or if the
     child must be institutionalized.
     
     9.  In cases where the minor has not been seen or observed in
     person by the prospective adoptive parent(s), a notarized
     statement by those parents will be required indicating that,
     they are willing to adopt or re-adopt the minor in the United
     States even though they have never met the child.  Both parties
     must sign the I-600 after the child has been identified.  This
     means that if one party has gone abroad to arrange the
     adoption, they must mail the original I-600 along with the
     child's identity information to be signed by the parent
     remaining in the U.S. This is generally done by certified
     express courier.
     
     10.  If the child has been brought to the U.S. by a third party
     (i.e. - a representative from a social organization or adoption
     agency,) a notarized statement from the Tutelar de Menores will
     be required in order to authorize the individual to bring the
     child to the U.S. for the purpose of being adopted.  This
     statement may be included in the judge's statement authorizing
     the child to travel to the U.S.
     
       NOTE:  There is no provisions in INS regulations that permit
     agents with power of attorney to sign immigration petitions
     (I-600).  Consequently, even if an agent is physically
     accompanying the child to the U.S., the petition must be signed
     by the adoptive parent(s), after the child has been identified.
     
     
     U.S. FEES:
     
     INS Fees for I-600 and I-600A Petitions:  There is an INS fee
     of $155 for filing an I-600 or I-600A petition.  If you have a
     valid I-600A and file an I-600 within one year of the approval
     of the I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600 provided
     you are only submitting a petition for one child or for
     siblings.  If you are petitioning for more than one child and
     they are not siblings of the original adoptive child, the I-600
     fee will be charged.
     
     U.S. State Department authentication fee:  If you are having
     documents authenticated by the Department of State
     Authentication Office, there is a fee of $4.00 per document.

     
     Medical Examination Fee:
     
     The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by
     one of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate's panel approved
     physicians before the immigrant visa can be issued.  The cost
     of this medical examination is approximately U.S. $18.00 and
     must be paid by the adoptive parent(s).
     
     U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee:  The fee for the immigrant visa is
     $200.00, $170.00 for the interview and $30.00 for issuance of
     the immigrant visa.  This fee does not include the cost of
     medical examinations, document authentication or any other
     expenses incurred during the petition process.  The American
     Consulate only accepts cash payments.
     
     ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
     
     Prospective adopting parents should consult INS publication No.
     M-249, "The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive 
     Children" and the Department of State information flyer
     "International Adoptions".
     
     AMERICAN EMBASSY ASSISTANCE:
     
     Upon arrival in Panama to try to arrange an adoption, U.S.
     citizens should register at the American Embassy, Consular
     Section, American Citizens Services.  The Embassy will be able
     to provide information about any outstanding travel advisories
     and to provide other information about Panama including lists
     of physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators.  The
     American Embassy is located at Balboa Avenue, Panama City,
     Republic of Panama.  tel: 507-27-1777.
     
     QUESTIONS:  Specific questions regarding adoptions in Panama
     may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or
     Consulate.  You may also contact the Office of Children's
     Issues, U.S. Department of State, Room 4800 N.S.,
     2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.  20520-4818, telephone
     (202) 647-2688 with specific adoption questions.  Recorded
     information concerning significant changes in adoption
     procedures is available 24 hours a day at: (202) 736-7000, or
     by automated fax (calling from the telephone on your fax
     machine) at (202) 647-3000.  If the country you are interested
     in is not listed, procedures have not significantly changed. 
     Information on immigrant visas is available from the State
     Department's Visa Office, at (202) 663-1225.  This 24 hour
     automated system includes options to speak with consular
     officers during business hours for questions not answered in
     the recorded material.  Application forms and petitions for 
     immigrant visas are available from the  U.S. Immigration and
     Naturalization Service, the nearest office of which is listed
     in the federal pages of your telephone book, under  U.S.
     Department of Justice.
     
     In addition, the State Department publishes Consular
     Information Sheets and Travel Warnings.  Consular Information
     Sheets are available for every country in the world, providing
     information such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, health
     conditions, political situations, and crime reports.  When
     situations are sufficiently serious that the State Department
     recommends U.S. citizens avoid traveling to a country, a Travel
     Warning is issued.  Both Consular Information Sheets and Travel
     Warnings may be heard 24 hours a day by calling the State
     Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at
     (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone.  The recording is
     updated as new information becomes available.  In addition,
     this information is accessible through the automated fax
     machine, as above, and is also available at any of the 13
     regional passport agencies, field offices of the U.S.
     Department of Commerce, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates
     abroad.  Furthermore, you may write in requesting information,
     sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas Citizens
     Services, Room 4811 N.S., 2201 C St., N.W., U.S. Department of
     State, Washington, D.C.  20520-4818.  Finally, information is
     available through your personal computer.  If you have a
     computer and a modem, you can access the Consular Affairs
     Bulletin Board (CABB).  This service is free of charge, and may
     be reached at: (202) 647-9225.  Consular Information Sheets and
     Travel Warnings may also be accessed by subscribers to many
     on-line services.  For complete information on accessing
     consular information via computer, please request document
     1016, entitled "Consular Information Program," from the
     automated fax system, which is described in the preceding
     paragraph.
     
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