Updated Dec 13, 2019
You don’t have to travel all the way to Panama City to get something done at the US Embassy.
Every 3-4 months the Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit visits David and/or Boquete.
You can accomplish many tasks at one of these ACS travelling shows.
- Passport renewals
- Absentee voting
- SSA proof of life
- Lawful Permanent US Resident (LPR) Abandonment
- Medicare Enrollment/Cancellation
- Social Security Replacement Card
- Social Security Card for a child under 12
- Change of Address for Social Security
- International Direct Deposit Enrollment
Dates of ACS Visits
As I mentioned, the ACS visits David and/or Boquete every 3 to 4 months. If you are lucky, their visit will be in time to save you a trip to Panama City.
Unfortunately, the embassy doesn’t set the date for ACS’s visit to the Chiriqui province much in advance of it happening.
How to Pay for Passport & Notarial Services
The ACS will only accept payment by local banker’s cashier check (known in Spanish as “Cheque Certificado”). That is, the check needs to be issued by a Panamanian bank. It must be made payable to “U.S. Embassy Panama” and have been issued within the past 5 months.
The ACS will NOT accept cash or credit card payments. The notarial fee is $50 per each signature of the Consular Officer.
What to Bring With You
Depending upon which ACS services you will be using, you will need to bring the following documents.
Passports: For adult passport renewals, in addition to the completed DS-82 application, provide one recent color photo with a white background that measures 5×5 cm (2X2 inches), your passport, and a photocopy of the photo page of your passport. The fee for an adult passport renewal is currently $110. If your previous passport was lost or stolen you will also need to bring a copy of the police report and the fee for the new passport is $135.
You will be happy to learn that you can complete adult passport renewals by mail (or Uno Express). You do not have to visit the embassy in person to renew.
For minor passport renewals, in addition to the completed DS-11 application, bring a copy of the photo page of the minor’s passport, a copy of both parents’ passports /cedulas, one recent color photo with a white background that measures 5×5 cm (2X2 inches) and a copy of the minor’s birth certificate, in addition to the original birth certificate and passport/ cedulas. The fee is currently $105.00 for a minor (under 16) passport renewal. The minor and both parents or guardians must appear in person. If only one parent is present in Panama, the “Statement of Consent from Absent Parent” Form DS-3053, notarized in the U.S., is required. Please note that the DS-3053 will not be accepted if notarized in Panama.
Notarizations: If you are requesting the notarization of your driver’s license, bring a photocopy of the front and back page of your license, as well as your license. If you are requesting notarization of benefits documents, bring the original and a copy of the document(s) showing the amount of benefits you receive monthly or annually. The notarial fee is $50.00 for each signature of the Consular Officer. Visit this US Embassy webpage to learn all the details regarding getting a document notarized there or at the visiting ACS unit.
Voting: You can submit your completed absentee ballot, no postage required, at the travelling ACS unit (or at the US Embassy in Panama City).
If you haven’t yet registered to vote or requested an absentee ballot, you can find out how to do those things by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance program’s website. I also explain how US citizens can register and vote from Panama in this post: How To Vote in US Elections While In Panama.
LPR Abandonment: Bring completed form I-407 and a photocopy of your Permanent Resident Card, as well as your Permanent Resident Card. (Filling out this form means you decided to voluntarily abandon your status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States.)
What to Bring for Federal Benefits Services
The Embassy stresses that all your copies of the required documents, noted below, need to be legible.
SSA Proof of Life: If you are required to comply with this requirement, please bring your cedula or passport.
Medicare Enrollment/Cancellation: To enroll in Medicare, you should complete and sign form CMS 40B. To find out more about Medicare eligibility and how to cancel your participation, this US government Medicare page is a good place to start.
Social Security Replacement Card: Bring a copy of your valid U.S. passport and completed form SS-5FS.
Social Security Card for child under 12: Bring a copy of the U.S. passport for one of the parents, the child’s “copia integra” birth certificate, and the child’s U.S. passport (as well as copies) as well as completed form SS-5FS.
Change of Address for Social Security: Bring your current passport or cedula.
International Direct Deposit Enrollment: You should bring the necessary form and whatever other documents the form instructions requests. Before the ACS visit, e-mail the SSA Federal Benefits Unit ([email protected]) to request the enrollment form.
You can get more information on getting your Social Security checks directly deposited into your bank account (in the US or in Panama) on this US Embassy webpage.
Social Security Benefits in Panama
If you live in Panama and have questions regarding Social Security, you must contact the SSA Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) located in Costa Rica. For more information on their services and how to contact them, please visit their webpage.
For comprehensive information on SSA’s services abroad, please visit SSA’s Service Around the World.
Also, I wrote a post about how to continue to receive SSA benefits while in Panama.