FBI report for VISA

My husband and I had our fingerprints done and mailed them off for the FBI report yesterday (1/17/16). The deputy spent at least 20 min w me trying to get good fingerprints. She tried many times digitally, then inked me but said, "I can almost guarantee these will be rejected."  Two fingers on my left hand wouldn't print well (lines running thru prints). I've been told it takes about 13 weeks to get FBI report done. If I get a reject on prints, does the clock start again? What if second set also rejected? We are hoping to make Panama our home by this summer. FBI report could bog down the process. We wanted to put house on market April 1, but now I'm concerned house will sell but we will be stuck in US waiting on FBI approval. Thoughts, advice?!?  We so want to start our new life in Panama

Hello Books&Wine,

Did you by any chance see the second page of the FD-258 FBI fingerprint form? That's the page that gives instructions for the law enforcement personnel on exactly how to take the prints. They must be "rolled from nail to nail" and be clear.

See the link below, if your prints didn't come out just like the examples on page 2 it's very likely that the form will be rejected. … s/fd-258-1

Personally I think you're really putting the cart in front of the horse by rushing into sale of your home before you've got the visa. Regardless of the FBI check coming back with no record found, a visa is NEVER guaranteed in any nation. Much better to plan on renting in Panama for 6 months to a year in order to be certain that you're actually going to make a go of adapting to life there before you sell, than to pin your hopes on selling your home only to end up not getting the visa or finding that the grass wasn't as green on the other side of the fence as you had hoped it would be. At least that way if it all goes sideways you'll have a home to come back to.

James Experts Team

I had my fingerprints rejected 3 times. Finally had them scanned as for electronic forwarding and then printed on FBI card. There are people called Chandlers on the FBI website that can get your FBI fingerprint approval in 1-2 days vrs the 13 weeks. Yes it costs money, but worth it. Same thing with getting the fingerprints apostilled by the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. There are companies that will hand carry the fingerprints through and get them back to you in 2-3 days.

Why the rush to get your Visa? Agree with James!

We are waiting till I start collecting SS next year to get our Pensionado Visa which is $2200 less then the Friendly Nations Visa.

That will mark 2 years in Panama with no 30 day gaps being out of the country. At that point you do not need the FBI check and can get a local police report that covers you. Providing you have no charges against you.

Thanks for the good information and opinions! Lots to think about.

I sent my paperwork in on September 23 and only just got it back on February 10!!!! 13 weeks is very conservative!!

Thanks for heads up! What area of US are you in, and where did you send paperwork?

Sent it from Florida. They are running way behind. Doesn't matter if you send the paperwork in yourself or use a facilitator the FBI will still take the same amount of time so no need to waste $$$

Oh, goodness, that's so confusing!  We've been hearing it takes about 13 weeks.  Since we don't plan to move until this summer, we figured we have plenty of time, so we didn't hire a chandler (sp?). 

We've been told a chandler can get it accomplished in a few days.  Has this  not been your experience?  Where are you hearing that it takes a chandler just as long?

Any advice from those that have been down this road recently is appreciated! 

Even though we've been advised by many to take some time and live in Panama before we apply for the Visa, we feel we have done our homework and are planning to sell the home here in Ohio.  Even if we are called back to the states for some reason, we would be wanting a much smaller home than the 5 BR, 4 Bath, 3-level, family home we have now.  It's too much house now that the children are grown. We have been cleaning out, purging and preparing for a downsize for a couple of years now.

We are ready for a little adventure before grandchildren come along, and we feel Panama is the right place for us.  We really hope to be able to get the pensionado visa before moving, though.

Thanks for any advice and encouragement offered!

A handler can not speed up the process with the FBI, call the FBI they will verify this for you. All of our paperwork went thru very smoothly except the FBI. we submitted our paperwork on September 23rd and got it back mid February. Their website says 13-15 weeks but it took ours 21-22 weeks. I called every month and they would tell me exactly what week they were working on. Ex: were are currently working on applications received October 6.

That helps kanelac. I'll call in a few weeks and see what we are told. Good luck with everything! Are you close to be able to move now that you have the FBI report?

In Canada - which may not be relevant to you - there are guys who run fingerprint operations - for when prints are required for any number of reasons. For my RCMP clearance it was recommended I use such a service, so I did. He cost $100, but he had the equipment to take digital images of the fingerprints and could submit the application electronically. That apparently really accelerates the processing time. I got my clearance letter in about 3 weeks. Perhaps similar considerations apply there?

I have been here since October. Came right after sending all my paperwork in. I did not use a facilitator I did by myself. It is my second time. I went thru the process when I moved to Ecuador. The process is not difficult and I personally felt the facilitators charge way too much for something I could do myself. My friends used one and my things came in at the same time theirs did.

If you have not been here yet I would highly suggest you visit. I know, I didn't listen when people said that to me either. All the research in the world can't prepare you for the intense heat and humidity. Nor can it prepare you for the mold and mildew or the electrical problems that get your expensive equipment. Only a real life visit can do that. I regret not taking the advice issued to me. Consequently we will! Sell our home here in the next 2 years. Ecuador is a 3rd world country but it has a much better infrastructure than 2nd world Panama.

That being said the Panamanian people are phenomenal!! They are welcoming and friendly and always try to help! They make my living here more enjoyable. Good luck I your endeavors. I may take some slack for my comments, but I have spoken the truth.

kanelac :

Ecuador is a 3rd world country but it has a much better infrastructure than 2nd world Panama.

Kanelac - I would be interested in knowing how you compare Panama vs Ecuador for retirement. My hesitation re Ecuador involved concern about the weather in Cuenca and Quito - as being perhaps just a bit TOO cool. Also I am inhibited by the requirement to stay in the country for an extended period.

Personally I loved Ecuador!!! We lived 3 years in Cotacachi. The weather is as close to perfect as you can get. We built a beautiful home about a 10 minute hike out or into town. My husband didn't like it because of the lack of commerce. Right now the politics if you own property isn't great. President Correa seems to want you to pay all or most of your capital gains to the government. As property owners there we felt a little more than uncomfortable. The indigenous have really come together to voice their concerns against the president. If one doesn't own property there should not be an issue.

As far as how Ecuador compared to Panama here goes:
1. The Panamanian people are by far more friendly, welcoming and helpful to foreigners
2. Panama has much more and much better commerce than Ecuador
3. English is much more widespread in Panama
4. North American products are more readily available in Panama
5. The weather is more bearable in Ecuador at least in Cotacachi where I was
6. You better know Spanish if you plan on living there as English is not spoken much
7. There are no problems with the electricity in Ecuador
8. It is much cheaper in Ecuador
9. In Hindsight I would have sold my house there and stayed while renting

Hope that helps

What part of Panama are you living in !


Thanks Kanelack.  Helpful.

Thanks Kanelac for all the information! We visited the beautiful country of Panama recently. We love Pedasi but I am concerned about the heat so we are hoping to find a rental in lovely Boquete. The expats we have met during our Panama visit have been very helpful telling us about the water and electricity going out. That will be an adjustment and something to be prepared. We too found the local folks warm and friendly. It seems they love life and don't get bothered by much. Maybe some of their wonderful attitude will rub off on us.

I wish you all the best and maybe one day our paths will cross. 😊

May I ask what country you are a citizen of?  Pleased advise.  It may be possible for you to legally reside in Panama as a tourist...  as a tourist (depending on your country of citizenship) it may be possible for you to NOT need any VISA & remain in Panama for up to 180 days & then you need to leave Panama for only 72 hours, but then you can return to Panama for another 180 days.  My wife & I have lived full time in Panama for 9 years & before we became Panama Pensionados we lived in Panama legally as tourists. 

Your comments about finger prints is most interesting.  We have friends who are citizens of the u.s. & they own a 2nd home here in Panama.  The wife's has no and/or problems with her finger prints - STRANGE - so the wife now comes to Panama as a tourist & the husband is a full fledged Pensionado.

When you have any more questions or comments just let me know.

Hello, is the FBI report for a background check for a Pensionado visa? If so, you may want to verify the requirement.  The requirement was eliminated several years ago.  It was no longer required when I applied in 2007.

However, Its always possible the background requirement could have been changed back again.


Hi, Tony! Interesting. Our attorney tells us we need it so I'm assuming they reinstated this particular requirement for the pensionado visa. Darn!

You definitely need  a criminal records check from a national police force. In Canada that means RCMP.

If you are in Panama less then 2 years you need the FBI report. After two years a local Police report will do for the Pensionado Visa.

Hey. Funny you should post thus topic. It has taken me a year to get this process working. Prints expires after 6 months so if you dont have them and are in the country to go to immigration you will have to do it all over again. I finally got my temp residency card two weeks ago. Have to go back in 3 months to take pic for permanent card.

The 6 months doesn't start until the date of the FBI check. I don't understand what you are saying.

My prints were done in Feb of 2015. It took 12 weeks to get apostille. I wasnt able to get back Panama till June and my lawyer wasn't available. In order to use the same report, I had to be back down there by August. Still employed in States so couldn't make it befire the 6 months. So had to repeat the process. Timing is everything.

They say there is no such thing as a dumb question, so here goes.
Do you mean a police report from the local police where you are
living in Panama, or from your local police in the U.S.?

If you have been in Panama for 2 years, and you haven't left the country for more than 30 days at a time, you can get a report done by the Panamanian police. We did that and it was amazingly easy!

Keep in mind also, the FBI report, one you have it you cannot leave Panama until you submit your residency application or it becomes void and you get to start all over. Make sure you get a multi entry visa also. Otherwise if you leave the country between the time you submit your application and you get your residency, you'll get a hefty fine.

The only good thing about all this red tape and hassle, is it feels SO good when it's over! :D But, if all else fails you can live here as a tourist. It might even be a good idea until you are sure this is working out as well as you hoped.

Jtspt#future2016 :

They say there is no such thing as a dumb question, so here goes.
Do you mean a police report from the local police where you are
living in Panama, or from your local police in the U.S.?

What exactly do you mean by "live here as a tourist"?

If you are not a resident, you are a tourist.

Jtspt#future2016 :

What exactly do you mean by "live here as a tourist"?

Okay, but what exactly is the procedure for a long term stay
as a tourist?

You have to leave the country every 180 days. When you come back you have a new stamp in your passport and you are good for another 180 days. If you drive though, your license is only good for 90 days so you have to do a "border run" every 90 days. I know, that doesn't make sense, TIP (this is Panama).

If you end up doing that contact me and I can share some useful tips on crossing the border, requirements, etc. If you are landing in Volcan, you are close enough for some easy weekend getaways in beautiful Costa Rica.

Jtspt#future2016 :

Okay, but what exactly is the procedure for a long term stay
as a tourist?

Do the 90 day border runs for license also satisfy the 180 day ruling?
To satisfy the 90 day or 180 day situation can it be done any time
right up to and including the last day?

Yes, as long as you have your passport stamped within the required time, 180 days for being in the country or 90 days for using your drivers license, you are good. I don't know if you can do it on the last day. I'd be afraid to cut it that close just in case something went haywire. Though, I have heard if you overstay your time you get a fine, so that's not the end of the world. I don't know how much it is though.

Jtspt#future2016 :

Do the 90 day border runs for license also satisfy the 180 day ruling?
To satisfy the 90 day or 180 day situation can it be done any time
right up to and including the last day?

Thanks very much.

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