Studying in Panama

Studying in Panama
Updated 2017-07-31 07:24

Panama has a good number of higher education institutions including some large universities. The public ones are free, even for foreign students - a fact that puts to shame the way the system operates in many countries, where fees are an obstacle that prevents people from less wealthy families from continuing their education.

Compare the situation to that in the UK, for instance, and other countries where the student loan system applies: that can mean that although young people can get a good education, they enter the working world already saddled with considerable debt.

The availability of free universities in Panama clearly shows the determination of successive governments to equip the country with well-educated people capable of consolidating its rise from turmoil and hardship to a bright future as a sophisticated nation.

In addition to the Panamanian ones, a number of US universities also have branches in Panama, including Florida State University and the University of Louisville.

With the ever-increasing number of Spanish speakers in the US, combined with the fact that Spanish is fourth on the list of most widely-spoken languages in the world and that it is the mother tongue of almost the whole of Latin America, it makes sense for English speakers to have it as their second language. That is particularly true as number three-ranking Mandarin Chinese is relatively difficult to learn and number two, Hindustani, is largely confined to the Indian subcontinent.

Another advantage of studying in Panama is that the cost of living is relatively low, making life easier for the traditionally underfunded student.

The academic year is divided into two semesters, the first beginning in March and the second in December. Universities are usually closed in January and February. Students also get two weeks' holiday in June and July.

Most courses are taught in Spanish, but some universities offer degree programs in English. The country also hosts many language schools.

Applying for a student visa in Panama

Anyone wishing to study in Panama will have to apply for a student visa, and to be eligible, you must have completed full-time secondary school in a recognized institution accredited by your home country's Ministry or Department of Education. You must go in person to the National Immigration Service office to submit your visa application. Documents to be produced are:

  • a letter of acceptance from the university you registered in;
  • receipts proving you have paid the administrative costs;
  • evidence of your qualifications, i.e. your certificates and diplomas or other results which must have been authenticated by a Panamanian Consul;
  • a bank statement showing that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses during your stay in Panama; and
  • a health certificate.

If you are being sponsored, you must provide information concerning your sponsor's identity and financial commitment to take care of you.


A student visa does not authorize you to work in Panama, unless it is a requirement of your particular study program. Visa extensions may be granted for a maximum of 6 years. Note that requests for extension or residence must be made before the expiry date.

Useful links:

University of Panama
Latin University of Panama
University of Technology of Panama
University of Columbus
University of Louisville
Panama International School of Medicine

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