Planning a research visit

Please read through this guideline when planning your research visit to our lab. Last updated in October 2022. 

Check out this link for any COVID related (or other) health policies.

Before you register

Determine the type of visiting category that you are interested in, considering its fees, and contact Dr. Carlos Arias or Rémi Mauxion for more information, providing the following:

  • Date of arrival
  • Duration of stay
  • State visiting category
  • If you are staying in STRI housing
  • If you are planning on using STRI vehicles 
  • If you need an import or export permit

Click on the options below for more information:

Applying for a STRI visit

Every STRI visitor needs to fill out an online application form, ideally 3 months before their intended start date. Note: you can save and continue filling the form at another time. Once you submit your form, you will eventually receive an email to pay for your registration fee of $60 USD.

To register, there are three types of forms:

  • STRI /SI Fellows’ Projects
    • Select if both your visit and/or project are funded by a STRI / SI Fellowship
    • Select to arrange your visit to work under someone else’s existing fellowship research project
  • Field Courses
    • Select to arrange your visit for an existing STRI / SI field course
    • Select if you want to register a new field course
  • Research Projects
    • Select to arrange your visit to work under an existing research project
    • Select if you want to register a new research project and then arrange your visit for that project

The online forms ask for your general personal information, including about your insurance (company name, insurance # and expiration date. Health insurance is mandatory to visit STRI, so if you don’t have one you can buy an accidents (only) insurance through STRI. Click here for more information.

You will also be asked to fill out details about the research project (start and end dates, research overview, etc.), as well as STRI resources you will require, such as which facilities/equipment you will use (if any).

The forms vary depending on your type of visit. Please email us if you have any questions.

Applying for a visa

Most visitors are automatically granted an entry visa for 90 days. If your research visit will be 90 days or less, then you don’t need to apply for a visa. However, this is country-specific, so please check the entry requirements based on your passport country below Information for specific nationalities. If you have to stay in Panama for longer than the legal amount of time without a visa, please read the following.

Through STRI, you can apply for the Research Visa for Investigators and Scientists, which costs around $80 USD, including all fees. The visa process can only begin once you arrive to Panama, but we highly recommend you get the following documents processed about a month before your arrival.

What to bring before flying to Panama:

  • Passport (valid for up to 6 months after date of entry)
  • Valid driver’s license (if applicable)
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Round trip airplane or bus ticket (printed)
  • Apostilled passport from your respective country of residence or origin (used by STRI’s permits office)
  • Apostilled police record from respective country of residence or origin 
    • If original language is not in Spanish, you need to get it translated in Panama by a certified translator from the Panamanian government (contacts provided by STRI)
    • If you need to get this document while in Panama, visit here. If your embassy is not listed, please check with your Country’s embassy in Panama for more information
  • Make sure you pack at least one semi-formal attire since Panamanian authorities can deny your entry to any governmental premises if you wear shorts, t-shirts, open shoes, sleeveless shirts and short dresses

Email STRI’s Legal & External Affairs officer, Celideth De Leon, as soon as you arrive to Panama, she will assist you through the visa process.

Visa process once in Panama

Once you arrive, email Celideth to schedule a meeting where you will receive information about applying for a visa. These are some of the documents you need:

  • Black and white copies of ALL pages on your passport (including blank ones)
    • Ask your lab supervisor about where you can print
  • 5 color photos, carnet size, without anything interfering with your face/ears (glasses, hair, hat, scarf, etc)
    • Wear a formal shirt that covers your chest and shoulders (no t-shirts)
    • Costs $2-3 USD for 5 pictures
    • Contact us for recommendations of where to get these
  • Health certificate
    • Costs $10 USD for each certificate
    • Contact us for recommendations of where to get these

Visit to Migration Office

Once you have submitted all your documents, Celideth will email you back as soon as your first visa appointment gets booked at the migration office in Panama City (Migración in Spanish). 

You will make two trips to Migración, one to register your documents and a second one to get your picture taken and get your visa card. Dates between appointments are not consistent and depend on many factors which are out of STRI’s control, but we recommend to send a follow up email to Celideth two weeks after your documents have been delivered to Migración.

The time at Migración is around 2 hours per visit, but may take longer, so be prepared to wait for a while keeping in mind that the Internet and reception there are not very good. 

Applying for drivers license to use STRI trucks

To drive a STRI truck, you need a valid driving license and the following documents to apply for a US MI license once you arrive to Panama:

  • Application form for a US Government Motor Vehicle Operator ID card (one-page form)
    • Email Rivieth De Liones or visit her desk in the Gamboa lab building to obtain this form
  • Copy of valid driver’s license
  • Copy of your ID

Documents for valid license

Barring some exceptions, your foreign driver’s license is valid in Panama for the first 90 days of your stay in the country, regardless of the length of time you are approved to stay here as a visitor. If you need to drive for longer than 3 months, you can apply for a regular Panamanian driver’s license as long as you have a visa from the National Immigration Service, which will then be valid for the duration of said visa. 

  • Certified foreign license at the embassy or consulate in Panama corresponding to the country where your license was issued. 
    • For example, if you are French but have a British driver’s license, it needs to be certified at the British Embassy. If there is no representative body for your country in Panama, you may want to have your license officially certified ahead of your trip. 
  • This certificate then needs to be validated in a separate appointment at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, which is booked online and requires a scan of the document you want to authenticate. The appointment is booked here and usually takes a couple of days to be allocated. 
  • Homologation of foreign license
    • You need to present proof of your blood type
    • Book an appointment at Sertracen through their website ahead of time as it may be difficult to get a slot 
    • When booking, we recommend the Sertracen location at the Av. José Agustín Arango office, where you can use one of the walk-in labs opposite to the office for your blood type test. They can complete the test and produce a stamped report for $10 USD
    • Appointment involves a 5 min listening test

STRI Housing

STRI manages housing units that are on or near our research facilities.  Housing is assigned to interns and fellows on a first-come, first- serve basis. Housing is often at full capacity during Panama’s dry season from December to April, and during the northern summer, from June to August

Housing options

There are two-bedroom apartments and one-bedroom studio or dormitory rooms. All STRI rooms and apartments are shared unless the visitor pays for the whole room. 

Monthly rent (per person, per bed) varies by site and depending on the visitor’s position at STRI (e.g. interns generally pay less than visiting scientists). Interns and fellows can expect to pay about USD $250 per month for accommodations in Ancón and Gamboa. Accommodations on Barro Colorado Island include boat transportation to/from the island and a meal plan (3 meals per day), and cost about USD $750 per month for interns and fellows.

Contact Aristoteles Villegas to check availability or if you have any housing questions and/or requirements. Make sure you contact him a few days before your arrival to Panama to coordinate where and when you can get your house keys.

Whatsapp: +507 6130 9155


Arrival to Panama

Transport from airport options

  • We pick you up
  • Contact trustworthy driver Mani (+507 6522 3693)
    • Costs $55 USD and includes a supermarket stop
  • City bus (contact your lab supervisor for info)
  • Uber

STRI registration process

You need to register at STRI’s Visitor’s Center at Tupper (STRI’s main building in Panama City) before you can begin working at STRI. This will require:

  • Emailing Julia Areas to schedule your registration date
  • Filling out forms (registration, insurance)
  • Getting a picture taken for your STRI ID
  • If applicable, paying fees (e.g. STRI insurance)