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Your research at STRI and in Panama may require permits. As a STRI researcher, the Scientific Permits Office (SPO) is your sole liaison with the various Panamanian government agencies that issue permits. After your research project has been approved by STRI, the SPO will provide you with any permits required by Panama for you to complete. The SPO office will handle the application process for you and notify you once permits are issued.

Please note:

Panamanian permits can take up to 45 working days to issue, or more that two full months. Please plan in advance.

With the exception of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument, STRI does not issue permits for research in Panama. Panamanian entities that issue permits have the final say on whether a permit is granted or not.

Refer to the section, First Steps, for information about Smithsonian Institution permits that are required in order to submit a research proposal.

Panamanian Entity Permits


The Republic of Panama requires all individuals conducting research under STRI's auspices to adhere to the laws and regulations of Panama, international conventions such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the laws of the country where scientific samples are being exported to or imported from.

As a researcher at STRI, the Scientific Permits Office (SPO) is your sole liaison for scientific permit requests to the government of Panama. After STRI has registered your research project, the SPO will advise you what permits you will need to request and provide guidelines for filling these out. The SPO will handle the submission process and advise you once requests have been approved or declined.

A scientific permit is required in the Republic of Panama for the legal observation, collection, importation and exportation of scientific samples.

Panamanian agencies that issue permits include:

Ministry of Environment (MiAmbiente)

Ministry of Agriculture (MIDA)

Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI)

National Institute for Culture (INAC)

Civil Aviation Authority (AAC)

Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

Please note:

No Panamanian permits are required for the Barro Colorado Natural Monument. But if you plan to work outside BCNM you will require a MiAmbiente scientific research permit.

Scientific permit costs will be charged according to the visitor status assigned by the STRI Visitor Services Office (VSO). Refer to the permits fee schedule for more details.

When applicable, the SPO ensures compliance with Smithsonian Directive 605 - Animal Care and Use, and Smithsonian Directive 606 – Research Involving Human Subjects. These permits need to be requested when you register your project at STRI–Please see the section first steps.


Essential Information

Ministry of Environment

All Panamanian permit requests must be prepared in Spanish. Applicants are responsible for the accuracy of the information provided and for the submission of required accompanying materials. Submission of incomplete applications may cause significant delays.

STRI’s Scientific Permits Office will verify that applications are complete and that supported materials are included before sending applications to the respective Panamanian government entity.

All Panamanian permit requests are evaluated by the corresponding permit-emitting authorities and STRI has no influence over the approval process. Panamanian authorities have the final decision regarding the issuance of a permits. STRI only grant permits for scientific research in the Barro Colorado Natural Monument.

In general, Panamanian entities are required to render a decision on scientific permit applications within 45 working days (63 calendar days) of receipt of the application. SPO has no control over this step of the process, nor on the time that the government entity will take during such times. After 30 working days, SPO will consult with the authority reviewing a permit application will notify the applicant if there are any changes.

STRI maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding the failure to comply with the regulations for the legal observation, collection, import and export of scientific samples. Ignoring this policy will lead to disciplinary actions including denial of access to STRI facilities, disciplinary actions, possibly dismissal, and prosecution by the Government of Panama.

Specific Agencies

Ministry of the Environment

Formerly the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Ministry of the Environment (MiAmbiente) provides permits for scientific, academic, and educational work that is carried out on marine and terrestrial areas throughout Panama. These include work in protected areas, non-protected terrestrial, freshwater, and marine areas, and areas with CITES species. MiAmbiente also issues permits that were previously authorized by the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP).

National Institute of Culture

The National Institute of Culture issues permits for scientific, academic and educational work related to archaeology and anthropology.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry provides permits for scientific, academic and educational work that involves paleontology and paleoecology.

Civil Aviation Authority

The Civil Aviation Authority issues permits for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Depending on where you plan to use drones, you may also be required to obtain informed consent letters from private landholders, indigenous territories, protected areas and the Panama Canal Watershed.

Panama Canal Authority

Research projects in the Panama Canal Watershed generally require permits from the Panama Canal Authority. Publications, printed material, and digital material including presentations must be reviewed by the ACP at least 45 days before results are published or made public. Please contact the External and Legal Affairs Office for details.

Indigenous Areas

If your research is being conducted in a semi-autonomous indigenous area of Panama known a comarca, you will need consent from indigenous leaders. Each individual community within a comarca may have different requirements as determined by local leaders. Check the map below to see where Panama’s comarcas are located if you are unsure if your research involves a comarca. Because of the potential complexities involved in conducting research in some indigenous areas, it is advisable to plan well in advance and to seek direct contact with indigenous leaders. Contact the Scientific Permits Office for assistance.


Ministry of Environment

The Ministry of Environment issues export permits for non-commercial scientific, academic and education work that involves samples collected in protected areas, and non-protect terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. The permit covers the exportation of genetic, biological and non-biological resources such as water and sediments.

National Institute of Culture

The National Institute of Culture (INAC) issues permits for the exportation of archaeological samples. INAC officials may want to inspect samples prior to issuing an export permit.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) issues export permits for paleontological and paleoecological samples. MICI officials may want to inspect samples prior to issuing an export permit.


Ministry of Environment

The Ministry of Environment issues permits to import genetic, biological and non-biological samples. The Ministry of Agriculture issues permits to import flora and fauna. Inspectors will examine imports at port of entry. Importation of soil samples is prohibited by Panama.


The STRI Scientific Permit Office (SPO) is located at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Tupper Center, Level 600, Room 608, Panama.

For all scientific permit enquiries and requests please contact us

Scientific Permit Office

+507 212-8082 / +507 212-8158

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute 
Attn: Scientific Permits Office - SPO 
9100 Panama City PL 
MRC 580-12 
Washington, DC 20521-9100 

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute 
Attn: Scientific Permits Office - SPO 
Edificio Tupper – 401 
Balboa, Ancón 
Panamá, República de Panamá

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