As soon as I was offered my job, I had to send my contact at CIAT scans of my passport, photos etc for them to apply for this visa on my behalf as they have a special agreement with the Cancillería and obviously process a lot of these visas as they are an international organisation. I was told it would take up to three weeks and this was at the end of November. The time passed and Christmas was fast approaching and still no word. Then, miraculously, in the last half hour of my contact's working day before CIAT closed for two weeks for Christmas, the approval of my visa finally came through.
What followed was a frantic day of filling in the online application form with more personal data and documents to upload such as a photo, the job offer letter and a scan of my passport. I then desperately tried to contact the Panamanian consulate on the morning of the 24th December (Christmas day in Colombia) but the phone lines were just playing a recording so I thankfully managed to get an email reply just before the half day in the office was over. I was told that I actually did not need to book an appointment so could just go whenever they were open to collect it. Since my visa had already been approved, I guess it is a faster process.
Unfortunately, between the time that my contact at CIAT had told me it had been approved and finding out I could go to Panama whenever I wanted, the prices of the already high prices of the flights had increased by $100! But it was all worth it in the end and we went and had a great time. I will write a post about Panama City later for anyone who is going.
Getting the visa once in Panama City was very easy. We took a taxi to the consulate which is opposite the Plaza Paitillo Hotel and the receptionist told me to go to the last room down this corridor and the man inside knew who I was because of my emails so I just left my passport with him and the following day picked it up. No waiting time, no hassle!