PANAMA WORK PERMIT
About the Panama Work Permit
Any foreigner who plans to work in Panama requires an immigration visa that enables him to apply to a work permit.
The process to establish residence and the process to obtain a work permit are different and independent. However, the residence process must be completed first, because it is one of the requirements to request a work permit.
The National Immigration Service responds to all residence applications in Panama. However, the Ministry of Work and Labor is responsible to process all work permit applications.
Options to Apply for a Work Permit
There are many options to obtain a work permit, depending on the applicant’s residence path. Some of these include:
- Foreigner married to a Panamanian
- Foreigner with Panamanian Children
- Foreigner with residence under the Friendly Nations program
- Foreigner with residence under the Panama – Italy treaty
- Foreigner with residence under the Professional Foreigner program
- Foreigner with residence living in Panama for 10 years or more
- Foreigner hired by a local company within the 10% of allowed foreign labor
- Foreigner hired by a local company with a minimum $1,000/m salary, following the rules of the Marrakech Agreement – only one foreigner is allowed in the company’s payroll
- Foreigner hired by a local company within the 15% of expert technical labor
- Foreigner hired as a business executive by a company in the Colon Free Zone
- Foreigner hired by a local company that only offers services abroad
- Foreigner granted residence as a Refugee
- Foreigner granted residence under the Crisol de Razas program
The requirements to obtain a work permit vary based on the foreigner’s residence program, but there are general requirements that apply to most cases, such as:
- Application and Power of Attorney, original and copy
- Authenticated copy of the resolution from the National Immigration Service, confirming the applicant was granted Panamanian permanent residence
- Certificate from the National Immigration Service, confirming the applicant’s immigration status
- Notarized copy of the applicant’s Residence ID issued by the National Immigration Service
- Four passport-sized pictures, with the applicant’s name written on the back
Costs and Duration
The cost to obtain a work permit ranges from $100 to $600 in government fees, plus legal fees.
Once the Ministry of Work and Labor receives an application, it can take 1 to 3 months to decide whether to approve or deny the request.
If the application is approved, the applicant will receive an ID that authorizes him to work in Panama. The foreigner may need to show this ID to a hiring employer or to inspectors from the Ministry of Work and Labor when required.
If a local company hires a foreigner who holds a valid work permit, the company must meet the rule of 10 Panamanian employees for each hired foreigner. This rule does not apply to Multinational Companies, which follow other rules.
The application of a foreigner under the Friendly Nations program also needs to include a labor contract, proof of social security registration, and payroll information from the hiring company.
In general, foreigners can invest in and supervise their own business. However, the opinion of the Ministry of Work and Labor is that said foreigner cannot manage or work without a work permit.
Occupations Reserved for Panamanians
Panamanian law forbids foreigners, even with a work permit, to labor in a number of occupations reserved for Panamanians.
Some of these occupations include:Law, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Architecture, Engineering, Veterinary, Dentistry, Nutrition, Psychology, Lab Technician, Social Labor, Physical Therapy, Accounting, Medical and Dental assistant, Barber and Cosmetologist, Agronomist, Journalist, Radiologist, Public Relations, and Economist.