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

Basic Requirements

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.

Additional Information

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 nationals and naturalized – such as accounting, engineering, law, or psychology.

Occupation Regulation
Accounting Law 57 of 1978
Agricultural Botany Law 22 of 1961
Agricultural Chemistry Law 22 of 1961
Agricultural Economy Law 22 of 1961
Agricultural Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1965
Agricultural Sciences Law 22 of 1961
Agricultural Sology Law 22 of 1961
Agricultural Zoology Law 22 of 1961
Agronomy Law 22 of 1961
Agrostology Law 22 of 1961
Architectural Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1966
Architecture Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1967
Barbering and Cosmetology Law 4 of 1956
Chemical Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1973
Chemistry Law 45 of 2001
Chiropractors Decree 8 of 1967
Civil Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1968
Dasonomy Law 22 of 1961
Dental Assistant Law 21 of 1994
Economy Law 7 of 1981
Electrical Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1970
Geological Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1971
Horticulture/Gardening Law 22 of 1961
Insurance Broker Law 59 of 1996
Laboratorist Law 74 of 1978
Law Law 9 of 1984
Master Builder Law 53 of 1963
Mechanical Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1972
Medical Assistant Decree 32 of 1975
Medical Radiology Law 42 of 1980
Medical Visitor Law 24 of 1963
Medicine Executive Decree 196 of 1970
Mining Engineering Executive Decree 257 of 1969
Nursing Law 1 of 1954
Nutrition Decree 362 of 1962
Odontology/Dentistry Law 22 of 1956
Pharmacy Law 24 of 1963
Phonoaudiology therapists and similar Law 34 of 1980
Physiotherapy Law 47 of 1984
Phytogenetics Law 22 of 1961
Phytopalogy Law 22 of 1961
Pilots Law 89 of 2010
Psychology Law 56 of 1975
Public Relations Law 11 of 2005
Security Agent Law 56 of 2011
Social Work Law 17 of 1981
Sociology Law 1 of 1996
Soil Science/Edaphology Law 22 of 1961
Surveyor Law 53 of 1963
Veterinarian Medicine Law 3 of 1983
Vocational Agricultural Education Law 22 of 1961
Zootechny Law 22 of 1961

Contact Us to learn more or to start with your Panama Work Permit process.

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