(The Panama Gringo) Traditionally speaking, the expat life has long been dominated by the retired crowd. However, things are changing as more and more younger expats show up in Panama. If you are too young to retire, or simply need some extra cash for your living expenses in Panama you will need to get a work permit. Panama Offshore Legal Services provides excellent information on the 11 different ways to obtain a work permit in Panama:
- 1. 10% or less of the employees of a Panamanian company can be foreigners, as long as the employee is paid a minimum of $850 per month and only for a maximum of 6 years.
- 2. Resolution by the Ministry of Labor (where a company actually applies for special treatment/exemption above the 10% maximum quota) where the employee is paid no less that $850 a month with a maximum stay of 6 years.
- 3. Temporary Visitor via Marrakech Treaty (this treaty is for temporary workers intending to live in Panama for a maximum of 5 years). The Marrakech Treaty created the World Trade Organization. This visa is only available for companies employing between 3 to 10 employees earning at least the minimum wage. Only one foreigner is allowed who must be paid a minimum of $1,000 a month.
- 4. City of Knowledge Work Visa Program (located inside the former U.S. Army Base of Fort Clayton). Foreign investors owning a company located within Panama’s City of Knowledge can have 5 special work permits for their foreign employees. This work permit is for up to 6 years for foreign businessmen, researchers, professors, students, and technicians.
- 5. Married to a Panamanian (once you marry a Panamanian you can apply for a work permit).
- 6. Panama Specialist Workers Visa is a new visa with a work permit for a maximum of 9 months. The National Service of Immigration will create a registration of businesses dedicated to activities of specialists inside the Republic of Panama. No one knows what a “Specialist” is until the immigration department issues rules and regulations defining what type of job titles or functions qualify as being “special”. Due to the 9 month maximum stay; this is intended as a temporary specialist position.
- 7. Cultural, Sports, or Educational Visa where the immigration law allows companies to hire a foreigner to work for a single occasion carrying out cultural, technical, musical or artistic, sports, educational field, professional, or scientific work will be able to request this visa for a maximum term of three (3) non-extendable months.
- 8. Domestic Workers Visa is a new immigration law allowing a Panamanian citizen or a permanent or temporary resident to hire a foreigner to work as a domestic worker can apply for this Panama Foreign Domestic Workers Visa, for a term of one year (renewable four times). This includes maids, cooks, chauffeurs, gardeners, nannies and butlers.
- 9. Short Stay Visas are also new allowing for up to 9 months stay in order to establish business subsidiaries; investigators and scientists conducting research for embassies or governments or foreign businesses; investors or businessmen entering Panama to analyze investment possibilities or to perform transactions in the Food Processors Zone for Export, Call Center, or special areas appointed for the development of the Audiovisual and Film Industry.
- 10. Temporary Residency Work Permits is another new immigration law allowing a foreigner to live and work here for 6 years as an employee of the government, semi-autonomous companies, small business contracting with the government, executives or management for a Colon Free Zone company, non-diplomats working for a foreign government or international agency; news media correspondents.
- 11. Special Temporary Residency For Special Reasons is a new immigration visaproviding temporary residency for 6 years for all employees in the film or audiovisual industry (this includes producers, directors, actors, and technical support); Panama Canal workers; Panama-Pacifico Special Economic Area workers (like the former Howard U.S. air force base); Foreigners hired by businesses inside the Food Processors for Export Zone; Foreigners employed by Call Centers for commercial purposes; Foreigners hired as executives for an international business with a subsidiary in Panama.
You must apply for the Work Permit through the Ministry of Labor and apply for a resident Visa through the Immigration office.
If your employer doesn’t provide you with an attorney and immigration visa and Ministry of Labor processing services, you will have to hire a competent immigration attorney who knows Panama labor laws.
Panama Work Permit Application Requirements:
- 1. The Panama Work Permit application must be filed by an attorney.
- 2. Letter of responsibility issued by the future employer in Panama.
- 3. Original and two (2) copies of the future full-time Employment Contract.
- 4. Certificate of School Records and Professional Experience, legalized either by a Panama Consul or by the internationally recognized Apostille.
- 5. Eight (8) photos, passport sized.
Presidential Executive Decree 343 issued in May of 2012 will provide easier and faster permanent residency visas along with work permits for citizens of 47 “friends of Panama” nations. This decree awaits rules and regulations to be issued by the Immigration and Ministry of Labor in order to process applications. More information is available in a separate web page.