Is your company searching for international growth opportunities? If so, you may choose to expand to Panama for a variety of reasons. This country is a popular destination for expatriates from around the world. Still, your business will face a unique set of challenges as you expand operations to Panama. You’ll most likely want to transfer a strong team of employees to ensure that the transition goes well. Before they can start working, however, you’ll need to make sure they have the necessary work visas and permits.
Types of Work Visas in Panama
Like any other country, Panama has a specific set of regulations in place for foreign nationals who plan to travel within its borders. Foreigners who intend to stay in Panama for up to 90 days can obtain a tourist visa, but this visa does not allow the holder to work.
To live and work in Panama, foreign employees will need to get an immigration visa and establish residence before applying for a work permit.
Requirements to Obtain Panama Work Visas
The required documents to get a visa to travel to Panama can vary. Applicants should reach out to the Panamanian embassy or consulate in their country of residence for a comprehensive list of requirements. Typical requirements for foreign individuals who plan to move to Panama for work include:
- A passport that’s valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in Panama*
- A copy of the information page of the passport
- A completed visa application form
- Four passport photos
- An employment contract with a company based in Panama
- Proof of accommodations in Panama
- A medical certificate stating that the applicant is in good health
- A police background check from the applicant’s country of residence
*As of September 2022, the Panamanian Ministry of Labor will allow foreigners with an expired passport to apply for work permits, provided they have already applied for a passport renewal or extension. This exception is in effect until June 30th, 2024.
To get a work permit, applicants will need to provide additional documents, including:
- A work permit application, which should be completed by an attorney
- A letter of responsibility from the employer
- A copy of the resolution of the National Immigration Service demonstrating that the applicant has established permanent residence
- A copy of the applicant’s Residence ID
- Four passport photos
As of March 2023, employers with more than 20 workers must provide a notarized payroll certification completed by a certified public accountant.
In Panama, it’s the employer’s responsibility to obtain a work permit on behalf of any foreign employees. However, the employee cannot get a work permit until the National Immigration Service grants them permanent residence status.
To apply for an immigration visa and permanent residence, citizens from other countries should visit the embassy or diplomatic mission of Panama in their country of residence and submit any relevant documents. After the employee receives the visa, the employer in Panama can apply for a work permit. As of May 2023, employees must also register with the Ministry of Labor online before applying for an initial work permit. International employees looking to renew their work permits must re-register online in order to renew their permits.
The government in Panama has strict guidelines in place to ensure that Panamanian nationals have priority over foreigners when it comes to employment. The employer will need to demonstrate the need for a foreign employee before applying for a work permit. Further, no more than 10% of the company’s workforce can be foreign.
The employer must submit the work permit application through the Ministry of Labor. Once the Ministry approves the permit, the employee can begin working in Panama.
Other Important Considerations
Panama is unique in that certain professions are reserved for Panamanian nationals. Restricted industries include engineering, law, accounting, and psychology. A foreign national cannot work in one of these occupations, regardless of whether they have a work permit.
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At this moment, G-P does not offer support processing work visas or permits in this particular location.
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