Work visa for Panama

Panama residency visa and work permits are within 10%. These regulations govern eligibility, stay duration, application process, costs, and restrictions for foreign workers. Panama’s new labor migration rules set the criteria for residency visas and work permits. 

Under Panama’s labor migration laws, both residency visas and work permits are granted within a 10% limit of the total workforce, with specific guidelines and processes in place.


Under the new regulations, eligibility for work permits in Panama is subject to various categories and conditions.

  1. Equivalency to Local Labor: Foreign nationals may be eligible for work permits if their employment does not adversely affect local labor conditions or standards of living. Criteria for this category include a minimum of ten years of residence in Panama, marriage to a Panamanian citizen, or diplomatic dependency.
  2. Percentages Authorized by the Labor Code: The Labor Code sets specific percentages for foreign workers in various job categories. For example, up to 10% of the total workforce for ordinary employees and up to 15% for specialists, technicians, or trusted personnel.
  3. Special Laws: Work permits may be granted under special laws related to specific industries or investment zones, such as Free Trade Zones, Multinational Enterprises, and more.
  4. Humanitarian Protection: Work permits can be issued for humanitarian reasons, including refugees, political asylees, victims of trafficking, and stateless individuals. This category provides opportunities for those with unique circumstances.
  5. Special Conditions: Certain conditions may apply to work permits based on specific circumstances. These may include employment in «friendly countries,» regularization programs, student workers, and temporary employees like athletes or artists.

These eligibility criteria and categories ensure that work permits are granted in line with Panama’s constitutional principles and labor laws, promoting fairness and balanced opportunities for both locals and foreign workers.

How long you can stay?

The duration of work permits in Panama varies depending on the type of permit and specific conditions:

Work permits categorized as «Equivalency to Local Labor» may have different durations, such as those for individuals married to Panamanian citizens or long-term residents, which may be issued for extended periods, typically two years. These permits can often be renewed for an additional two-year term.

For work permits authorized by the Labor Code, the standard duration is typically two years. However, it may vary depending on the percentage limits defined in the code. Special laws may also specify their own duration.

Special Conditions permits 

Including those for students or temporary workers, typically align with the specific circumstances or the duration of the related program or event. Renewal or extensions may be possible based on the continued relevance of these conditions.

It’s crucial to highlight that the specific timeframes for each category of work permit are subject to the laws and regulations in effect at the time of application. Applicants should thoroughly understand the duration and renewal options associated with their specific type of work permit to ensure compliance with Panama’s immigration laws.

Applying for Foreign worker within the 10%

For professionals seeking work permits in Panama, here’s a step-by-step guide to the application process:

Consult with an Attorney

Regardless of whether you are an employee or an employer, your first step should be to consult with an attorney experienced in immigration matters. They can provide invaluable guidance and ensure your application complies with Panama’s regulations.

Determine Eligibility

With your attorney’s guidance, confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria based on your employment category, such as equivalency to local labor, percentages authorized by the Labor Code, special laws, humanitarian protection, or special conditions.

Gather Required Documents

Working closely with your attorney, you’ll need to assemble all the necessary documents for your specific type of work permit. For a detailed list of these documents, please click [here](insert link).

Attorney Submission

Your attorney will handle the submission of your application and all required documents to the appropriate government agency responsible for processing work permits. You should have a preliminary meeting with your attorney to provide any necessary documents or information.

Review and Processing

Your attorney will oversee the review process, during which authorities will assess your eligibility and documents. Be patient and prepared for a wait.

Attorney-Assisted Permit Collection

Once your work permit is approved, coordinate with your attorney to collect it. Your attorney can also guide you in the final steps, including taking a photo for the work permit, ensuring a successful conclusion to the process.

Seeking professional legal assistance at the outset can significantly streamline the application process and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations. Your attorney will manage the administrative aspects of your application, leaving you well-prepared for the final steps of obtaining and finalizing your work permit.

How long it takes?

The processing time for work permits in Panama can vary but typically ranges from 1 to 3 months. However, applicants should be aware that factors such as the type of permit, regulatory changes, and individual circumstances can extend the processing period to a maximum of 5 months. Staying informed and working closely with legal advisors is advisable to navigate this process effectively.

Factors Affecting Processing Time

  • Type of Permit: The category of work permit you apply for plays a significant role in determining the processing time. While many applications are resolved within 1 to 3 months, some may take longer due to their nature and requirements.
  • Regulatory Changes: Under this legal framework, the Panamanian government issued Executive Decree No. 4 on March 2, 2023. This decree introduces the Unified Text containing the new set of requirements and parameters for the approval of work permits for foreigners within Panamanian legislation.

Notable aspects of this new regulation include the classification of work permits into various categories

How much it costs?

When applying for work permits in Panama, it’s important to understand the breakdown of the costs involved. These costs primarily consist of government fees, and it’s worth noting that legal fees for professional services from an attorney may apply as well. 

Below, we provide a detailed breakdown of the government fees associated with work permits:

PERMIT TYPE First Time or RenewalDuplicate CostPermit Type
1. Foreign person hired by an employer as regular personnel, within 10% of the total workforce;$80$30PERMIT 2A
2. Migrant person hired by an employer as a specialist or technician, within 15% of the total workforce;$80$30PERMIT 2B
3. Migrant person hired by an employer as trusted personnel, within 15% of the total workforce;$80$30PERMIT 2C
4. Migrant person hired by a micro or small employer;$80$30PERMIT 2D
5. Migrant person hired as trusted personnel by an employer whose transactions are exclusively perfected, consummated, or have their effects abroad.$100$30PERMIT 2E

We understand that applying for a work permit can be a significant step. Don’t worry, you’ll only need to make the payment once you have the permit in hand and are ready to proceed. Get started now, and we’ll guide you through the entire process.

What you can and cannot do?

Activity10% Work PermitRegular Work Permit
Work as a regular employeeAllowedAllowed
Work as a specialist or technicianAllowedAllowed
Work as trusted personnelAllowedAllowed
Work for a micro or small employerAllowedAllowed
Work for an employer with transactions abroadAllowedAllowed
Apply for residency after 2 years of workAllowedAllowed
Apply for Permanent Resident statusAllowedAllowed
Sponsor dependents for work permitsAllowedAllowed
Change employers without reapplying for a permitAllowedAllowed
Work in jobs requiring specific percentagesSubject to 10% limitAllowed based on employer’s needs
Work independently or self-employedNot AllowedAllowed
Work as a professional in specific fieldsNot AllowedAllowed
Work under different job categories or positionsNot AllowedAllowed
Work in roles not defined in the 10% limitNot AllowedAllowed
Change jobs frequently within 10% limitNot Advisable (may affect renewal)Allowed
Change jobs freely within the same employerAllowedAllowed


How do I calculate if I qualify for the 10% work permit in my company? 

To determine if you qualify for the 10% work permit, you’ll need to assess whether your company has already reached the maximum limit of foreign employees allowed, which is 10% of the total workforce. If your company still has available slots within this limit and you meet the requirements, you may apply for this permit.

What is the cost of a work permit in Panama? 

The cost of a work permit in Panama varies by type. For instance, a Type 2 work permit (for ordinary employees) typically incurs government fees of $80 for the initial application and $30 for renewals or duplicates. Please note that attorney fees are not included and are essential for the process.

How many work permits can be requested per month at the workplace?

There is no set limit on the number of permits that can be requested, but they must comply with these percentage restrictions. depends on the company’s needs and the available slots within the 10% or 15% limits.

What are the new types of work Permit according to the new decree ?

New Work Permit Categories According to the New Decree:

  • Equivalency to Local Labor: 
  • Percentages Authorized by the Labor Code: 
  • Special Laws
  • Humanitarian Protection
  • Special Conditions: Apply to work permits based on specific circumstances, e.g., «friendly Nations» 
What is a Panama friendly nations residency visa?

The Panama Friendly Nations Visa is a popular immigration option offered by Panama to citizens of selected countries that maintain friendly relations with Panama. However, as an Italian citizen, you have an exclusive and beneficial option at your disposal – the Panama Italy Treaty Visa. This unique program, established under the Mutual Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty of 1966, offers instant permanent residency in Panama for Italian citizens, simplifying the process and offering benefits beyond the scope of the Friendly Nations Visa. It allows Italians to live and conduct business in Panama, providing an attractive and seamless path to Panamanian residency.

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