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Professional visas in Panama

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To work in Panama you need an appropriate visa, and although the government protects the interests of its own talent, if you have something to offer professionally that the employer can’t find among their home-grown candidates you may well be granted one. It’s not a quick process, though.

Getting a visa

Your potential employer will be the one doing most of the spadework here, and will be armed with his local knowledge plus local legal advisors to tell him who he can and can’t employ. Having said that, it never does any harm when looking for work to show that you have looked into it and have at least a vague understanding of the options.

If you find yourself having to make some enquiries yourself, a Panamanian immigration lawyer will be able to tell you what is worth applying for and what is not. Lawyers are expensive, but they are able to be expensive for a reason: they know things the rest of us don’t and are adept at finding out if they don’t have the knowledge already. They can also spot a loophole that can help a client achieve his or her aim.

Documentation requirements

Whoever takes charge of the process, documents to be produced for obtaining a work visa are:

  • a completed and signed application form;
  • three passport-size photographs;
  • copies of your identity card, passport or residence securities;
  • fees of US$ 100 to be paid to the National Immigration Service;
  • copies of your air tickets;
  • evidence of your accommodation booking;
  • your certificate of social security payment;
  • a letter of responsibility issued by the company which wants to appoint you;
  • criminal record certificate (police check verifying whether you have ever been in trouble and if so, how recently);
  • evidence of your ability to pay taxes according to the value specified in the employment contract; and
  • a deposit of around US$ 250.

Note that some documents may have to have an apostille, the international certification of authenticity. The Panamanian authorities in your home country will be able to advise on this.

Types of work visas

Temporary Visitor via Marrakech Treaty for Small Companies

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.

City of Knowledge Work Visa

Panama’s City of Knowledge is a campus on the edge of the city, in a former US military base.  Foreign investors owning a company located within the City of Knowledge can have five special work permits for their foreign employees.  This permit is for up to six years for foreign businessmen, researchers, professors, students, and technicians.

Specialist Workers Visa

Panama Specialist Workers Visa is a new visa with a work permit for a maximum of nine months. The definition of “specialist” and the jobs or titles considered to be "specialist" have yet to be defined by the immigration department.

Cultural, Sports, or Educational Visa

Cultural, Sports, or Educational Visa is where the law allows companies to hire a foreigner to work for a single occasion carrying out cultural, technical, musical or artistic, sports, educational, professional, or scientific work for a maximum term of three months (non-extendable).

 Good to know:

Depending on what kind of visa you get, you may be required to make a deposit of a significant amount of money in a Panamanian account.

 Useful link:

National Immigration Service of Panama

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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See also

The investor visa grants permanent residence in Panama for two years. The agricultural investment visa grants six years temporary residence.
The tourist visa entitles you to a 90 days stay in Panama. This visa may be renewed at each exit from the country.
Pensionado visas will cost between $1000-1500 per person. Because of the cost, you may find that this visa is not worth it.
Your pet will need a health card and a rabies vaccination certificate in order to travel with you to Panama. Exotic pets require further approvals.
Panama customs do not impose many restrictions on foreigners. However, firearms must be declared on arrival. These will be retained until your departure.

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