Post Study Work Options: How to Get a Work Visa in Panama After Studies

Post Study Work Options: How to Get a Work Visa in Panama After Studies

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. 

Panama has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. It's strategically located on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South America and controls the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean, one of the most important shipping routes in the world.

At the crossroads of two oceans and two continents, Panama is a narrow little country packed with culture, tropical beaches, history and wildlife.

Panama enjoys a lively mix of cultural influences, expressed in the country’s cuisine, artwork, music, and literature. The ease of travel and wide array of experiences make Panama one of the most attractive emerging tourism destinations in the world.

It has become popular with foreigners looking for new opportunities in a country with a lower cost of living, a warm climate, two oceans with lots of islands and beaches, and plenty of room to build a dream home.

The Panama Student Visa is exclusively for the duration of your study program.  International students are forbidden to work, except for the professional practices and courses required by the educational centre.

After completing your study program, your student visa will also expire. If you wish to continue living in Panama, you should be able to switch to another visa category. 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.

Check out the options you have below or explore your other post-study options in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America!

Panama Work Permit

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.

The government in Panama has strict guidelines in place to ensure that Panamanian nationals have priority over foreign nationals 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.

The government also restricted certain professions only for its citizens. Restricted industries include engineering, law, accounting, and psychology. A foreign national cannot work in any of these industries, regardless of whether they have a work permit.

Work permit applications are submitted through the Ministry of Labor and the application for a resident visa is made 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 labour laws.

To apply, you need to prepare the following:

  • Valid Passport
  • Power of attorney and application for a work permit through a lawyer
  • Letter of responsibility issued by the future employer in Panama.
  • Original and two (2) copies of the future full-time Employment Contract.
  • Certificate of School Records and Professional Experience, legalized either by a Panama Consul or by the internationally recognized Apostille.
  • Four passport sized photos

*Additional requirements may be requested

Once the application is received, it can take 1 to 3 months to decide whether to approve or deny the request.

Work Permit – Affiliated with City of Knowledge  

The City of Knowledge is located inside the former U.S. Army Base of Fort Clayton in Panama City.  Foreign investors owning a company located within Panama’s City of Knowledge can have 5 special work permits for their foreign employees. If you secure a job in any of the companies, you will be eligible for a work permit for up to 1 year and extendable for the same term. 

Work Permit – Friendly Countries

In February 2017, the Ministry of Labor issued a new work permit requirement for foreigners with either a Friendly Nations or Professional Foreigner visa.

To apply for a work permit, those visa holders must now have an approved and stamped employment contract with a Panamanian company and be enrolled in the local payroll system. See the list of friendly countries below.

The work permit issued will be granted provisionally for three years, renewable for the same term. 

Work Permit – Professional Foreigners

Foreign nationals with a university diploma in a career that's not in Panama’s list of exclusions. The permit is valid for two years and is renewed for a term of three years, extendable for the same term.

Work Permit – Within Ten Percent of Ordinary Personnel

If you secure a job in a Panamanian company with 10% or fewer foreign workers then you will be eligible to apply. However, your salary should be at least $850 per month. The work permit is valid for two years, extendable for the same term.

Work Permit – Panama – Italy Treaty

Based on a treaty between Panama and Italy, work permits are now available to Italian nationals. The Italian National Work Permit is exempt from quota and local sponsorship requirements and will be issued with indefinite validity.

Work Permit – Marrakesh Agreement

This treaty is for temporary workers intending to live in Panama for a maximum of 5 years.  This visa is only available to companies employing between 3 to 10 employees earning at least the minimum wage. Only one foreigner is allowed to be employed and they must be paid at least $1,000 a month.

It is valid for a year and extendable for the same term.

Panama Business Investor Visa

The Panama Business Investor Visa requires a minimum investment of $160,000 in any legitimate new business or a new setup corporation.  

Investors are required to obtain a commercial business license, register with social security, and hire 5 Panamanian employees paying their social security benefits and at least paying the minimum wage.

Every Panama Business Investor Visa requires three 2-year temporary resident visas before becoming a permanent resident.

Panama Permanent Residence

Panama offers different pathways to permanent residence in the country.

Panama Friendly Countries Visa

If you are a citizen from one of the 50 friendly nations listed below and wish to relocate to Panama in order to conduct economic or professional business activities, you can qualify for this permanent residency program.

Qualified foreign nationals have the option of either investing US$200,000 in a real estate property in Panama (bank financing is allowed) or having a legalized work contract with an actual operating Panamanian company. A 2-year temporary resident visa is first obtained, and then after 2 years, the applicant can apply for permanent resident status.

The friendly nations are:

  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Marino
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland)

Panama Self Economic Solvency Visa

There are 3 options available to qualify for this unique Panama economic solvency visa created to attract wealthy foreign nationals to become permanent residents.

  • Make an investment of at least $300,000 USD in Panama real property equity (not counting loans or mortgages amounts).  For every dependent to be included with the visa, an additional $2,000 USD must be invested.
  • Make an investment of at least $300,000 USD in a 3 year Panama bank time deposit (“Certificate of Deposit”).  For each dependent, an additional $2,000 USD needs to be invested.
  • Combination of real property investment  and a Panama bank Certificate of Deposit where the equity and cash amount total at least $300,000 USD.  An additional $2,000 USD must be invested for each dependent.

Panama Reforestation Investor Visa

The Panama Reforestation Investor program offers investment options:

  • Invest US$100,000, and the applicant may obtain a 2 year temporary resident visa, and then apply for a permanent resident status.
  • Invest US$350,000, and the applicant can obtain expedited permanent resident status within a 30 day period.

Naturalised Citizenship in Panama

Panamanian citizenship is granted to permanent residents who have fulfilled the minimum residence requirement of 5 years from the moment the Panama Immigration Office issues the resolution to certify permanent residence. You will be tested for the Spanish language and your knowledge of Panama’s history, geography, and civil rights.

The process to obtain citizenship involves many entities such as the Ministry of Government and Justice, the Ministry of Public Services, the Electoral Tribunal, the Government Office, and the Presidency.

All these entities will review the application, and any of them may require additional paperwork, may delay the process for internal reasons, or may actually deny the application. Besides, it is the Panamanian president who ultimately approves and signs all applications. It could take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to be approved.

What are your thoughts on the Post Study Options in Panama? Is there anything we missed or anything you need clarification on? Comment below.

IaM can help with your visa application to the United States, the UK & other countries

If you need help with a US visa, a UK Visa, or visa to Europe, including help with appointment booking obligations, IaM can help. For more information and advice on US immigration, UK immigration law and US visa applications or if you need any help or assistance please, reach out to your Visa Coordinator at IaM.



Leave a Reply