Panama’s fast growing economy, almost full employment and the increasing arrival of international companies have created a tight labor market in which qualified professional and executives are scarce. This has prompted the Government to enact legislation facilitating the employment of foreign personnel. The following are the most recent developments in this regard:
- Visa and work permits for friendly nationalities. A citizen of any of the following countries is allowed to apply for a permanent residency visa and an indefinite work permit: Germany, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, United States of America, Spain, Slovakia, France, Finland, The Netherlands, Ireland, Slovenia, Japan, Norway, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Chile, Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, South Korea, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus, Malta, Serbia, Montenegro, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, Marino, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Taiwan.In the past, work permits and visas had to be renewed annually.
- MHQ Visas. Panama has enacted legislation allowing foreign international companies to establish regional headquarters in Panama (MHQ) engaged in providing services to their main offices, affiliates or other companies within the same economic group. Generally, MHQ’s are allowed to bring into the country foreign workers not subject to traditional payroll headcount limitations and with special tax benefits. Previously, MHQ visas were granted for a period of five years with the possibility of renewal for the same period of time. With the recent enactment, MHQ visas are granted for a period of five years and after such period, the foreigner may request permanent residency in Panama.
- Visa for Foreign Executives. Panama has enacted legislation allowing foreign executives to apply to a permanent residence, by evidencing before the immigration authorities, a diploma corresponding to a profession that is not restricted to Panamanians only (i.e. law, medicine, architecture, engineering, among others). Before this enactment, foreign executives had to have a local sponsor in Panamá, for whom the foreign executive will work for. With the new enactment, a local sponsor is not required. In addition, the visa will not have to be renewed annually.
Easing the migratory process and introducing highly qualified human resources into its growing economy has become a priority for Panama.