Panama Immigration Services

Newland Chase offers full support with all aspects of corporate immigration to Panama. Please find an overview of the typical corporate immigration processes below. Every situation is unique, so please do get in touch, either through your usual Newland Chase contact or using the details on the right hand side of the page. Our immigration experts will be glad to discuss your needs in greater detail.

Immigration Summary

Generally, visa and work permit applicants enter as visitors, and then apply in-country for a residence visa and work permit. The work permit is granted for one year, extendable up to ten years. After this period the foreigner can apply for an indefinite work permit. The residence visa is valid for an initial period of two years; after this period the applicant can apply for permanent residence in Panama.

Note that the Visa and Work Permit process is subject to a quota: No more than 15% of the workforce of the business may be foreign qualified employees (experts, technicians or employees in “positions of trust”). No more than 10% of the workforce of the business may be foreign ordinary employees.

An SEM Visa for Multinational Headquarters requires a post-arrival residence visa application submitted to the SEM (Sedes de empresas multinacionales) department of the Panamanian Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and no separate work permit is required.

The SEM visa is valid for five years and after this period the applicant will be able to apply for permanent residence in Panama. Only multinational headquarters holding a licence from the Panamanian Ministry of Commerce (‘Licencia SEM’) will be qualified to submit an application for their permanent staff using this process.

The Transit Visa and Work Permit is the short-term process applicable to personnel, temporary workers or technicians in the cultural, professional, educational or scientific fields, temporarily assigned to a project in Panama.

Nationals of so-called “Friendly Countries” (Paises Amigos) and Italian nationals can change status post arrival from visitor to permanent residence. The applicant can be a local employee or a shareholder and company director at a Panamanian entity. Although entry to Panama is permitted early on, work permit approval is not granted until the work permit has been issued, at the end of this process.