Essential Employment Paperwork in Panama



Panama is a famous tropical paradise nestled between Colombia and Costa Rica. Expats who wish to seek employment in this country will find themselves participating in one of the most stable and progressive economies in Latin America whose greatest asset is the Panama Canal. But before anything else, aspiring professionals must first obtain the relevant paperwork to ensure smooth and hassle free employment. 

First and foremost, expats must know that landing a job in Panama will not be an easy journey since the local government strictly implements labour laws that prioritise Panamanians. There is a strict restriction of foreign workers in this country whereas under the Marrakech Treaty, the number of expatriates in a particular company should not exceed 10% of the total labour force. In addition to that, employers who wish to hire expats must also get an authorisation from the Ministry of Labour by proving that no qualified Panamanian was found to fill the vacancy. 

Work Permit 

Most of the time, the prospective employer in Panama will arrange the work permit on behalf of their employees but there are also some instances when companies do not provide any type of assistance. Expatriates who need to take care of their own work permits are strongly advised to seek the help of a Panamanian attorney since the Ministry of Labour only accepts applications that have been sent by a lawyer. Below is the list of documents that applicants must give to their respective lawyers to get a work permit for Panama. 

  • Passport that is valid for at least six months
  • Four passport-sized photos
  • Copies of the Employment Contract
  • Letter from the employer in Panama which states the nature of work and why the expat is the most qualified person for the job
  • Educational and Professional certificates of the applicant 

The application usually takes about a month or two to be processed. Work permits are valid for one year and are bound to one employment contract so those who wish to change employers will be required to obtain a new work permit. Once the permit has been issued the expatriate’s attorney will contact the Migration Department for their visa for Panama. The visa issued to foreign assignees is also valid for one year and is available for renewal.