Panama’s economy has been one of the fastest growing in Latin America since 2006, thanks to the real estate and property market boom in tourism and freight transport.

Foreigners in Panama – Gogetit Highlights

  • Late last year, Panamanian authorities approved more than 20,000 work permits, mostly for Venezuelans and Colombians.
  • Comparing to 2014, last year was an increase of 67.7%, but many of these are renewals.
  • Foreigners, businessmen and many multinationals are attracted by economic growth in Panama, among other advantages. Before this change, it requires competitiveness and innovation in the labor market.

Percentage of foreigners in Panama

  • Each year, more people migrating from all over the world to Panama in search of better quality of life. A large percentage comes from countries like Venezuela, where a difficult political and economic situation.
  • According to data from the National Migration Service, in 2015 there were approved 17.907 residence permits to foreigners, 29.83% more than the previous year, when 13.792 permits were granted.
  • In this universe, the largest number of visas granted was as foreign professionals (4,209); followed by the residence permit issued to citizens of friendly countries (3,817); and for reasons of education (1092), among others.

Geographical location, economic growth in recent years and employment opportunities, are some of the reasons why foreigners choose to settle in Panama.

Globally, it is estimated that there are about 232 million migrant workers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Experts in the field, said that migration can be positive if it leads to a global support system that could take advantage of the skills and talent of displaced.

The entry of migrants into the country, should not be seen as a negative issue, not as a threat but as an opportunity.

If you’re planning to move to Panama as an option to start a new life, you may not know that the Republic of Panama has created a Program for Permanent Residence which benefits the citizens of several countries, granting them the famous “Panama friendly nations visa”, which gives permanent resident status, granted Panamanian identity card and the right to request a work permit in indefinite manner, with only a few requirements.

Approved work permits to foreigners in Panama:

1. Colombians = 28.1%
2. Venezuelans = 27.7%
3. Spanish = 6.1%
4. Nicaraguan = 6.0%
5. Dominicans = 5.8%
6. Italian = 3.6%
7. Costa Ricans = 1.9%
8. Chinese = 1.9%
9. Mexicans = 1.7%
10. Americans = 1.7%

Infographic Source:

foreigners in Panama

What happens in the labor market with foreigners in Panama?

One of the work permits which mostly issued in the country are foreign professionals, which are valid for two years.

“To qualify for this visa, the foreigner must have a legal immigration status. And, despite the arrival of migrant professionals to the country, employers prefer hiring local professional.

According to the rules of local staff, for every 10 workers, 9 of them have to be Panamanians and one has to be foreigner.

In addition, for a foreigner to work in a local company, must have a valid work permit and validated by the Mitradel.

“When the employer hires a foreigner without a work permit, plays into the hands of unfair competition against employers who require a work permit, pay the social security contributions and are current on legal matters” says Samuel Rivera.

The arrival of the workforce of foreign workers to the country, has allowed employers have more choice when choosing personnel who require their companies, but on the other hand, has forced Panamanians to be more competitive and more training.

Another advantage obtained with the arrival of foreign professionals, is the multicultural experience adopted with different points of view and work philosophies, which are handled in the country.

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Silvia Merida Pellicer
Gogetit Content Manager. Author of important reviews for Gogetit News, “The #1 Source for real estate news in Panama.”
Specialized in the search and analysis of the most important news about real estate in Panama.