PANAMA: Changes to Residence and Work Permit Rules [UPDATED]

On 28 May 2019, several Executive Decrees were enacted which modify work and residence permit rules and introduce new immigration categories allowing work.

[UPDATE]

On 10 June 2019, several more Executive Decrees were enacted.

Temporary Residence as Aviation Employee

Effective 11 June 2019, the temporary residence permit for aviation employees (see below) has again been modified. It is now valid for six years, after which the holder may apply for permanent residence, and common-law spouses once again qualify as dependents.

The application can now be submitted before the applicant’s residence has been approved, if they hold an immigration provisional ID card, and additional documents are now required in support of permanent residence applications.

Permanent Residence for SEM Employee

Effective 11 June 2019 there are new requirements for executives who are working or have worked at one or more multinational headquarter offices ("SEM companies") for at least five years. This five-year period may be counted continuously or in intervals.

Permanent Residence for Holders of Ten-Year or Six-Year Provisional Residence Permits

Effective 13 June 2019, a new permanent residence permit has been established for holders of ten-year or six-year provisional residence permits.

Stay Visa for US Nationals

A new category of (non-resident) stay visa for US nationals has been created, allowing temporary and/or technical work, investment, studies or labour transfer for up to one year, extendable annually up to five times.

This new visa requires documentary evidence of the intended activity, but does not require proof of payment of the usual USD 100 migration service fee. Family members of the visa holder may obtain dependent status.

Temporary Resident as Aviation Employee

The government has replaced the existing temporary residence permit for employees of aviation companies based in Panama with a new version of this subcategory of temporary residence permit.

The new version is valid initially for two years (previously five years) and renewable twice for two years each time (previously renewable once for five years). Renewal requires proof of nine months of social security payments, and common-law spouses no longer qualify as dependents. After six years of residence, the holder may apply for permanent residence.

New Work Permits

The Ministry of Labour (MITRADEL) has established two new categories of work permit: one for temporary humanitarian residents of protection, and one for permanent resident permit holders.

Changes in Validity of Existing Work Permits

Work Permit for Spouse of a Panamanian

This work permit will now be issued initially for two years (previously one year), renewable for three years each time (previously one year).

Work Permits within the Ten Percent or Fifteen Percent Quotas

These work permits will now be issued initially for two years (previously one year), renewable for two years each time (previously one year).

Marrakech Agreement Work Permits

Marrakech Agreement work permits are for companies with fewer than ten employees.

The government has now established in law the existing rule that, to apply for a work permit under the Marrakech Agreement, a company must employ a minimum of three Panamanian employees and no other foreign national employees.

Work Permit for Foreign Professional

This work permit will now be issued initially for two years (previously one year), renewable for three years (previously one year).

The application can now be submitted before the applicant’s residence has been approved, if they hold an immigration provisional ID card, and additional documents are now required in support of renewal applications.

Our Advice

Employers who may be affected by any of these changes are encouraged to contact their Newland Chase immigration specialist for case-specific advice.
 
For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to Panama, please email us at enquiries@newlandchase.com