Panama tightens qualifications for Professional Employment Visa

This post is also available in: Spanish

By: Staff at Panama Offshore Legal Services
E-Mail: Phone: (507) 227 – 6645

Vladimir is a Russian wanting to become a permanent resident in Panama but does not qualify for most of Panama’s immigration visa programs. He is a graphic designer with a degree from the University of Moscow. Is there a visa he can qualify for?

Panama offers more immigration visa programs than most countries. One of them is the Professional Employment Visa created a few years ago to attract more professionals to reside in Panama.

The Professional Employment Visa requires foreigners to be employed by a Panama company in a “professional” capacity and must hold a university degree and a professional license if it is required in his own country. The foreign employee must also pay social security taxes. He or she can become a permanent resident after two years of employment.

One problem with this visa is that “professional” was not clearly defined, causing confusion as to what professions qualify. That was corrected last May 13 with a new law tightening the requirements and standardizing the application process in regards to the educational qualifications.

Now applicants must first have their qualifications recognized by either the University of Panama, or the Technological University, or the corresponding national authority related to the profession. The new law states: “Since these professionals will live and work in our country, their university degrees must meet the standards of Panamanian universities.”

In addition, the new law states that Panama immigration officials “will only accept professional qualifications not reserved for Panamanians.” This means nursing, dentistry, architecture, agricultural sciences, pharmacy, medicine, law, and chemistry are reserved for Panamanians.

The types of professions not reserved for Panamanians include certain types of engineering, graphic design, communications, logistics, management, banking and financial sectors.

Vladimir qualifies for Panama’s Professional Employment Visa because he is a graphic designer who can be employed by a Panama company and his University of Moscow degree should meet the standards of a Panama university.

Vladimir needs to hire a Panama immigration lawyer in order to submit the applications to the University of Panama and then for the immigration visa.


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