job search in Panama
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Working and Starting a Business in Panama – Part One of Three

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Retire in Panama

Panama City Panama

Finding a Job in Panama

Panama is one of the world’s most popular “move to” destinations and not just for retirees anymore. It is popular for many reasons, like weather, central location with a major airport hub, stable economy with a currency pegged to the US dollar, territorial taxation system, and most important, the ease and low cost of becoming a permanent resident.

In this three part series, Part One, below, we will be discussing getting a job in Panama, in Part Two, we will look into starting a business in Panama, and in Part Three, businesses of the digital nomad life in Panama.

Panama has several rules making the job search a bit more complicated.  It has about 25 protected professions, which the jobs there are reserved for Panamanians (List of Protected Professions at the bottom of this article).  Also Panama companies are limited to hiring 10% foreign workers, up to 20% if the company is located in certain designated areas like Panama Pacifico, and City of Knowledge.

Let’s talk a bit about Panama. Panama is a small country, roughly the size of the state South Carolina, or the province Nova Scotia. It is situated with Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the east. It has a population of approximately 4,200,000 people, and the official language is Spanish. (So, start learning Spanish now if you are planning to move here).

The job market in Panama is not large, by any means, and just like the rest of the world, currently with COVID-19, unemployment is very high, and will take a while to get back to normal. Even during normal times, there are a few obstacles to getting a job in Panama. First, is of course the language, second the salaries here are much lower than North America or Europe, then many professions in Panama are protected professions (list below), reserved for Panamanians only, except for a few exceptions. Also, the government has a rule, that in a company, you are only allowed one out of ten employees of a company to be foreign residents. This can be bent a bit for smaller companies. This requirement is also changed to two out of ten, in a couple areas in Panama City, Panama Pacifico and City of Knowledge, where there are clusters of foreign companies operating. Also the government is really strict here on work visas, and will require you to have one to work, and they can take 4 – 6 months to get, after you arrive here.

dell panama pacifico
Dell’s Offices at Panama Pacifico

Panama has been very attractive in the past to foreign companies doing work here, like for example, call centers, IT departments, etc. Some examples are the big offices of Dell, Caterpillar, 3M, Hewlett Packard, and these companies often have job openings for English speaking foreigners, as the applicant will have to deal with their international offices, so fluent English is required.  

It is not very popular here for companies to sponsor foreign workers, and pay for their moves and immigration/work visa costs, but it does happen, mostly in upper management though. Most companies, when advertising a job that requires English as a primary language, try to find someone who is already a resident here with a work visa.

There are a couple ways to come to Panama, if you are looking for work. The first is the Professional Employment Visa. This Visa is for a foreigner, who holds a college degree and or a professional license in their trade, being hired by a Panama company. After two years with this visa, you can become a permanent resident.

The Friendly nations Visa also offers a way to get permanent residency with a Job offer from a existing Panama company.

There are other Visas also like temporary work Visa, or the Short Stay Visa (Digital Nomad Visa). 

Here are some places to start looking for employment:

GlassDoor – English Jobs in Panama

Dell – Jobs in Panama (You can look at other foreign company website who are located in Panama)


The thing to remember, unless you have some sort of specialty, degree, years of experience in a specific field, or are fluent in Spanish, is that finding a job in Panama will be difficult. There is really no market here for a non Spanish speaking foreigner, looking for a job in the hospitality, construction, retail trade type jobs. But, if you are a computer programmer, logistics expert, management executive, professional tradesperson, with years experience, there could be some opportunity here for you.


Retire in Panama Tours
It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.


List of restricted and protected professions in Panama – At this time the government can override this list if professionals are needed in a category.

  • Nursing
  • Barber and cosmetology
  • Odontology
  • Architecture
  • Agricultural science
  • Pharmacy
  • Chiropractors
  • Nutrition
  • Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Doctors, Dentists
  • Medical assistant
  • Accounting
  • Journalism
  • Laboratoristas
  • Public relations
  • Speech Therapy, Therapists and the like
  • Economy
  • Social work
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medical Radiology
  • Law
  • Dental assistant
  • Sociology
  • Chemistry


List of 50 Friendly Nations Visa Countries

  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Paraguay
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Korea
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Uruguay
  • USA

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