What is the change? Panama has expanded the options for SEM visa holders seeking permanent residence.

What does the change mean? SEM visa holders will now have the chance to qualify for permanent residence after five years, without making the previously required investment, if they intend to continue working at an SEM company.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. The change took effect June 11.
  • Visas/permits affected: SEM visas, permanent residence.
  • Who is affected: SEM visa holders seeking permanent residence.
  • Business impact: SEM visa holders who obtain permanent residence will be able to work at any company with an SEM license in Panama.

Background: Earlier this month, Panamanian officials issued a decree making it easier for foreign nationals working at multinational corporations in Panama (Sedes de Empresas Multinacionales or SEM countries) to obtain permanent residence. Under the decree, SEM visa holders can obtain permanent residence one of two ways.

  • SEM visa holders who are working at an SEM company and have held an SEM visa for five years can obtain permanent residence if they (1) have a bank account with at least $5,000 in it (plus an additional $1,000 for each dependent) (2) are paying into Social Security and local taxes. Dependents can qualify if they have held an SEM visa for at least two years.
  • SEM visa holders who stop working at an SEM company can qualify for permanent residence if they make a minimum investment of $150,000 in real estate or a fixed-term deposit (or a combination of the two). Dependents can qualify if they have held an SEM visa for at least two years.

Analysis & Comments: The change will ease the path to permanent residence for SEM visa holders. Previously, there were no permanent residence options for foreign nationals who continued working at an SEM company, only for those who stopped working and made the requisite $150,000 investment.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.