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PANAMA – Permanent Residence Now Available to SEM Employees

Effective 1 January 2018, and following the enactment of Law 57 of 24 October 2018, employees of multinational headquarters (“Sedes de Empresas Multinacionales” or SEM) will be able to apply for permanent residence after five years of temporary residence, while continuing to work for the same company in Panama.

Until now, permanent residence was only available after five years of temporary residence to SEM visa holders who had ceased working for the SEM company but wished to stay in Panama.

Permanent residents in Panama are subject to the payment of income tax (ISR), social security and educational tax on the basis of their salary and other remuneration received.

Alternatively, an SEM visa holder may choose to apply to renew their temporary residence for up to five years at a time.


Only multinational headquarters holding a licence from the Panamanian Ministry of Commerce may be qualified to submit a SEM visa application for their permanent staff. The SEM visa allow up to five years of work and residence without requiring a separate work permit application.

A multinational headquarters (SEM) is defined as a company established and managed locally in Panama, which may be the regional or global headquarters, and which delivers certain services to its parent office, subsidiaries and/or branches in countries other than Panama. To qualify for the SEM licence, the multinational group as a whole MUST have income/shares of at least USD 200 million or a presence in more than 40 countries under the same commercial name.

The list of services that SEM companies can provide to their related companies in the same group was expanded by Law 57 to include more technical, financial and administrative assistance services.

Action Items

• Multinational companies and their employees who may be affected are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for specific advice.

This alert was prepared with information provided by Morgan & Morgan.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.