The Debate Over Foreign Workers

"... Some of the professions reserved for national citizens are chemical engineering and petrochemicals, careers which are not offered by any university in Panama. "

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Acting as a backdrop to the contradiction between migrant's human right to work and the need to reserve jobs for nationals, is the upkeep of competitiveness and economic development of each country.

The change of government in Panama brought a change of concept regarding the levels of openness displayed by the country to make it an attractive destination for labor migration. Facilities to regularize the situation of people who come to fill the positions generated by the booming economy in the canal country are about to vanish, according to a proposal by the new authorities. This is the case of the 'Melting Pot' (Crisol de Razas) fairs, where foreigners have been able to obtain, with relative ease, formal residence permits, events which it is now claimed will not be held again.

An article in reports how the discussion is evolving in Panama, a discussion that could be extrapolated to several countries in the region, and is mainly focussed around the conflicting views of the respective rights of nationals and foreigners.

What is not being fully discussed is the indispensable contribution that migrants make to the economies of the countries that receive them, especially when they resolve the problems of shortcomings in the training of national workers. The knowledge revolution is already well advanced, it is essential to open up economies to foreign workers in order to maintain the competitiveness required in terms of quantity and quality of the human resources needed.

More on this topic

Migratory Regularization in Panama

June 2016

A new edict orders procedures which are very similar to the "melting pot" held under previous administrations, in order to regularize the status of undocumented immigrants.

An article on reports that "...Decrees 167 and 168 issued on June 3, 2016 by the Executive for general regularization and also for migrants from China, respectively, have generated a debate about its resemblance to Decree 547 of July 22, 2012, whereby migratory regularization fairs known as the Melting Pot were created during the administration of Ricardo Martinelli."

Legal Status for Foreigners Resident for More Than a Year

October 2012

Panama is repeating the process of granting residence and work permits to foreigners who have resided in its territory for more than a year.

A statement from the National Immigration Service reads:
Javier Carrillo, Director General of the National Immigration Service (SNM) and Samuel Vargas, Director of Employment, Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MITRADEL) explained at a press conference on Wednesday September 26, all the features of the tenth Special immigration Regularization Process, known as "Crisol de Razas" (Melting Pot).

Costa Rica Issues Migration Regulations

June 2012

The General Migration and Foreign Affairs Office issued new regulations and guidelines for entry visas.

A press release by Lexincorp Central America reads:

On May, 17th, the highly anticipated Alien Bylaws were finally issued as a complement to the General Migration and Foreign Affairs Law, which is in force since March, 10th 2010.

Luring Migration Policy

August 2009

Panama's migratory flexible regulation is a key factor for attracting multinational companies.

For General Electric (GE), the main motivation for moving its regional corporate headquarters from Costa Rica to Panama was not fiscal incentives, but flexibility in migration regulations.