Panama, with a population of 3 510 045 inhabitants, has a negative Net Migration Rate, almost like most of the countries in the region. Its composition of immigrants varies in comparison with neighboring countries since it has a resident population born in other continents such as China and India and a significant population of Colombians.

29 percent of its total population is considered below the poverty line. It has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of $ 14,300, thus ranking first in Central America.


According to data from 2000 and 2010, people born in Colombia represented the largest group of the immigrant population in Panama, with 29.9% in 2010, followed by people from China and the United States.


Country of origin2000 (1)%Ind. of
(x 100 women)
2010 (2)%Ind. of
(x 100 women)
Colombia21 06925.7%97.0%41 88529.9%83.1%
China11 09413.5%118.6%14 15810.1%109.1%
United States of America5 1136.2%142.7%10 6457.6%144.1%
Nicaragua4 8335.9%75.7%9 7987.0%68.7%
Dominican Republic5 7537.0%40.3%6 1414.4%46.3%
Costa Rica4 5655.6%82.9%5 8884.2%88.2%
Mexico2 2992.8%85.6%3 6652.6%117.1%
India2 0562.5%143.9%3 4002.4%162.8%
Spain2 4683.0%164.0%2 8092.0%161.8%
The Saviornineteen ninety six2.4%104.3%2 4481.7%96.3%
Guatemala5900.7%103.4%1 2170.9%125.8%
Honduras8231.0%85.4%1 1400.8%88.1%
Others19 35123.6%131.3%36 97626.4%139.7%
Total82 097100%103.4%140 236100%103.1%
(1) Data from the 2000 Population Census, obtained from: CELADE-Population Division. Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), Research on International Migration in Latin America (IMILA), http: // [accessed on 09-03-09]
(2) XI 2010 Population and Housing Census of Panama;_PUBLICACION=359&ID;_IDIOMA=1&ID;_CATEGORIA=13 


In 2010 the total number of immigrants in Panama is 140 236 inhabitants, equivalent to 4.0% of the total population.


YearEstimated number of international immigrants in the middle of the yearInternational migrants as a percentage of the total population
199061 6812.6
nineteen ninety five72 9982.7
200082 0972.9
2005102 2433.2
2010140 2364.0
Sources: Trends in Total Migrant Stock: The 2005 Revision. Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, , [accessed 03-02-09] and Research Project on International Migration in Latin America (IMILA) , [accessed 08-23-13]
For 2010, XI National Population Census and VII of Housing. [accessed 08-23-13]


By 2000, around 185,000 people of Panamanian origin (6.2% of the population) resided outside their country. The main destination countries were: the United States, Costa Rica, Canada, Spain and Colombia, in that order. In 2005, the number of emigrants was estimated at 215,000.


Costa Rica16 94712.0%
The Savior4340.3%
Guatemala2. 3. 40.2%
Mexico2 3891.7%
United States of America98 00969.4%
Colombia1 6611.2%
Others20 61914.6%
Total141 133100%
Sources: International Organization for Migration. World Migration. [accessed: July 2013]


Panama, unlike the countries of the region, has established itself as an exporter of remittances, and not as a recipient country. In 2012, 321.5 million dollars were sent abroad in remittances, 4.7% more than in 2011, (306.4 million dollars). While the remittances received registered a decrease. In 2012, 212.2 million dollars were received in remittances. This represented 7.4% less when compared to the 2011 figure of $ 229.3 million. The volume of exchange between remittances sent and received from Panama was 533.7 million dollars, this represents five times more than Panamanian exports of goods calculated at 80 million dollars. The main remittance recipient countries as of December 2012 are: Colombia, China, the United States, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

(Millions of US $)2003200420052006200720082009201020112012
Remittance flows to the interior107109130157180196175198306.4321.5
Remittance flows abroad577288121151198229229.3212.2
Source: Statistics from the General Directorate of Financial Companies (DGEF) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (Mici).
And for 2003 to 2010


Legal framework and government agencies

The law that currently governs immigration matters in Panama is the Law that creates the National Migration Service, the Migratory Career and dictates other provisions of February 2008, together with the Law on Naturalization and Nationality of 1980 . The legislation empowers the National Migration Service of the Ministry of Government and Justice to implement the country’s migration policy.

Furthermore, in March 2004 the Law on the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Persons was enacted , which criminalizes trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation. Although the law provides protections for the victim (from retaliation or intimidation by those accused of the crime) it does not specify the type of protections for victims who are not authorized residents.

Instruments of international law

Panama has ratified:
  • The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol
  • The 2000 United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons
  • The 2002 Protocol against the Trafficking of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
Panama is a signatory of:
  • ILO Convention 100 on equal pay
  • ILO Convention 111 on discrimination in occupation and employment
Panama has not ratified:
  • The International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of 1990
  • ILO Conventions 97 on Migrant Workers
  • Convention 143 of the OTI on migrant workers
Other relevant conventions and treaties ratified by Panama can be found on the page of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Civil society organizations (CSOs)

Caritas Social Pastoral – Panama works with the Human Mobility Pastoral to promote a reform of immigration legislation and provide support to victims of human trafficking.

The Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Jesuit Refugee Service has a presence in Panama and has programs to support the immigrant and refugee population settled in that country, mainly in border areas but also in Panama City. Its programs include humanitarian assistance and productive projects. He is a member of the local network Mesa Nacional de Migrantes y Refugiados.

The National Board of Migrants and Refugees carries out advocacy and assistance work for migrants in Panamanian territory. It is a coalition of civil society organizations that participates in the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for Migration (RROCM), within the Regional Conference on Migration (CRM) or “Puebla Process”.