dominican republic residency

Dominican Republic Residency:

 What Is The Difference Between Ordinary & Investor Residency ?

Many people are a bit confused about the different residency processes available in the Dominican Republic.  Likewise, they are also confused about the initial residency visa issued by the Dominican Consulate in the home country of origin as well.  To explain all of the steps and requirements as clearly as possible, we have put together this article to help our clients understand the process better.

Dominican Republic Residency Visa

The Dominican Republic has always has a requirement or regulation that persons wishing to apply for residency status with the department of immigration inside the country first acquire a residency visa in their passport as the first step.  However, in previous years this requirement was not enforced and residency applicants could simply arrive in the country, basically as tourists, and apply for residency if they wished.  Today in 2016 that has all changed and we will tell you why.

The Dominican Republic has always been well know abroad as a Caribbean island destination for tourism.  As such, the country has been accustomed to seeing an large influx of foreign visitors year in and year out that were interested in taking a vacation in one of the many beach resorts throughout the country.  And in fact, a large number of new resorts have been built over the years and the number of tourists has increased exponentially during that time as well.  The statistics for 2015 indicate once again a record number of increased tourists over the previous year, as has consistently been the case in most preceding years.

However, with the deteriorating economic situation since about 2009 in Europe, Central and South America and the United States, the Dominican Republic (for what probably is the first time in modern memory) had been inundated with people that were not coming for tourism but rather with the intent of staying in the country illegally to find work.  One must remember that the Dominican Republic closed out 2015 with another record 7 percent positive GDP growth record and GDP growth in general has averaged between 3 and 5 percent since 2008.  In other words, while many other countries experienced record high unemployment (25 percent in Spain and Italy, with youth unemployment approaching 50 percent) and low if not negative GDP growth, the Dominican Republic has been holding it's own with a more positive economy over the past decade, despite the negative economic scenario elsewhere.  For that reason, and considering many passport holders from other nations enjoy visa free travel to the Dominican Republic (for tourism purposes, and arriving tourists simply purchase a tourist card at the airport when their plane arrives), many people took advantage of the fact that could simply show up under the profile as a tourist and stay illegally.

So, in an attempt to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming to the Dominican Republic for employment (tourists are always very welcome) the requirement of a residency visa first from the Dominican Republic Consulate in the previous home country is now strictly enforced.  This is true even if your current passport permits visa free entry to the Dominican Republic as a tourist.  In other words, if you want to visit the country as tourist, you simply show up and purchase a tourist card in the Dominican airport you are arriving to.  However, if it is your intent to file or apply for residency, then in that case you must apply for a residency visa first.

So what is the residency visa and what does it permit you to do?  Well, the residency visa application process is basically a screening process to determine if the person is eligible to apply for residency once they arrive inside the country.  Many of the same documents one would deposit for the actual residency application process with the Department of Immigration inside the Dominican Republic are the kinds of documents you will deposit with the consulate for the visa (official or original version of your birth certificate, police letter of good conduct, medical certificate or letter of good health, and banking letter of reference just to name a few of the documents required as there are a few more not mentioned).  Again, the purpose of the residency visa is to determine if the person meets the qualifications to apply later on for residency once inside the country, but is NOT a residency permit.  Rather, this visa is placed inside the passport and is usually valid for 60 days.  It allows for the passport holder with this kind of visa inside to apply for residency with immigration once physically in the Dominican Republic.  Holders of this kind of visa MUST visit the Dominican Republic within that 60 day window and submit their application for residency to the Department of Immigration if they wish to apply for residency.

Dominican Republic Residency

Once the person arrives in the Dominican Republic (again, providing it is within the 60 day validity period indicated on the residency visa), they can start the actual residency application process with immigration.  There are however two avenues or two kinds of residency applications which are: ordinary and qualified investor.  Which one of these two you choose to apply for will depend upon your goals and your qualifications.

The ordinary residency application process is basically non investor oriented and there is no proof of income or investment required in such a case.  The investor residency application however is orientated towards applicants that can prove direct local investment and or independent income (see the sub categories indicated below).  However, two major differences between the ordinary and investor category process are: 1. The investor process results in definitive or permanent residency as the immediate first category or residency issued and 2. The investor residency process permits the applicant to apply for naturalized citizenship after 6 months from the date the residency card is issued by the Department of Immigration.  To contact this to ordinary residency, the first card issued under the initial ordinary residency process is provisional residency, which must be renewed yearly for the first 5 years (see more below).

Dominican Republic Ordinary Provisional Residency Application

The ordinary provisional residency application (which is the initial application process under ordinary residency) basically is a similar kind of regular residency process in most countries.  The positive side to this process is that NO investment is required, other than proof of a local bank account (with no amount in the account specified, or better said no requirement for a specific amount).  This process is probably more appealing to clients that would prefer not to make any kind of larger investment in the country and that may not be in a rush to obtain citizenship.  Indeed, some of our clients that might simply prefer residency alone in order to declare themselves non-resident for tax purposes in the previous home country might find this to be sufficient.

Some of the documents required are original or official version of the birth certificate from the previous country with apostille, police good conduct report or letter with apostille and original or official abstract of the marriage license or marriage certificate with apostille (if it is a married couple filing together).  What is an apostille?  An "apostille" is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. If the country of intended use does not participate in the Hague Convention , documents being sent to that country can be authenticated or certified by the consulate of the country the document will be used in.
In terms of the ordinary residency process and how it relates to the person's ability to apply for citizenship, the requirements were changed by a law passed on October 18, 2011 by the President of the Dominican Republic.  As a result, the process now requires 5 years of Provisional Residency and 2 years of Definitive or Permanent Residency before you can apply for citizenship (a total of 7 years altogether).  However, there certainly is no requirement that the person file for citizenship and can renew the ordinary residency status yearly if provisional residency and every 2 years if ordinary permanent or definitive residency (once the person reaches that point after 5 years of continual provisional residency).

NOTE: Clients will be required to take a local medical exam in the Dominican Republic, administered by a clinic and laboratory authorized specifically by the Department of Immigration for this purpose as part of the residency application process with the Department of Immigration inside the country.  This medical exam is required for BOTH the ordinary residency application process and the investor residency application process as well.  A chest x-ray will be taken and blood taken as part of this process to screen for AIDS, TB and illegal drug usage.  However, other kinds of existing medical issues will NOT effect your residency application.

Dominican Republic Investor Definitive Residency Application

First off, to be very clear about this process, when trying to make a comparison between the process available in the Dominican Republic and some other jurisdictions, it is important to note that Dominican Republic does NOT have an instant or economic citizenship program (in fact, they never did).  However, there is a process for investors, or those persons that apply for and can qualify for investor residency status that allows you to apply for citizenship after 6 months of obtaining a special residency status card from immigration. So, while it is not an instant or economic citizenship as might be offered elsewhere, it costs MUCH LESS than such programs in other countries and there are no restrictions placed on you in that you must purchase real estate, although many of our clients often do so and can use a real estate investment as one of the qualifying components of the application process.

Also, for those clients that wish to invest with local financial instruments in the Dominican Republic, which also allows them to qualify for this special residency status, items such as Government Bonds and or Commercial Paper currently offer annual yields of between 6 and 9 percent if denominated in Dominican Pesos (interest rates and yields all depend upon maturities), and between 3 and 5 percent if denominated in US Dollars.  So far, many of our clients have been investing in these kinds of instruments for the past 15 years and have all had positive experiences.  In fact, many of our clients currently live off the interest from these kinds of investments.

For some background on this process, prior to 2007, President Fernandez (who was the President of the Dominican Republic at that time) wanted to offer a program for retirees or pensioners as existed in places such as Panama or Costa Rica.  Seeing the interest and success in such programs, a decree was issued creating such a program in the Dominican Republic – albeit with a number of improvements in terms of requirements over the other countries mentioned.  However, in 2007 a formal law was created making this program an official codified process, but with some additional categories as well added on.  Categories falling under this special immigration law for investors include:

A. Pensioner or Retiree – With a fixed Monthly Retirement Income, Pension or Annuity.

B. Independent Investor – With Proof of Monthly Income coming from any investment or non salaried source (meaning bank account interest, brokerage accounts, rental income, royalties, etc.)

C. Lump Sum Investor – With Proof of a local investment of US$200,000 (or equivalent in another currency) in local financial instruments, real estate, business, etc.

In order to qualify for this special status regardless of A, B or C, there is NO age requirement (as is the case in some other jurisdiction if applying as a pensioner or retiree), with obviously the time line of eligibility for naturalized citizenship application shortened down to 6 months from the date your investor residency card is issued.  Over the past few years roughly 90 percent of our clients have been able to participate in this program and we would be glad to assist you as well. One of the positive aspects however is that unlike in some other jurisdictions, there is NO requirement for the applicant to invest in real estate, although you are welcome to do so should you wish – and keep in mind that this will allow you to file for naturalized citizenship under that qualifier also.

In terms of our own services, we gladly assist clients with the initial residency visa process all the way through to the residency application and the citizenship application process as well.  We provide our clients with a list of documents required and templates for letters or other documents they might need.  In addition, we accompany clients at all times for any office in the Dominican Republic they might need to visit to complete whatever respective process.  Feel free to contact us if you would like to explore having us help you.  We have been helping clients with these services for the past 17 years and we would be glad to be of service to you as well.
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