Although it is possible to stay in the Dominican Republic without obtaining the official residency permit, there are many reasons why it is better to do so. Reasons include:
- A legal resident can work and do business legally in the Dominican Republic – a non-resident cannot.
- A resident is allowed to bring in his household items, ranging from kitchen appliances, to furniture, tax free. A non-resident must pay all applicable import duties on these goods.
- A non-resident cannot sue a Dominican national or a legal resident in court without posting a bond, usually quite high. A legal resident is exempt from this requirement.
- In case of inheritance, a non-resident beneficiary must pay a 50% surcharge on applicable estate taxes – residents are not subject to this surcharge. For many foreigners interested in not paying taxes in their home countries on income earned outside their home country, it is a prerequisite to obtain residency status in another country.
- A resident can enter the Dominican Republic without having to buy a tourist card; a non-resident must obtain a visa or buy a tourist card.
Step 1 – Provisional Residency (Temporary)
You will need the following documents for the residency procedure:
- Birth Certificate
- Four 2×2 photographs front
- Two 2×2 photographs side
- Marriage Certificate (if applying with spouse)
- Two complete photocopies of your passport
- Tourist card showing date of last entry into the country (given to you at the Airport)
- Affidavit of your solvency backed up with evidence e.g. bank letter/deposits, work contract, property titles, etc.
- Notarized statement by a Dominican citizen or corporation or a permanent resident vouching for you in the Dominican Republic (can be provided by a lawyer)
- Work contract (if the applicant works in the country)
- A certificate of good behavior from the Dominican authorities
- Medical exam performed in the Dominican Republic (blood test and chest x-ray)
Birth certificates and other foreign documents need to be translated into Spanish by an official Dominican translator, which a lawyer normally provides.
The one essential part of this is the medical exam for which you will need to attend the medical center at the Department of Immigration in Santo Domingo.
The medical exam is not as onerous as it sounds. It is there mainly to check for Aids, tuberculosis and illegal drug use. Assuming you don’t have any of those, you should pass the medical exam fine. They will also ask you some basic questions, such as ‘do you take any prescription medicines, have you had any recent surgery’ etc, but the answers will not affect the exam.
They will also take a blood sample, a urine sample and a chest x-ray.
The police check is also relatively painless. Assuming you are not a known criminal and wanted by Interpol – you should pass this without problem.
The solvency check is to prove that you are not destitute. If you own a property in the Dominican Republic or have a corporation, this will suffice. Evidence of assets of RD$500,000 (around US$15,000) or more preferably in a local bank account will also be fine.
When the immigration office have approved all the paperwork, you receive a temporary residency permit card (Residencia) and a Dominican identification card (Cédula de Identidad). This process takes approximately 3-5 months, depending on the Dominican immigration authorities.
The temporary residency permit is valid for 1 year. You then have the right to live and work in the Dominican Republic. You will also have the right to leave the country whenever you wish and re-enter with your temporary residence document (you will not need a tourist card or tourist visa to re-enter).
Step 2 – 2nd Temporary Residency
Repeat the procedure described above. This time the residency is valid for another year, so is the cedula (Dominican ID).
Step 3 – Permanent Residency (Definitiva)
After your 2nd temporary residency card expires, you can renew the permit and change your status to Permanent Residency. The Permanent Residency is valid for 4 years at a time and the Dominican identification card (cédula) for 4 years.
The application for permanent residency is similar to the provisional residency. The documents required for a permanent residency application are:
- residency card + 4 photocopies
- passport + 4 photocopies
- cedula + 4 photocopies
- certificate from a local bank
- matricula (ownership papers) for vehicle from 2008 or newer, or proof letter from your work place, or original title for your property in the Dominican republic
- A certificate of good conduct (Buena Conducta) from the Dominican authorities
- Medical exam performed in Santo Domingo (blood test, urine and chest x-rays)
- 2 photos 2 x 2 (front)
One all these have been approved by the immigration office, you will receive a Permanent Resident Card valid for 4 years, after which you can keep renewing in 4 year periods.
Alternatively, after the first 4 years with the permanent residency permit, you may apply for Dominican citizenship and become formally nationalized (obtaining a Dominican Passport).
Step 4 – Obtaining Dominican Citizenship and a Dominican Passport
This process can only be started once you have obtained permanent residence, and there is no obligation to take this step. The main reason for taking it is if you want a second passport, you want to be able to vote, or you don’t want the bother of renewing your permanent residency.
There is quite a bit of paperwork to file for naturalization, but that is all taken care of by your lawyer. The whole process takes from 6 months and up from start to finish.
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