Dominican Republic Investor Residency & Economic Citizenship:


reasons to expatriateWhen trying to make a comparison between the process available in the Dominican Republic and some other jurisdictions, we have already noted that the Dominican Republic does NOT have an instant or economic citizenship program (in fact, they never did).  However, there is a process for qualified investors that allows you to apply for citizenship after 6 months of obtaining a special residency status card from immigration (which we will explain below).  All told, if you add up the various time lines, the entire process will usually take about 18 to 24 months (all depending upon the various government offices).  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 upon you.

Because the Dominican Republic is one of the most beautiful countries in the Caribbean, and currently still has some of the lowest priced real estate in comparison to other Caribbean destinations, it is a country of choice for many people  - - and it has earned a reputation as one of the best places to live or retire.  In addition, banking in US Dollar and Euros is available, plus with local currency investment rates up to 16%, it means that investors can enjoy a very comfortable income from their investments, from a relatively small investment.  As part of our core group of services, or included in the residency fee, is our personal assistance with banking and investment account introductions for our clients (we gladly take clients to visit some of the local financial institutions and introduce them to an English speaking account officer, but we have NO referral arrangement with any bank or brokerage firm – and clients certainly are under no obligation to work with any of the institutions we might suggest).  In addition, we certainly do not manage money or act as signatories on any accounts, but we do provide any advice and assistance we can otherwise.  After all, it is YOUR money and not ours, and you should be the only person in control of it.



Why Choose The Dominican Republic For Residency or Citizenship ?


Some Key Points About The Dominican Republic:

1. The Dominican Republic Fully Recognizes Dual Citizenship.  You will NOT be asked at any time to renounce your previous citizenship or turn in your previous passport, and the Dominican Republic respects the fact that you might be a dual citizenship accordingly.

2. The Dominican Republic Offers Investors Some of The Lowest Priced Real Estate in The Caribbean.  Per square foot, real estate costs tend to be lower in the Dominican Republic or stated another way:  You will get MORE for your money in terms of a real estate purchase in comparison to most other jurisdictions in the Caribbean.  Also, because the mortgage interest rates are high (according to market conditions) and NOT artificially manipulated by the central bank, as is the case in the United States, the country has not fallen into a real estate crisis as we have seen in the US and parts of Europe (Spain, Ireland).  In other words, real estate in the local markets has not declined and local Dominican Banks are not under water with abandoned properties or non-performing mortgages.  This means that the real estate market remains on solid footing in the Dominican Republic.  

3. The Dominican Republic Offers Banking in US Dollars, Euros and The Dominican Peso.  In addition, interest rates tend to be higher in the country than Panama or the US for US Dollar denominated Bonds or Commercial Paper.  Should investors wish to consider placing monies into Dominican Peso denominated investments, then in such a case, as of June 2014 investors can expect up to 14 percent (annualized) or so with some longer term bonds or commercial paper vehicles.  In other words, with a US$150,000 equivalent in Pesos invested this way, one can expect about US$1,800 or RD$75,000 Pesos per MONTH in interest.  This certainly is enough monthly income from investments to cover your monthly RENT in an upscale apartment, your monthly utilities (Electricity, Telephone, Cable Television, Etc,), And your monthly grocery bill - plus have something extra left over.

Speaking about banking matters, it is also important to note that the Dominican Republic does NOT have any currency controls.  You can bring in any amount of money you want, take out any amount of money you want - and exchange between US Dollars, Euros and Dominican Pesos any day as much as you want all within the same bank.  Of course, each bank has their own due diligence policy and may ask to see source or proof of funds regarding your first wire transfer or for an unusually large wire transfer, but that is only a bank's policy and has nothing do with any law in the country prohibiting you to receive or take out money.  Also, as of JUNE 2014, the retail banking unit of the Dominican Central Bank will accept and conduct transactions in the Chinese Yuan Renminbi Currency.  This means the other local banks in the country will probably be offering savings accounts and or other transactions in that currency soon as well.

4. The Dominican Passport Offers Visa Free Travel To The Following Countries (as of 2012 according to the Dominican Foreign Relations Office): Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, The Philippines, Georgia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Morocco, Mozambique, Lebanon, South Africa, St. Kitts - Nevis, Trinidad - Tobago, Turkey, Tunisia and Singapore.  Travelers with a Dominican Passport may transit the Following Countries without a Visa:  Germany, Spain.  There are additional countries offering visa free travel to Dominican Passport Holders, but we have not mentioned them because the foreign relations department did not list them on their official communication sheet.

5. The Dominican Republic Offers a Very Attractive Alternative To Economic Citizenship Programs elsewhere,  Which is to explain, persons wishing to apply as qualified investors have the opportunity to apply for naturalized citizenship after 6 months and here are some comparison to the economic citizenship programs in other other countries:

Some Economic Citizenship Programs require that you GIVE US$100,000 to that local government to qualify or purchase real estate valued at US$300,000 or more.  The US$100,000 donation is money you will NEVER see again - it is gone, kaput, vanished like a magician's trick.  In the Dominican Republic, if you invest US$200,000 you are under no restriction as to how or where you invest it.  You can put into government bonds, commercial paper, real estate, whatever - and the money is YOURS, ALWAYS AND FOREVER.  You can move it around, change your investments, and take it out later on if you so choose.

With regards to the real estate option with these other Economic Citizenship Programs, the local government is telling you where you MUST buy in order to qualify, and usually these are not properties you would buy on your own (which are not really worth the money, and good luck trying to sell it for that amount later on).  In the Dominican Republic there are NO RESTRICTIONS as to what you buy, where you buy and at what price you buy.  If you find a nice 2,000 square foot luxury condo for US$200,000 then buy it, as it will qualify as an investment towards the US$200,000 amount.  Want to buy a high end one bedroom condo in a building with a door-man, swimming pool, etc, for US$120,000 and put your other money into other interest paying investments giving you a monthly income, feel free to do so.  That also will qualify.


Just to be clear, there are TWO different Residency Application avenues and depending upon which one you choose, that will determine how far off or how quickly you can apply for citizenship:


Dominican Republic Ordinary Residency Application Process


This process was recently changed by a law passed on October 18, 2011 by President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic (who was President at that time).  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).  Applicants would apply with the Dominican Republic Department of Immigration for Provisional Residency as the first residency category.  This card will normally be issued with a one year expiration although immigration will issue a card with extended years as the expiration if the applicant is willing to pay for the corresponding future years up front.  Remember, in accordance with the new law of 2011, applicants would maintain provisional residency status for 5 years total, before being able to convert their status to Ordinary Definitive or Permanent Residency, and then after 2 years of Definitive or Permanent Residency, you could apply for citizenship.

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).  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 a dual citizenship.  Indeed, many of our clients coming from Europe or Canada might prefer this, as the goal for such persons is to be able to declare themselves non-resident for tax purposes in the previous home country, more so than a desire for dual citizenship (However, if your goal is a legal and valid dual citizenship and passport, then the following will be of interest to you).



Dominican Republic Definitive or Permanent Residency

As a Special Qualified Investor

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.  These categories falling under the same special law are:

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 enterprise, 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, the Dominican Republic has been and still is a real estate investor's paradise because per square foot, you will get more for your money in the Dominican Republic compared to just about any place else in all of the Caribbean (from basic properties up to luxury condominiums or homes).  In fact, over the past 10 years, many of our clients have already doubled their money in some cases with regards to real estate investments – and are still buying now in 2014 because real estate holdings are a hedge against inflation and possible devaluation of the US Dollar – AND is still reasonably priced compared to similar properties elsewhere (compared to St. Martin, Bahamas, etc.).

But not only that.  Persons applying under the above mentioned special investor residency process also can obtain a reduction on title transfer taxes for their first real estate purchase, AND annual real estate taxes are quite low in general compared to the US, Europe, etc.  In terms of annual real estate taxes in the Dominican Republic : You can expect to pay one (1) percent of the property value, calculated for the amount over and above US$100,000 (real estate valued at the Peso Equivalent of US$100,000 and below is tax-free in terms of any annual real estate taxes).

In terms of some general real estate information and how it relates to the application process (for residency and citizenship) - there is no specific or fixed amount they are looking for or  requiring in terms of a real estate purchase, so it is up to you what  you might consider.  Real estate in Santo Domingo or Santiago will be less expensive than  property in a tourist area such as Juan Dolio or Punta Cana.  With  regards to Santo Domingo, you can find a higher end 3 bedroom condo  (in an upper middle class area) ranging from say US$145,000 for a  1,400 square foot property up to US$250,000 for maybe a 2,400 square  foot property - and everything and anything in between.  Outside of Santo Domingo, there is a builder doing Swiss chalet style vacation properties in the mountain area of Jarabacoa (new construction) for about US$125,000.  In addition, you can get a 2 or 3 bedroom townhouse condo in Punta Cana – Bavaro for about US$125,000 but  it will be smaller (about 1,200 square feet or so).

Regardless of which of the above application scenarios may be best applicable for yourself, our office can assist with the initial residency application all the way through to the citizenship process and passport.  Over the last 16 years we have assisted many families and individuals, and would be glad to be of service to you as well.

GETTING STARTED:

Regardless if you intend to apply as an ORDINARY RESIDENT APPLICANT or QUALIFIED INVESTOR APPLICANT, immigration has started to insist as of June 2012 that potential applicants obtain a special residency visa from their nearest Dominican Consulate as the first step (the second step would be a visit to the Dominican Republic to start the actual process with immigration).  You should be aware that this is NOT a new law or requirement, but rather one that has been in place for many years.  However, The Dominican Department of Immigration did not enforce this provision previously, that is until they started doing so in June of 2012.  So, we can call this visa in your passport the first step in the process, and then the actual filing process with the Dominican Department of Immigration in Santo Domingo as the second step.  

Our office assists clients with both the first and second step, and to make sure clients have everything correctly prepared, we ask that they send us one original set of documents before they apply for the visa.  This is so we can check the documents to make sure they are in order, and to prepare a document for the client whereby someone is our office is acting as a guarantor (A Dominican Citizen must as a guarantor for the visa application and the residency application with immigration).  In addition, we can provide a complete documents list and templates for some of the documents as well.  Once clients obtain the special residency visa which is valid for 60 days, then they will visit Santo Domingo to begin the actual process with the department of immigration and we will be with our clients every step of the way through approval and issuance of the respective cards.  In addition, we of course assist with the naturalized citizenship process for our clients, and we have been doing so for over 16 years to date.


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