The most in-depth guide you'll find—Updated for 2020
Getting a Visa, Residency Status & Citizenship in Dominican Republic
Everything you need to know, including steps to follow and the benefits you can get, plus how to fast track the process.
Who is This Guide For?
So...you're seriously thinking about—or are now ready—to make your move to the Dominican Republic!
Maybe your planning to move here part time. Or maybe full time, either to enjoy a relaxing retirement or work remotely.
Whatever your plan, you'll want to take advantage of the many benefits available to foreigners who own property in the DR. You need the right visa and your residency status.
In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
The always welcoming Dominican Republic
The first step is making an offer on the home you'd like to buy.
Visa for investors—including homeowners
The first step is making an offer on the home you'd like to buy.
visa for retirees—the pensionado visa
Arrange for the deposit. Usually $5K-$15K, to be held in trust.
how to get your visa
Outline your offer, as well as all terms and conditions.
why get your residency Status?
Determine if property is free of liens and other claims.
How to get your residency status
Transfer final payment (or first instalment for pre-construction)
citizenship & 2nd passports
Walk through to see what details still need to be addressed.
BONUS: get help from expats who have done it already
Make sure you have the right professionals to help you.
The Always Welcoming Dominican Republic
The government of the Dominican Republic is extremely welcoming to foreigners.
They've laid out the red carpet for Americans, Canadians and other foreigners to come to the DR to live and invest.
They want you to bring your hard earned money into the country. This will help to grow the economy and benefit its people.
As a foreign national in the DR, you can get a lot of great benefits.
Thankfully, the government has made it easy for you to take advantage of these benefits.
The first step is getting the right visa. This will help you fast track your residency, which (if you want it) will accelerate your citizenship and 2nd passport too.
Visa > Residency > Citizenship > 2nd Passport
There are four stages for you as a foreign national to progress through.
At each stage, you can take steps to help you move more quickly to later stages.
- Get a visa: At the very least, you'll need a tourist visa to stay in the DR for an extended period of time. However, if you're planning to purchase a home, there are much better options. There's an visa for investors and a visa for retirees. Plus, getting the right visa will allow you to fast track your residency.
- Get residency status: You don't have to get your residency. But without it, you're missing out on a lot of amazing perks and benefits.
- Get your citizenship: Becoming a citizen is optional too. But with your citizenship, you get a 2nd passport.
- Get a 2nd passport: There are advantages to having a 2nd passport. Think of it like an insurance policy: The future is uncertain, so calling another place home is always a good thing.
Visas for Investors—Including Homeowners
The Dominican Republic offers an investor visa.
The good news is that there's a broad definition of investor.
Even if you have investment income from somewhere else or purchase a home in the DR, you could very likely qualify for an investor visa.
Option 1: Make a Lump Sum Investment (e.g. purchase a home)
With this option, to get your investor visa:
Show you’ve made a local investment in the DR of at least US$200,000.
This investment can be in:
- real estate (i.e. buy a home)
- local financial instruments
- a business enterprise
- a deposit of at least US$200,000 in a Dominican Republic bank (as long as you maintain the balance for at least 3 years)
Most foreigners (at least non-retirees) apply for the investor visa as a property investor. By purchasing a home in the Dominican Republic for at least US$200,000, they're considered investors.
Option 2: Have Investment Income from Abroad
You qualify for your investor visa if you’ve got at least US$2,000 of monthly income from any investment or non-salaried source abroad.
This income could be from:
- bank account interest
- a brokerage account
- rental income
- any other investment or non-salaried source
The Benefits: Income Tax Exemptions for Investors
If you have your investor visa, then you'll qualify for some serious tax exemptions.
As a foreign investor, you DON'T pay:
- Real property transfer taxes for the first property acquired
- 50% of the Mortgage Registration Tax, if the secured creditor is a financial institution subject to the regulations enacted pursuant to the Monetary and Financial Law
- 50% of the Real Estate Property Tax
- Taxes on dividends and interest payments, whether from a Dominican or non-Dominican source
- 50% of the capital gains tax, provided you're the majority shareholder of the company and the main corporate purpose of the company is not commercial or industrial
- Import duty on home furnishings, office and professional equipment
- Import duty on motor vehicles (for 1 vehicle)
That's right, with your investor visa you get all of these tax exemptions!
If you don't qualify for either the investor visa or the retiree visa (detailed below), you can still apply for a standard residence visa.
Visas for Retirees—the Pensionado Visa
The Dominican Republic's offers a visa designed specifically for retirees.
It's called the pensionado visa.
How do you qualify?
- Have a pension or social security income that pays you at least $1,500 USD per month
- To include a spouse or children, the required amount is only an extra $250 in income per person.
You can even have your benefits sent directly to your Dominican address or bank account.
The Benefits: Income Tax Exemptions for Retiree
If you have your retiree visa, then you'll qualify for some serious tax exemptions.
First, what about taxes on your pension?
Short answer: there are no taxes!
Usually, foreign residents have to pay taxes on their global income after a certain amount of time.
However, if you’ve got your retiree pensionado visa, you only pay taxes on any local income. Your pension or social security income won’t be taxed in the Dominican Republic at all, ever.
You also get all the exemptions given to foreign investor.
- There’s no tax on household and personal items that you bring here.
- When you buy your home, you don’t pay the usual property transfer tax
- Get a 50% tax exemption on mortgages (in some circumstances)
- Get 50% tax exemption on Real Estate Property, when applicable.
- Pay no taxes on dividends and interest generated in the DR or abroad
- Get a 50% exemption on capital gains tax in certain situations
If you don't qualify for the pensionado retiree visa or the investor visa (detailed above), you can still apply for a standard residence visa.
How to Get Your Visa
Whether you're applying for a normal residence visa—or the investor visa or retiree visa—there are 2 main steps in the process.
It's the same two-step process whether you're an American or a Canadian.
Apply for a residence visa (or investor visa or retiree visa) at an embassy of the Dominican Republic located in your country. Once issued, this visa will be valid for 60 days.
After you complete step 1 and have your visa in hand, you have 60 days to visit the the Dominican Republic to apply for temporary residence status (or if you have an investor or retiree visa, apply for permanent residency). This is done at the Ministry of Immigration in the country's capital, Santo Domingo.
- For americans
- For Canadians
For more information, visit the website of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Canada.
Step 1 - Resident Visa Application
1. Visa application letter:
- Addressed to the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Ottawa.
- Includes applicant’s name, nationality, place of residence and occupation
- Reason(s) for seeking to establish in the country
2. Completed Visa Application Form,
3. One photograph:
- Recently taken
- 2" x 2"
- On white background
- No jewelry or accessories, ears clearly visible.
- Must be valid for a minimum of eighteen (18) months.
5. Original Medical Health Certificate:
- Evaluation of overall health issued by the health authorities in your home country
- Indicates whether you suffers from any type of infectious disease,
6. Original Police Certificate:
- Processed by the RCMP
- Includes fingerprints
- Requires authentication, legalization, and translation.
- Children under 18 years old are exempt
- If the child is to enter the Dominican Republic with only one parent, the non-accompanying parent submit the proper authorization for the child to reside permanently in the Dominican Republic.
7. Original Canadian long-form Birth Certificate:
- Requires authentication, legalization, and translation)
- If you weren't born in Canada, an original birth certificate legalized by the issuing government must be submitted.
8. Original Marriage Certificate:
- Required if you or a spouse is Dominican and were married outside the DR
- Must be transcribed at the Civil Registry of the Electoral Joint Committee (Junta Central Electoral).
- Requires authentication, legalization, and translation).
Additional Items: retiree visa
- Issued by the government agency or private company where you worked
- Includes your personal information, the length of time worked at the institution, the position held and the total amount received as pension.
Step 2: Applying for temporary residence while in the Dominican Republic
Once you have your visa, you have 60 days to visit the Dominican Republic and apply for your residency.
You'll need to submit 4 copies of each of the document listed below to the Department of Immigration. All documents must be translated in Spanish.
1. Completed Temporary Residence Form:
- Signed and submitted with the other documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the corresponding Internal Revenue Service stamp.
2. Proof of Residence Visa:
- The visa you used to enter the country.
You'll be required to give you fingerprints and other biometric information.
4. Medical exam:
- Will take place in the Dominican Republic at a medical facility authorized by the Department of Immigration.
5. Six Photographs:
- Measuring 2” x 2”.
- Four (4) facing front and two (2) facing sideways
- All with a white background
- No jewelry or accessories, ears clearly visible.
6. Passport or travel document:
- Must be valid for a minimum of 18 months.
7. An insurance policy:
- Must cover medical expenses and repatriation if necessary, authorized by the Department of Immigration.
8. Sworn Affidavit:
- Signed by a guarantor, who must be a Dominican resident or legal permanent resident in the Dominican Republic
- The guarantor needs to have the equivalent in Dominican pesos of at least US$8,000 dollars per person, property’s deed and vehicle registration, if applicable.
- The letter must specify the type of relation between the guarantor and the applicant.
- The guarantor will settle any and all expenses incurred by the applicant and will be financially obligated to resolve any debts if the applicant is deported for violating Dominican rules and regulations.
- The letter must be drawn up before a notary public of the Dominican Republic and legalized by the General Attorney’s Office.
- Signed by two witnesses with supporting documents (Bank letter, Business Patent, Property Deed, etc.).
the parties involved
The first section names the buyer, and the seller and describes the property, including size, rooms and location. The rest of the document then lays out various terms and conditions.
The first set of conditions states the total price to be paid and details about payment, including number of instalments, timing of instalments and how payments will be made (say, for example, via an escrow account.
Outlines the release of the deposit to the seller, with any conditions. Once you sign this document on the dotted line, you’re agreeing to release your deposit from wherever it’s being held.
taxes & adjustments
States that the seller is responsible for any outstanding taxes on the property. If you’re exempt from any expenses or taxes related to the sale this will be clearly outlined here too.
Title to the property: This will state that the seller is responsible for providing the title to you, free of liens and other claims.
Details the date you can take possession of the property, and conditions that must first be met, typically a dollar amount that must be paid.
Residency Status: Why Get It & How to Fast Track It
Why get your residency status?
If you're an American or Canadian (or any other foreign national), with your residency you can live as long as you want in the Dominican Republic.
First, don't worry...
When you get your residency, you don't have to give up citizenship in your home country.
When you have residency, you get lots of benefits:
- Legal status in the country and an identification card (Cédula de Identidad Personal)
- A more favorable tax structure
- Enter the country without the need to buy a $10 tourist visa upon arrival
- Access various tax breaks
- Get a full Dominican driver’s license (foreign driver’s licenses are only valid for 90 days), allowing you to get car accident insurance
- Attend any Dominican school or university and pay in pesos instead of dollars (usually, international students pay tuition fees in dollars)
- Work and do business in the Dominican Republic
- Facilitate many business transactions in the DR, including getting bank loans and applying for credit
Residency for Americans
The United States does NOT allow for dual residency. It requires American citizens to be a resident of one country at a time.
BUT even with your Dominican residency, you're still an American citizen.
The United States has rules in place to prevent you from being double taxed.
RESIDENCY FOR CANADIANS
Canada DOES allow for dual residency, as long as you still have significant ties to Canada.
This means one or more of the following:
- a permanent residence or personal property in Canada
- spouses or dependants in Canada
- Canadian driver's licence, bank account, health card and/or social membership
Canada has a tax treaty with the DR to prevent you from being double taxed.
The Usual Timeline for Residency
- You hold temporary residency status for five years, then you qualify for permanent residency status.
- After two years with permanent status, you can apply for citizenship.
That's 7+ years.
This actually isn't bad compared to other countries. Some Caribbean islands won't let anyone become a resident at all, let alone a citizen.
How to Fast Track Your Residency Status
If you qualify as a foreign investor or a retire, you can skip temporary residency status and instead apply right away for permanent residency.
This will save you five years!
You can learn how to qualify as a foreign investor in this guide here.
And to learn how to qualify as a retiree, see this chapter.
How to Get Your Residency Status in Dominican Republic
WHAT IF I'M AWAY FROM THE DR FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD?As an added bonus, the DR has pretty lax in-country requirements. If you're away from the DR for more than four years, you only pay a small fine to renew your residency status.
Step 6: Final Inspection
Before officially taking possession of your new home, you’ll need to do a final walkthrough with your agent and the builder, developer or current owner to make sure everything looks good.
This is especially important for pre-construction.
You’ll likely have visited one or more times during construction to monitor progress and inspect the build as key milestones are reached.
But the final inspection is your last chance to make sure everything has been built to your specifications.
For the final inspection, you’ll fly down and stay within the development or at a place nearby. Some developments will cover the cost of your stay, others won’t.
Step 7: Sign Final Agreement
It’s now time to sign the final agreement, which is called the Agreement of Final Sale.
If you’re financing through the seller, the final agreement will include a mortgage addendum outlining the rate, term and payment schedule.
At this point, the title will be transferred, meaning the developer’s name or previous owner’s name is removed and yours is added to the title.
You’re now the sole owner of the property.
Your new home is now yours!
Bonus: How to Choose an Agent or Lawyer
First, find an agent who can represent your interests.
- Your agent should REALLY know the real estate market on the North Coast.
- Not just what’s for sale and how prices compare. That’s pretty standard.
- Your agent should also know the specifics and the pros and cons of each development.
- And a good agent will understand construction, how homes are built in the DR, and be able to spot quality building.
A good agent will want to find you the home that’s best for you.
And of course, once you’ve found a good agent, make sure you follow his or her advice!
As well, you’ll need a lawyer who’s familiar with real estate law in the Dominican Republic. Because the DR has a rules-based real estate market, a lawyer is critical.
The lawyer will prepare documents and make sure the process follows the proper legal path. All the paperwork will be prepared in Spanish and can be translated into English for you.