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“Alert: New residency and immigration regulations in force beginning June 1st 2012”

Beginning June 1, 2012, residency status in the Dominican Republic is governed by Immigration Law No. 285-04 and Immigration Regulation No. 631-11. Foreign nationals are prohibited by statute from entering the Dominican Republic for residency purposes in the following cases:

1) Contagious illness threatening to public health, except, under certain requirements, when sponsored by relatives living in the DR.

2) Mental illness or physical disabilities, with certain exceptions.

3) Conviction for a crime (drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, terrorism, and other serious offences).

4) Previous deportation without reentry permit or prohibition from entering the country. Foreign nationals seeking residency in the Dominican Republic fall into two categories: a) those who may apply immediately for permanent residency; and b) those who first must apply first for temporary residency.

The following applicants may apply immediately for permanent residency status without having to previously obtain temporary residency status:

1) Investors of at least 200,000 USD in local businesses (including free zones and government contracts) or in local financial instruments.

2) Retirees with a monthly pension of at least 1,500 USD (plus 250 USD per dependent).

3) Applicants with monthly income of at least 2,000 USD for five years or more (rentistas).

4) Applicants related to Dominicans or to foreigners with permanent residency status in DR (spouses and children).

The application process is essentially the same for both temporary and permanent residency, except for some additional documents required in permanent residency applications. The first step is to apply for a residency visa at the Dominican Consulate nearest to the applicant’s domicile. It is no longer possible to apply for residency from within the Dominican Republic, as was usually done before. Requirements for the visa application are the following:

1) Pictures of the applicant
2) Original passport valid for at least a stay of 60 days in the DR.
3) Documents justifying the granting of the visa. For example, work contract with a Dominican company.
4) Medical certificate from the health authorities of the country of domicile of the applicant.
5) Criminal record certificate from the authorities of the country of domicile of the applicant.
6) Photocopy of the national I.D. of the applicant, and, if the applicant resides in a third country, photocopy of his/her residency card in the third country.
7) Birth certificate. If in a language other than Spanish, the certificate must be translated by a legal translator and authenticated at the Consulate. Both the original and the translation into Spanish must be filed with the application.
8) Marriage certificate, if applicable. If in a foreign language. The same requirements for birth certificates apply.
9) Letter of guarantee signed by a Dominican or a permanent resident of the DR.
10) Documents justifying the applicant’s solvency.

Foreign documents must be apostilled or legalized at the Dominican Consulate depending on the jurisdiction. Documents in a language other than Spanish must be translated by the Consulate.

Law No. 285-04 mandates that residency applicants must obtain local insurance to cover medical and repatriation expenses. However, this requirement has been temporarily waived by the Immigration Department. Residency applications may include dependents such as a spouse and children, provided that the proper documentation is attached (birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, pictures, etc.).

Criminal record certificates are only required of dependents of legal age.

The residency visa is good for only one entry into the Dominican Republic for an initial period of 60 days. The cost of the application is 90 USD, or 90 € in the Euro Zone.

Residency visas are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santo Domingo. If the visa is approved, the Consulate will stamp the residency visa on the applicant’s passport. The application file will then be forwarded to the Immigration Department for processing. It is highly advisable that applicants keep a copy of the complete visa application file, including translations and authentications.

Within 30 days of his/her arrival in the Dominican Republic, the applicant must go to the Immigration Department with his/her passport to sign application forms, register fingerprints and undergo the required medical tests.

It is estimated that processing time for residency applications will be at least between four and six months from the date of the applicant signs the application at the Immigration Department.

Upon approval of his/her application as a resident, the applicant will receive a temporary or permanent residency card and a cédula de identidad (national I.D.). In both cases, residents must hold current passports at all times.

Temporary residency is granted for one year. Applications for renewal must be made in person within thirty days before the expiration date. Temporary residents may apply for permanent residency after 5 years, within 45 days before the expiration date of their temporary residency card.

The applications properly filed at the Immigration Department before June 1, 2012, will processed under the old rules,without the applicant having to obtain residency visa.

Permanent residents must renew their residency card after one year; subsequent cards will be renewable every four years, except for retirees and rentistas who must renew every two years.

After ten years, permanent residents will be issued a definitive residency card, not subject to renewal.

An annual residency fee, however, will still have to be paid.

Permanent residents may apply for citizenship after two years as permanent residents.

Investors and spouses of Dominican nationals may apply after six months.

It is illegal for nonresidents to work in the DR. Employers of nonresident workers will be subject to fines. Illegal workers are subject to deportation.

Advantages of Obtaining Residency Status in the Dominican Republic

Many foreigners living in the Dominican Republic question the usefulness of obtaining resident status given the lax enforcement of immigration laws by the Dominican government. In fact, however, foreigners who have obtained their residencies enjoy very definite advantages over the illegal alien, among them, the following:

* A legal resident can work and do business legally in the Dominican Republic; a nonresident cannot.

* A resident is allowed to bring in tax free his household items, ranging from kitchen appliances, to furniture (Article 13 of Law #146-00). A nonresident must pay applicable duties on these goods.

* A nonresident 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 nonresident 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 nonresident must obtain a visa or buy a tourist card.

Source: Guzman Ariza, Attorneys at Law: www.drlawyer.com