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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to the Dominican Republic

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    Relocating to the Dominican Republic

    • The history of the Dominican Republic was unstable and violent until 1996. Now the country is deemed politically stable.
    • If you plan on moving there for your work, you need to apply for a Visa de Negocios.
    • When searching for an apartment, do not forget to look out for a back-up generator, and beware of real estate frauds.

    History and Politics

    Expats moving to the Dominican Republic will not only find themselves in one of the biggest countries of the Caribbean, but they will also end up in one of the first places where Christopher Columbus’ ships landed in 1492. The Spanish conquerors moving to the Dominican Republic in 1493 laid the foundations for today’s Santo Domingo. In the centuries that followed, the country was subject to annexation, premature declarations of independence, and revolutionary upheavals.

    But even after the last long-term occupation, the country did not come to a rest. The Dominican Republic’s 31-year totalitarian rule by Rafael Trujillo was followed by rulers who won by flawed elections, were overthrown by military coups, or had to go into exile. Free elections have only been held since 1996. After Leonel Fernández’ several terms in office, Danilo Medina was elected president in May 2012 and took office in August of the same year.

    Geography and Climate

    The Dominican Republic is the second-largest country in the Caribbean and is located on the island of Hispaniola. The island, which it shares with Haiti, is situated between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Upon moving to the Dominican Republic, you’ll recognize that the landscape is surprisingly diverse for such a small country. Obviously you shouldn’t miss out on the white sandy beaches, which are so typical for the Caribbean, but the country also boasts tropical rainforests, beautiful valleys, rivers, lakes, and even semi-desert zones.

    Upon moving to the Dominican Republic, you should experience a semitropical climate with year-round temperatures of 26°C on average. From May to November, you can expect heavy rain falls, particularly in the country’s north. If you move to the Dominican Republic in August and September, you may experience severe storms and hurricanes.

    Business (Work) Visa

    Before moving to the Dominican Republic, you need to secure either a business visa (Visa de Negocios), which comes in two forms that allow either one entry for 60 days or multiple entries for one year, but only for a maximum of two consecutive months at a time, or a business visa for employment purposes (Visa de Negocios con Fines Laborales), which is issued for one year. The latter is the relevant visa for those who are moving to the Dominican Republic to work on fixed-term contracts for private or public companies; with this visa you can apply for a driver’s license, open a bank account, etc. You can renew your visa at the Department of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración) in Santo Domingo as long as you still have a valid work contract.

    In order to apply for a business visa for employment purposes, you need to submit the following documents. All foreign documents must be notarized and translated into Spanish; both the original and the translation need to be apostilled:

    • visa form
    • frontal picture (2×2 inches, with a white background)
    • passport valid for the duration of the visa or longer
    • medical certificate
    • criminal record certificate from your country of residence at the time of application
    • photocopy of national identity document from your country of nationality, as well as a photocopy of your residence card if you’re residing in a second country
    • photocopy of former Dominican visas or residence card (for visa renewal)
    • visa application letter from you or from the company for which you are going to work, addressed to the consular section containing your name, nationality, place of residence, and occupation

    Moreover, you need a so-called Resolution of the Ministry of Labor of the Dominican Republic. This document is issued by the Labor Department of the Ministry. It legitimizes the applicant’s employment contract and, therefore, their reason for moving to the Dominican Republic, and specifies the employee’s position within the company, contract length, and salary.

    Nationals from certain countries who move to the Dominican Republic for short-term business meetings, site visits, or short training courses may enter the country with a Tourist Card, which is basically a USD 10 tax on visitors; a visa is not required in this case.

    Residence Permit

    It doesn’t matter if you are moving to the Dominican Republic with a Tourist Card or a business visa. If your stay exceeds two months, you need to apply for a residence permit (Visa de Residencia). To do so, you need to submit the application in advance to a consulate of the Dominican Republic with the following. All foreign documents must be notarized and translated into Spanish. Also, both the original and the translation must be apostilled:

    • visa form
    • frontal picture (2×2 inches, with a white background)
    • passport valid for the duration of the visa or longer
    • medical certificate
    • criminal record certificate from your country of residence at the time of application (not required for minors)
    • photocopy of national identity document from your country of nationality, as well as a photocopy of your Residence Card if you’re residing in a second country
    • birth certificate

    You will also need to bring a notarized letter of guarantee signed by a Dominican or a legal resident in the Dominican Republic specifying their relationship to you. This person must guarantee to pay any expenses involved in your move to the Dominican Republic should you be unable to do so. The letter of guarantee must be signed by a notary of the Dominican Republic and legalized by the Attorney General’s Office of the Dominican Republic.

    Also, you will need a visa application letter from you addressed to the Consular Section containing your name, nationality, place of residence, and occupation, as well as information on your reasons for moving to the Dominican Republic, e.g. employment, retirement, for a Dominican husband or wife, etc.

    Last but not least, you need documents showing your financial solvency. All documents must be issued for you and NOT your guarantor. These documents may include:

    • letter from your bank, with details of account balances
    • copies of titles of property (must show original)
    • registration of established companies
    • copy of your last tax return
    • copy of financial certificates
    • letter of employment, or proof of pension

    After submitting all documents to the Dominican consulate or embassy in your country, you need to hand in all paperwork again to the foreign ministry (Cancillerìa) in Santo Domingo upon moving to the Dominican Republic. Please keep in mind that you might have to submit additional documents, e.g. a marriage certificate, if you are moving with your family, if your spouse is a citizen of the Dominican Republic, or if you have relatives in the Dominican Republic.

    Accommodation in the Dominican Republic

    Renting an Apartment

    Finding a place to live in DR can prove quite nerve-wrecking for expats, particularly if their language skills are still at a bare minimum. Quite often, expats find themselves under pressure to find an apartment quickly and are confronted not only with a variety of choices but also with the many different perceptions Dominicans have of foreigners. It takes patience, a clear head, and a healthy amount of shrewdness to find a place to live in the Dominican Republic.

    Before you begin your search, you should decide on the basic criteria of your future housing: size, proximity to your place of work and basic service providers, and rent. Furthermore, as you are moving to the Caribbean, you should also ask for information about the structure of the building and whether it can withstand hurricanes and other tropical storms. It is also important to evaluate the neighborhood for its safety and decide if it’s satisfactory or if you would prefer a gated community with additional security measures.

    Rental Costs

    The average rental costs depend, of course, on your place of residence in the Dominican Republic. Are you moving to Santo Domingo or settling in a smaller town? Do you prefer to live downtown or outside the city center? As a rule of thumb, settling in Santo Domingo’s downtown area is much more expensive than moving into an apartment outside the center or in a smaller town.

    Another aspect you need to take into consideration is the question of how long you wish to stay. If you are a single expat who plans on staying for only a few weeks or months, you may consider renting a furnished room. With a room-and-board package, your meals, and sometimes even your laundry, are taken care of, which certainly saves you time and effort.

    If you want to enjoy such amenities but also value your privacy and safety, gated communities and hotels usually offer just that. Gated communities are particularly safe and quiet, which is often appealing to expat families. Hotels offer furnished rooms with electricity, water, and other services included in the price. This option is obviously more expensive than traditional rentals, however, for expats who value convenience, it might just be the right choice.

    The average rent for a regular one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Santo Domingo is 20,273 DOP (a bit more than 400 USD), and outside the center you pay half this price on average.

    The Apartment Search

    As you would do at home, you should start out your apartment search by choosing neighborhoods where you wish to live. Make sure to bring a working cell phone with you as you walk around the various neighborhoods and keep your eyes open for signs saying “se alquila” (for rent). Once you find such a signboard on a building that looks appealing, you should make sure to contact the landlord right away. However, if your Dominican Spanish is still a bit shaky and you’re not completely familiar with Dominican culture, you should probably bring along a friend to help you.

    Official corredores — traditional real estate agents— work in real-estate or lawyers’ offices: these are usually marked by signs saying “bienes raices”. Additionally, it is strongly advised to use only formal and official real estate agents. In fact, the American and French embassies have issued a warning about fraud and scams in the real estate field. These scams are often run by local criminals using the help of foreign con men to build trust with their victims.

    A Piece of Advice

    Finally, before you sign a rental agreement, there are a few details you should pay attention to. After all, you don’t want to be in for a rude awakening after moving in. It is important to inquire about electricity and water supplies. Make sure to ask specific questions, for instance: if the water is retrieved from a tank at the top of the house, and whether there is a cisterna from which to get your water if the tank is empty. You should also find out if you’ll have electricity around the clock and whether or not there is a generator. In fact, blackouts happen frequently, and if you do not have a generator in your building, you could find yourself without electricity for hours in the Caribbean heat.

    Another concern should be safety: find out if the building has been broken into before and if the crime rate in the neighborhood is a reason for concern. Consider visiting the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a clear picture. What about your landlord or landlady? If they live in the same building, which is often the case, you will be seeing a lot of them. Make sure that you can get along with them!

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