West Side Story does, of course, shed a light on one famous truth about Puerto Rico: moving here used to be far less popular than moving away from here. Emigration from Puerto Rico was at its highest in the earlier and middle decades of the 20th century, when generations of young Puerto Ricans dreamed of a better life on the US mainland. These days, especially young entrepreneurs have seen an opportunity in moving their business to Puerto Rico and making the island in the Caribbean an increasingly popular expat destination.
Puerto Rico is a small archipelago in the northeastern Caribbean, just east of the Dominican Republic, consisting of one main and several smaller islands. The main island is the prime destination for most people moving to Puerto Rico. Of the smaller islands, only Vieques and Culebra are inhabited throughout the year. Tourism professionals might recognize the appeal of the smaller islands and try to unlock their potential for tourism.
Conversely, lovers of nature and those trying to escape the tourism industry are also likely to consider moving to one of Puerto Rico’s smaller islands. Even if some of them may lack the infrastructure to make them inhabitable all year round, they certainly make up for this with their long, sandy, deserted beaches and unspoiled nature.
After your relocation to Puerto Rico, which by the way means “rich port”, you’ll probably come across some other names for the island, too. Locals often refer to it as Borinquen, stemming from Borikén, the indigenous name for Puerto Rico. Another common soubriquet is la isla del encanto, in English: the Island of Enchantment. Back when the first immigrants were moving to Puerto Rico, the island was known as San Juan Bautista, the name given to it by Christopher Columbus.
With a land area of 8,870 km², Puerto Rico is only 8% of the size of Cuba, yet in terms of inhabitants it holds more than a third of Cuba’s population. What is more, most of Puerto Rico’s land area consists of mountains and is therefore uninhabited. Most people opt to move to the island’s coastal plain belt in the north.
Expats should be prepared for a tropical marine climate and all that comes with it. Generally speaking, this means average temperatures of 28°C throughout the year with very little seasonal change. In the mountainous center, it can get a lot cooler, though. The hurricane season lasts from June to September. Please be aware that moving to Puerto Rico means moving to a geological hazard zone where earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides may occur. Frequent tremors are nothing unusual.
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has no government body dealing with external affairs. It is therefore subjected to US policy making in areas such as foreign relations, trade, customs administration, immigration and emigration, nationality and citizenship, etc. This means that you will have to go through US immigration authorities in order to get your visa before moving to Puerto Rico.
Getting a residence and work permit for the US is notoriously difficult if you are not going there on a traditional expat assignment. A basic distinction is made between immigrant and non-immigrant visa categories, which also applies to most foreigners moving to Puerto Rico. Applications for a non-immigrant visa for a temporary relocation to Puerto Rico can be made online through Travel.State.Gov. However, you still need to schedule an interview appointment at the US embassy or consulate at your place of residence before going to Puerto Rico.
Residents of countries who take part in the Visa Waiver Program can move to Puerto Rico without a visa if their stay does not exceed three months. However, they cannot take up employment during that period and they must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before moving to Puerto Rico. Please consult our article on Moving to the USA for more information on visa and work permit requirements.
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