WHY DOMINICAN REPUBLIC?
Welcome to the Caribbean as it once was, priced as it used to be. The Dominican Republic offers you a rich, relaxing, and truly diverse lifestyle (even on a pensioner’s budget). Plus, recent infrastructural developments mean it has never been safer or easier for foreign retirees and investors to stake their claims.
The DR is the Caribbean but so much more, a melting pot with an eclectic population and a diverse history informed by Afro-Antillean, European, North American, and Latin cultures. This not-so-little island has a lot to offer and a long history of welcoming foreigners.
This is also one of the most affordable spots in the whole of the Caribbean, a place where you could embrace a white-sand retirement even if your retirement nest egg is nothing more than a monthly Social Security check. If you can swing a travel budget, island-hopping around the Caribbean could be your new retirement hobby from this convenient base.
The DR makes establishing residency easy, and the country embraces—even rewards through incentives—foreign investors. In addition, residents can and do work here.
What sets this country apart from other Caribbean islands and nations is its more sophisticated lifestyle—one that is strongly European. Santo Domingo, the oldest permanent settlement in the New World, boasts some impressive colonial architecture, along with modern shopping options, theaters, museums, and stadiums (béisbol is a national obsession). It’s the best of island living with the opportunity to take in an opera, go to the game, get in a round of golf, or indulge in some retail therapy.
Our favorite destination in the DR, Las Terrenas, is known as the “St. Tropez of the Caribbean.” Here, you’ll be welcomed by locals and expats alike. And you’ll enjoy a wide range of products (from patisserie-baked pain au chocolat to German salami to Swiss cheese) thanks to a diverse and multicultural local community.
Cost Of Living In The Dominican Republic
Monthly Budget For A Couple Living In Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
|Gas||RD$325||Used for hot water and cooking.|
|Water||RD$350||For drinking water.|
|Internet||RD$2,000||Unlimited 2MB service.|
Infrastructure In The Dominican Republic
The country’s Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), in power for the past decade, has made country-wide improvements to the road systems, availability of air travel, ports, telecommunications, and has invested heavily in towns that attract tourists. In particular, they’ve also targeted Las Terrenas (not a typical tourist town), marketing it as the upscale vacation option “St. Tropez of the Caribbean.”
Former PLD President Leonel Fernández had a long-term plan for the Samaná Peninsula and Las Terrenas in particular. During his two terms, he saw the Santo Domingo-Samaná highway laid and launched a massive marketing campaign for Las Terrenas, investing the country’s money and his own in the area. He built El Catey Airport, the small international airport of Las Terrenas that offers domestic flights as well as direct access to Canada and the United States and that has meant bigger numbers of foreign visitors and foreign investors.
The five main highways in the Dominican Republic are in well paved and maintained and connect all of the major cities to the coastal tourist zones.
As a part of the National Master Plan of improvements, capital Santo Domingo unveiled the first metro in the DR in 2008. It’s the most extensive network in the Caribbean and Central America. Santiago de los Caballeros (the bustling city on the north coast) is currently planning its own metro. Electricity throughout the country is government owned and operated; it’s very poor with daily outages typical both in cities and rural areas. However, in Las Terrenas the local electricity is privatized, meaning it’s more expensive than elsewhere in the country, but also reliable. Outages are rare in Las Terrenas.
The DR is easily accessible, especially from Canada and the East Coast of the United States.
Residency In The Dominican Republic
U.S. citizens must obtain a tourist visa to enter the Dominican Republic for a maximum of 60 days, if one is not obtained in your home country, you’ll have to purchase a US$10 (cash only) tourist card upon arrival. Visitors coming by sea should check with their cruise line for specific entry requirements.
Residency in the Dominican Republic is easy and the country embraces and even incentivizes foreign residents and investors. Residents can apply for loans and import household goods and a car tax-free.
To become a resident, you’ll need to apply for your provisional residency card. The Ministry of Foreign Relations recommends that you start before arriving in the DR, but you can also start the process once you’ve arrived. The provisional residency card is valid for one year and gives the holder the right to live and work in the country with multiple entry.
After one year as a provisional resident you can apply for a permanent residency card. You’ll resubmit much of the same documentation as you did for the provisional card, plus sworn statements by two people who attest to knowing you in the Dominican Republic and that you’re a law-abiding person.
The permanent residency permit is valid for two years. After two years of holding the permanent residency permit, you may apply for Dominican citizenship, become formally naturalized, and obtain a Dominican Passport.
To obtain residency through investment, certain applicants can apply immediately for permanent residency status without having to previously obtain temporary residency status. You fit the bill if you’ve invested at least US$200,000 in local businesses and real estate (including businesses in free zones and recipients of government contracts) or in local financial instruments, or you’re retired with a monthly pension of at least US$1,500 (plus US$250 per dependent), or you have a monthly income of at least US$2,000 for five years or more.
The application process for the investor visa is essentially the same as the process to obtain permanent residency, except for some additional documents required in permanent residency application stage. 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 this type residency from within the Dominican Republic.
In some places, obtaining a second passport through residency can take up to 10 years or more, but the naturalization-through-residency program in the DR comes with one of the shortest times to a second passport of any such program currently available.
Residency in the Dominican Republic can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship in this country after only two years.
Health Care In The Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic’s other major city, Santiago, have first-rate private hospitals and clinics with top-notch technology and amenities. Their staff is mostly bilingual and highly educated (mainly in the United States). These hospitals will perform organ transplants and other major surgeries. They also have psychiatric care.
Las Terrenas has a brand-new hospital, Centro Galeno Integral, complete with ICU. The facility is modern and spotlessly clean. Expats who have been treated at the facility for everything from a broken ankle to kidney failure all report excellent service and great prices. This hospital would be able to meet nearly all medical needs locally and inexpensively; expats in Las Terrenas don’t need to travel for medical care.
Every town has between three and five local clinics. These are a step up from the public clinics, but less expensive than the tourist-area facilities. It is unlikely staff will speak English, but you’ll receive quality care for day-to-day medical concerns.
Real Estate In The Dominican Republic
The real estate market in the Dominican Republic is safer than it has ever been. Up until recently, property titles were a shambles. Deals were made without much regard to the law. Investing here was a pure gamble. Now, thanks to a major government initiative to clean up the real estate sector, the market has been given a shake-up. Titles everywhere have been cleaned up and put in order. Rights of possession have been abolished. Clear procedures exist—and are being followed—for the purchase of real estate. Unlike the early expats who settled here, you’re coming in at a low risk in a fully regulated market.
The real estate market in the DR bubbled through 2008 then crashed, and prices remain down. Currently the price of real estate in this country is dramatically undervalued compared with other developed Caribbean markets, but there’s no reason to think these low prices will last. With rapidly growing infrastructure (highways, underground utilities, new buildings, etc.) and tourism drivers (cruise ports, resorts, and more) real estate in the Dominican Republic is bound to flourish.
As an added bonus, investing US$200,000 in the Dominican Republic (a real estate purchase qualifies) means you can apply for citizenship after just two years. The country’s requirements for naturalization are significantly lower than other Caribbean countries.
Helping drive down the cost to the retiree in the Dominican Republic is the government’s effort to reform its energy sector from a heavy reliance (90%) on fossil fuels by capitalizing on its abundance of renewable energy sources. The government plans to derive 25% of its energy from renewable sources. To this end, generous tax incentives are offered to those who invest in sustainable energy developments and projects. This explains the number of eco-style villas you’ll see on the market—particularly around the Samaná Peninsula.
Residents and non-residents enjoy the same property purchase and ownership rights, however negotiations vary somewhat from the traditional North American format of a written offer tendered by the buyer to the seller, followed by the written acceptance. Instead, after verbal agreement is reached by the buyer and seller on the price, and a binding Promise of Sale is prepared by an attorney or notary public which is signed by both parties.
The Dominican Republic has no restriction on foreigners owning property.