With the latest set of immigration laws that have been passed in the Dominican Republic many “staycationers” are finding that if they want to stay here (at least legally) they need to get residency. While I’m not a lawyer you might find my recent experiences with the immigration office to be useful.

New laws passed in January 2012

First, what has changed? In the past when a foreigner first came to the DR they needed to buy a tourist visa. That pretty much meant that you walk up to a counter, pay $10 US dollars to get a little card. You then walk across the room and give the card to someone else and go on your way. This tourist visa was good for the next 30 days. This appears to still be the same. One thing that has changed is if you were charged the tourist tax or tourist visa with your plane ticket and you are exempt you can get a refund. Dominican Republic refunds of Tourist Card Visa

After 30 days you then went to the immigration office and paid for a 3 month extension. This extension started when you first entered into the country so you actually pay for that 30 days twice. Now that you have your extension you are good for another 2 months. You could purchase the 3 month extension 2 more times for a total of 9 months. You now had to leave the country to get your passport stamped and you start the process over again.

This has now changed. You still start with your 30 day tourist visa, but now at the end of your month when you apply for the extension you have to also get a physical. What used to take an hour or so now can take most of a day. Also, you can only get 1 extension before you are required to leave the country.

Foreign Residency

While for many “staycationers” it seemed a viable option to go the route of an extended tourist, that route doesn’t work to well now that you are going to have to leave the country every 3 months. That means foreign residency turns into the better option.

The process is a bit of a pain, but is still much easier that if you were trying to do the same in the US. Whether you choose to hire a immigration lawyer or not depends on how much work you are willing to do yourself. To have the lawyer do all the work including the payments to the immigration office costs at least $1000 US dollars, this is the price when they take you through with a group in a bulk situation. If you want personal treatment it is going to cost a bit more.

Either way plan to spend most do a day in the immigration office in Santo Domingo. First you fill out the paperwork, pay the fees, submit to a blood test, urine test and as chest x-ray and stand in line to start the process of turning in the paperwork.
Later you will need to finish remaining paperwork (birth certificates, marriage certificates, and good conduct letters all of which need to have a apostille, is needed), have it translated into Spanish and then turn that in. On the final trip you pickup your card and pay the final $200. At this point you are good for a year.

After a year passes you will need to more or less start over again. While you don’t need to come up with the marriage cert, birth cert and good conduct letters again, it would appear the rest of the visit to the immigration office will be the same at a similar cost. This process repeats goes on for 3 years (including the first visit). On the last year you will actually be applying for permanent residency. Once accepted this will last for 5 years before you need to renew.

Ah, the joys of living in paradise! So, if you are planning on living in the DR for longer than a month, prepare to visit the Immigration office on a regular basis. While you can do all of the residency paperwork on your own, an immigration lawyer makes it a lot easier and will save you a lot of time and anxiety (dealing with government offices here is even more frustrating than in the States). I chose to use a lawyer for my family and for me it was worth the couple hundred extra dollars.