Moving to Dominican Republic: Relocation Guide for Expats

Want to move to the DR?

The Dominican Republic is a small country located on the island of Hispanola next to Haiti. It’s a popular travel destination for brothas who enjoy the warm weather, lower cost of living, friendly locals, delicious Caribbean foods and beautiful Dominican women.

Some of you have already visited the DR and are thinking about relocating there permanently.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about moving to the DR and successfully living there as a long term expat.

What You Need to Bring When Moving to the DR

Before you move, you need to decide exactly what to bring and what not to bring to the DR.

I recommend adopting a minimalist lifestyle before moving because it will save you a lot of time, money and headaches. Foreign deliver companies are expensive plus you need to spend more money on rent to store all your stuff.

My advice is to start selling, giving away or donating all the stuff you don’t need anymore before your trip.

You can sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist to generate some quick cash easily. Donate unwanted things to your local charity or thrift store and write off the contributions as a charitable deduction on your taxes.

What to do with everything else? You can throw it away or let your friends/family hold on to it for you.

Some people do end up moving back home after spending years in the DR and you may want your items back in the future.

After you’ve cleared the clutter, here’s exactly what you need for your trip:

  • Passport
  • Travel Suitcase
  • Travel Backpack
  • Dual SIM International Smartphone
  • Skype
  • Cash for currency transfer
  • ATM banking card
  • Lonely Planet’s DR travel guide
  • Easy Spanish Step by Step Language Book
  • Box of Trojan Magnum Condoms
  • Laptop Computer

Visa Information

For US citizens, you may enter the DR with a tourist visa for up to 30 days. This is enough for you to move to the DR for at least 1 month.

You must apply for a residence permit (visa de residencia) to stay for longer than 30 days. Submit the document to the Consulate of the DR in your home country:

  • 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

After living in the DR for 2 years, you may apply for permanent residency as well.

Different types of Foreigner Visas

If you don’t want the hassle of applying for a residence permit, then you can try the following visas:

Pensionado

Provide the items from the list above to apply for the pensionado visa, along with proof of a pension of at least $1,500 USD per month. Allow an extra $250 per month per dependent. This application typically takes 45 days for approval, and the program comes with benefits and tax breaks.

You can continue receiving your social security benefits here regardless of your citizenship status, and those benefits can be delivered to your address in the Dominican Republic. While residents are expected to pay taxes on their global income after three years of residency, pensions and social security benefits are exempt from this rule.

Rentisa

In order to qualify for this visa, you need to show that you get a monthly income from abroad for renting out a property. You’ll need to supply a copy of the rental agreement for that property, a statement showing that you’ve received rent from the person renting the property, and a bank statement. Your proof of income for this visa will need to be at least $2,000 USD per month.

This visa is valid for two years and can be renewed relatively quickly and easily. You simply have to provide a standard letter from the bank proving that you have an account and a Buena conducta from the Procuraduria Office.

Under this residency you are only taxed on Dominican Republic income, and not on global income as you would be taxed under a standard residency abroad. This protects your rent income from overseas taxation in the DR. In addition, you get even more tax breaks for purchasing property in the Dominican Republic itself.

Investor

This visa option requires an investment of at least $200,000 USD in a local business or local financial instrument. This means you could even put the investment into a Dominican Republic peso CD and qualify while also creating a stream of income for yourself.

While these visas require a financial commitment upfront, the good news is you gain permanent residency without having to spend a certain amount of time in the country.

Obtain a 2nd Passport from the DR

If you want to obtain a 2nd passport and/or renounce your US citizenship, you may do so after living in the DR for 7 years.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in the DR is much cheaper than living in western countries. You can live very comfortably on les than $1,000 per month.

According to Expatisan, the DR is 60% cheaper than living in New York City.

Dating

It’s easy to meet Dominican women in the DR and you can easily find a GF or wife once you move there. Many men end up moving to Sosua because it’s a single man’s paradise where thousands of young beautiful Caribbean girls battle for your attention.

DominicanCupid is the best online dating app to meet Dominican girls so I recommend signing up and chatting up some girls before you move abroad.

Banking

Banking in the DR is pretty straightforward. You have two options: open a local bank account or open an international friendly bank account in your home country that doesn’t charge huge foreign transaction fees.

Here’s a list of local DR banks that you can open an account at:

  • Central Bank
    • Banco Popular
    • Banco Leon
    • Banco Reservas
    • Scotiabank

If you want to keep your funds in a bigger international bank, then try these expat friendly banks:

  • Schwab
  • Capital One
  • HSBC
  • Citibank

When opening an account, it’s necessary to provide a copy of your passport, a letter of recommendation from the home bank and details of existing bank account with sources of income.

In the Dominican Republic, there are several types of bank accounts. Accounts can be opened in pesos or dollars. A Dominican peso account brings customers the advantage of having a credit or debit card and a cheque book, while a dollar account can only get you a transaction booklet. Credit cards are not common in this country as the interest rates are around 10%, which is quite expensive.

ATMs can be found all over the country, inside and outside banks, at gas stations, in supermarkets and shopping malls. Expats must be aware of the transaction limits as well. The maximum is usually 10,000 pesos, which is around $210 USD.

Because of the presence of ATM fraud, it is best to withdraw money at the bank, where it’s always possible to talk to the staff when some problems occur. ATMs usually accept all sorts of cards, not just Dominican, but also foreign ones. However, charges for using the cards of some overseas banks are around 100 pesos.

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in this country, but American Express is not an option in some of the country’s major outlets. Even though there’s a large number of ATMs in the country, expats rarely use credit cards, but rather deal with cash, considering it much safer. Transferring money from abroad can take up to 10 days, and any sum over $10,000 USD is often held by the bank until the recipient proves the source of the funds.

Taxes

Income tax is established by the law 11-92 and governed by the Direccion General de Impuestos Internos, or DGII. All work which is carried out in the Dominican Republic is taxable, while any type of work from outside the country is not taxable. However, once expats have had residency status for more than three years, their income from overseas – both financial and investing – is the subject of taxation.

When expats work for a company, their taxes are automatically deducted, while in the case of self-employed people, it’s necessary to register with the DGII. Tax is paid monthly, but the DGII usually demands more money at the end of the year, especially from foreigners.

The tax is based on a sliding scale, which rises each year along with inflation. In reality, only 8% of people pay tax in this country, as all the others earn below the minimum level. Those who work on a freelance basis must know that it’s a common practice for the client to deduct 10% of the agreed fee for taxation. There is no double taxation agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States, but there is one with Canada.
More information can be found via the Direccion General de Impuestos Internos.

Jobs

In Dominican Republic, there is no such thing as a work permit. Any foreigner who has a visa or residency card is authorized to work in Dominican Republic, as well as any foreigner who has a work contract with legally established company, is eligible for Dominican residence.

Working hours

In Dominican Republic the standard work week is 44 hours and the work day is 8 hours, although this can vary according to the companies.
The employee has the right to 36 hours of uninterrupted weekly rest, which is decided by the parties involved.

Is it easy to find a job in Dominican Republic?

The unemployment rate in the Dominican Republic is high, for that reason it is recommended that a foreigner who wishes to work in the country should explore with time and see the real possibilities to obtain an employment, make contacts, and try to get a real job offer, before actually moving to the country.

Accommodations

Many expats choose to rent a property in the Dominican Republic in order to avoid possible scams and complicated bureaucratic process involved in buying. The property market in this country can be quite frustrating for expats. As the property rights are not always enforced, expats need to hire lawyers to make sure that everything is legitimate. The good thing about renting in this country is that people can pay rent even for the shortest periods, such as month to month payments.

Santo Domingo is the most popular town for expats. It is the capital and the business center, located on the south Caribbean coast. This city is also quite cheap: a three-bedroom house can be found for $400 a month. These houses often include maids’ quarters, so those who wish to hire one don’t have to worry about the additional space. Many expats recommend staying in the city for a while in order to get to know it before choosing an area. It’s best to find an area where it’s safe and comfortable, within your first budget, as there are some areas of Santo Domingo that are not safe for foreigners.

For those who wish to move to a remote part of the Dominican Republic, away from the coast, there are similar properties which are much cheaper. These houses can be around $200 a month and they are located in the areas with fewer tourists and less crime. Apart from Santo Domingo, there are some other parts which are popular among expats, such as the areas around Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. In general, these are luxury options and have significantly higher prices. In this area, there are many expat families who seek security and tranquility. In the Dominican Republic, prices are generally higher when properties are closer to the sea.
When renting a furnished place in this country, it’s not uncommon to find some houses with older furniture. So, if your goal is to avoid this situation, it’s best to rent an unfurnished place and arrange it yourself.

Finding the property

Searching for property on the internet may result in finding some holiday rental places, which can cost more than $500 USD. So, it is best to ask around if you have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish, or bringing a local friend to help. Sometimes it’s a good idea to visit a local “colmado”, a shop that also serves as a meeting place, where you can meet informal “corredores”, or agents. They usually have a variety of properties for all budgets to offer to their customers.
If you wish to find a property in a more traditional fashion, there are a lot of official corredores with their offices around the towns. It’s not uncommon for these agents to speak English. It’s also a good idea to check out the classifieds in the Dominican daily papers, such as Diario Libre, Hoy, Nacional, Caribe, and Listin Diario. These papers have a limited range of properties which are usually the most expensive ones. If you wish to find a property by looking around the town yourself, look for signs that say “Se alquila” with a phone number. In these cases, it’s best to bring a Spanish-speaking friend along.

Rental contracts

Rental contracts in the Dominican Republic are usually made for a one-year period. Sometimes it’s even possible to negotiate monthly contracts, which is good especially for those who are new in the country. In some cases, expats need to allow their landlords to enter the rented place on a monthly basis to check if everything is in order. This kind of relationship with a landlord is usually marked in the contract.

The landlord is often in charge of fixing anything in the apartment, except if something is broken by the tenant. Landlords in this country usually ask for a 2-month or 3-month deposit when tenants enter the rented home. This money serves as a deposit, but one month’s rent also goes to the landlord’s lawyer as a fee. The deposit money is often put in a bank account and is returned once the contract expires.

Where to look for a property
As was already mentioned, Santo Domingo is the most popular choice among expats. It’s a city that has very distinct neighborhoods, and the center area looks like a mix of all these styles together. The Rio Ozama divides the town economically, so the area west of the river is more developed than the eastern part of the town, called Santo Domingo Este.

The most developed neighborhood is Platini, which is located in the center of Santo Domingo. It has a dense population and the prices are significantly higher compared to other parts of town. Naco is a neighborhood in the south west of Santo Domingo and it’s a wealthy residential district. Yolanda Morales is the neighborhood north of Platini. It is a newly developed area with newer accommodations.

Apart from Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros is in the north of the island, away from the coast. The second largest town in the Dominican Republic may not be so appealing to expats, but the rent can be twice as cheap here. Also on the north coast, there are two huge expat communities in Sosua and Cabarete. Both places are close to Puerto Plata and the international airport. Accommodation in these parts is often more expensive, and people tend to sell properties, rather than renting them. It has a gated community, world class beaches, and golf courses.

Home insurance

When renting a property in the Dominican Republic, it’s advisable to get home insurance. Once you have worked out what your policy covers, it’s it advisable to pay extra to include hurricane damage, which is a common concern in the Dominican Republic.

Healthcare

The healthcare system in the Dominican Republic has faced a lot of reforms since 2001, year by year. The old system was considered inefficient, underfunded and low quality. Patients used to have huge out-of-pocket expenses, even for the poorest Dominican citizens.

The current healthcare system has three different tiers:

  • Subsidized regime, which is financed by the government for unemployed, poor, disabled and indigent people.
  • Contributive regime, which is financed by workers and employers
  • Contributive subsidized regime, which is financed by independent workers, technical workers, and self-employed people, but subsidized by the state

Expats who work in the Dominican Republic are mostly part of the contributive regime, but it is wise to check out your options with your employer. Private health insurance or complementary insurance is very important to obtain in order to avoid huge gaps in costs when going for a treatment or even just visiting a doctor. The reforms still have a long way to go when it comes to the public healthcare system. Four years ago, even though reforms started in 2001, just 60% of workers were contributing to the public healthcare.

Health services

The phone number for emergency medical assistance in the Dominican Republic is 911.

It’s wise to have emergency numbers of the local police station, clinic, ambulance and fire department on hand too. The standard of healthcare in this country largely depends on the chosen clinic. If expats have to visit a doctor for non-urgent reasons, then the services in are fine. However, in an emergency, things can be quite complicated. The emergency number can often be offline and there are very few ambulances available. When people need emergency help due to an accident or similar situation, they can expect to be transferred to a hospital by any means, such as car, police car or even motorbike.

Ambulances

Movimed, Santo Domingo
809 532 0000
Promed, Santon Domingo
809 948 7200
Santiago, Puerta Plata, La Romana
1 200 0911

Health insurance

Apart from in public hospitals where the healthcare is mostly free, insurance is crucial in this country. Many hospitals do not treat expats without proof that they can pay for it. Expats need to show cash or proof of insurance. Hospitals in the Dominican Republic do not all accept the same kinds of insurance, so it is best to check with a local hospital or clinic to see which insurance type is accepted before you are admitted. Emergency treatment is not free and it can cost quite a lot. In general, there are no particular problems with healthcare for foreigners, but the costs can be significantly higher than for Dominican citizens.

Diet and common health problems

The percentage of diabetes and high blood pressure among the Dominican population is higher than in other countries. The reason for that can be found in a diet which includes a lot of salt, sugar and oil. The average diet in the Dominican Republic largely lacks vitamins and fresh vegetables. It has a high carbohydrate level, mostly because of the rice which is eaten almost on daily basis. In the last ten years, there has been an increase in obesity and heart disease problems in this country.

Health risks and vaccinations

As the Dominican Republic is a tropical country, there are some health risks that cannot be found in Europe and North America. Due to high temperatures and quite intense sunshine, it is advised to wear sunscreen. It is interesting to know that most expats who live here rarely sunbathe.

There are a number of insects that people should be aware of, even though they do not bring fatal consequences. Numerous mosquitoes in the Dominican Republic can bring you dengue fever or malaria. As dengue fever is widespread in this country, it is best to prevent bites by using a repellent, fumigating the home and garden, to ensure that there’s no standing water which may be inviting for them. Long trousers are also a good idea. The mosquitoes that carry dengue are known as “patas blancas”, meaning that they have white feet, which makes them easily recognizable compared to other insects.

Drinking water

The water in the Dominican Republic is not safe to drink, but 5 gallon containers of drinking water can be bought for just one dollar. The tap water is considered to be safe for cooking and brushing teeth, but it is still smart to double check, depending on the area. The water comes from either a central water system or a well, which then goes to the cistern.

Other health problems

Most tourists and expats have stomach troubles while spending time in the Dominican Republic. This happens mostly due to food poisoning or infections caused by amoebas and parasites. They can be all easily dealt with by taking proper medications, but it’s better to visit a doctor first, in order to find out which infection it is and determine which medications are best for it. All areas of this country have testing facilities. In order to avoid health issues, it’s smart to wash fruit and vegetables with bottled water before eating them. Hands should be also washed frequently.
There are also some other diseases that are frequent in this country, such as Hepatitis, Typhoid, Aids and Cholera. Even though it’s not necessary to be vaccinated before entering the country, expats should be aware that they are contractable here.