The Residency Debate...
I think that it is fair to say that the Dominican government doesn’t help itself given the current laws (and the enforcement of them).
Clearly, the current brief is to allow people to simply pay a fine when exiting the country if they have over-stayed their visa. It is not a “fee”. The amount payable depends on the length of the over-stay and that in turn makes for complications if planning an extended holiday. For example, you might think you’ve found a cheap deal for a four-month extended holiday for three or four people but then you have to factor in the fine when leaving the country. Furthermore, some people don’t relish the idea of breaking the law, (something that technically one is doing if not leaving within the time period of the visa) but there is no sensible solution, and so for those wishing to come on extended holidays (for the time being at least) they have no choice but to pay the exit fine on departure.
However, foreigners that are looking to the future; those looking to work or invest in property that have obtained their residencies enjoy very definite advantages over the illegal visitors. Some of them are as follows:
- Included with residency comes something called a Cedula. This is your Dominican identity card that allows you to work and do business legally in the Dominican Republic. Non-residents are not permitted to work in the Dominican Republic.
- Technically, if purchasing property, residents are allowed to bring their household items (such as kitchen appliances, furniture, and electronics) tax free. Article 13 of Law #146-00. That said, I rarely hear of anyone managing to pull this off without some form of payment often running to thousands of dollars. Furthermore, you must have your residency in place prior to shipping. To do that requires meticulous planning prior to the purchase of property and it’s still going to be a lottery as to when you might receive your personal items and how much you will be expected to pay.
- A resident can get a Dominican driver's license and car insurance. As a non-resident even with Dominican insurance there is still the possibility that if you are involved in a serious accident the insurance company will “hang you out to dry”. That’s because the law clearly states that a foreigner can drive with his own driver's license and obtain car insurance that will be valid for the length of his legal stay in the country. In honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a case where this law has actually been considered by the insurance companies but that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen.
- A resident can enter the Dominican Republic without having to buy a tourist card or visa and can leave without having to pay a fine.
- There are tax advantages for foreigners looking to reduce tax overheads in their home country. Each country has different rules, some more obliging than others. In most cases you would need to start by proving you are a legal resident in the Dominican Republic. We could not possibly offer advice on complicated scenarios such as this. You would definitely need advice from a firm of lawyers such as Guzman Ariza.
- In certain categories; residency can offer investors significative tax exemptions.
For my part, I think you must look at a few different scenarios. If you are from North America it is relatively easy to fly backwards and forwards once or twice a year, reducing the size of the fine and topping up your legal length of stay on return. As the cost of air travel to and from Europe increases this isn’t always quite so easy for Europeans. Finally, whenever I find myself at immigration renewing my residency, I find myself surrounded by Russian and Chinese individuals clamouring to get legal status outside of their own country, and to me at least this speaks volumes about how fortunate some of us are to at least be offered the chance to make a legal home for ourselves away from our place of birth. It is not something to be taken for granted.
In summary, each individual case is different. The laws regarding obtaining residency frequently change. The current situation of having to first apply at an embassy in your home country is costly and, in my opinion, unnecessary. The Dominican government are streamlining the application process and a lot of the work can be carried out on-line by the individual. The ultimate decision is down to the individual.