April 26, 2010
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
For most people, there are really only three reasons for going to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:
The first is to transit to some other, ‘nice’, part of the country.
The second is for sex tourism, which is in incalculable abundance here for both men and women.
The third is to establish residency in the hopes of eventually obtaining a passport from the Dominican Republic.
I’ve spent the last few days here investigating the third.
Local law states that a foreign person may become a naturalized citizen of the Dominican Republic after continuous residence for two years. Obtaining residency, the first requirement, is a fairly straightforward process which the local bureaucrats have been dealing with for years.
Applicants must fill out several forms, provide a letter of guarantee (usually from your immigration lawyer), a police record, health certificate, evidence of financial health, and a few other odds and ends.
3-4 months after filing the application, a provisional residence is granted that lasts for one year. After the first year, the applicant may request permanent residence… which isn’t exactly ‘permanent’ since it must be renewed every three years.
The fast-track investment program to obtain residency in the Dominican Republic is to contribute a minimum of US $200,000 towards certain real estate, financial assets, or local companies.
Officially, once initial residency is approved, it takes two-years of residency in the country before you can apply for naturalization.
While the law is technically unclear, most people are granted citizenship without actually being present in the country for that two-year period. In fact, many applicants only show up twice– first to apply for provisional residency, and second to apply for permanent residency.
After the two year timeline, it can take up to another two years to obtain the President’s signature for naturalization, get published in the ‘Gaceta Oficial’, and be issued a passport.
Unofficially, there is no shortage of bureaucrats working within the government offices that, for a fee, is willing to backdate residency permits and issue a passport within 3-6 months.
This practice has become so widespread and without any discretion whatsoever that the value of Dominican Republic citizenship has eroded substantially.
Passport holders now have heavy visa requirements all over the world, even including countries like Aruba, Jamaica, (oooo I wanna take you), Bermuda, Bahamas… seriously, it’s not just the song. Dominicans care barely go see their Caribbean neighbors, so forget about Mexico, Brazil, the US and EU.
I wanted to address this issue because so many people have asked me about the Dominican Republic; here’s the bottom line:
Taking steps towards Dominican Republic citizenship would not be a terrible idea… frankly, I think second citizenships should be on everyone’s mind, and there are definitely cost effective ways (in some cases nearly free ways) to go about it.
However, since the clean, ‘official’ route in the Dominican Republic can take over 4-years, not to mention possibly tie up $200,000 in a banking system that I wouldn’t want any part of, I believe that there are far better alternatives out there that I’ll be discussing with you soon.