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Nicaragua is receiving more and more foreigners who want to live here for a variety of reasons. For aspiring expats, one of the most important steps to moving abroad is learning how to do so legally, and that means applying for residency.
Applying for residency in Nicaragua can be difficult for many people due to lack of information or confusion over the application process. Immigration officials can be hard to deal with and difficult to understand if Spanish is not your first language.
It is imperative to know that there are several ways to apply for and obtain residency. They are:
Foreign Investor. According the law, any foreign investor can apply for residency if he or she runs a business, is forming a corporation and will invest at least $30,000 in Nicaragua in any sector (tourism, real estate, agriculture, energy, mining, communication, importation, education, fishing, natural resources, transportation etc.).
An appraiser from the government must confirm the investment by visiting both the property and company. Once the government’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce (MIFIC) approves your business, you can apply for a five-year residency as a Foreign Investor. The approval will cover the shareholders or investor (Nicaragua Corporations require a minimum of 2 members). The foreign investor residency also extends to the investor’s family members. Applicants from the People’s Republic of China are subject to additional approvals.
Pensioner or Rentista: This category is for people who receive a pension from abroad of more than $600 per months. A rentista is anybody who has a private income of more than $750 coming from investments such as stocks, bonus, or any kind of revenue. Salaries do not apply.
There are several benefits for this category. The most important are: Residency for five years; Tax exemption to import household goods valuated at $20,000 and tax-free import of a vehicle valuated at $25,000 CIF (the vehicle can also be bought locally in Nicaragua and the tax exemption will still apply).
Employee. A company can support the residency application of its employees by submitting copies of its legal documents in Nicaragua. For employees, Immigration usually grants a provisional residency for one year. Upon the third renewal, it can be extended to five years.
NGO, Missionary. The NGO must support the application and submit copies of the legal documents in Nicaragua. For missionaries and NGO workers, Immigration usually grants a provisional residency for one year.
Spouse.Foreigners married to a Nicaraguan can also apply for residency by providing a marriage certificate.
In all cases, the applicants for residency must provide the following supporting documentation:
1. Birth Certificate
2. Police Record
3. Health Certificate
4. Copies of the Article of Incorporation (for investors)
5. Pension letter (for retirees)
6. Marriage Certificate (for spouses)
All documents must be from the applicant’s country of birth and must be authenticated by the nearest Nicaraguan Consulate in the country where the documents were issued. To get authentication in the United States, documents must be notarized (some States doesn’t notarized official documents) and authenticated by a County Clerk or Secretary of State.
Since there are no Nicaraguan consulates in Canada, Canadians must have their documents authenticated in Canada and then sent to the Nicaraguan Consulate in Washington, D.C. In some cases, documents can also be legalized in the Canadian Consulate in Managua, so it advised that applicants inquire beforehand.
Once documents are authenticated in the country of origin, they must be authenticated by Nicaraguan officials in the Nicaraguan Foreign Affairs Ministry and translated into Spanish with a Nicaraguan Notary to be submitted to Immigration. It is important to note that even foreigners who have been living here for years will still need to provide all the documents from their country of origin (a Nicaraguan police record doesn’t count for first-time applicants, even if they have been living here for years as a tourist). In all cases, no documents can be submitted without all the proper authentications.
It’s also worth noting that police records and health certificates have an expiration date after five months for pensioners applying for residency through INTUR and six months for everyone else.
There are two types of provisional residencies: 1 year and 5 year (which is considered “permanent”). Some residencies allow the right to work in Nicaragua and others don’t. Residency under the category of pensioner or rentista does not allow in-country work.
Length of Process:
It is not easy to estimate how long it will take to obtain residency in each of the categories, but here’s a general idea:
As an Investor, the Incorporation of a Corporation can take around 3- 4 weeks, the inspection takes another 2-3 weeks and then usually another week for the report and certification. With the certification the applicant must submit the rest of his or her documents – police report, birth and health certificates. Then Immigration will have between 45 – 60 days to issue the Residency Card. So the whole process can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
It takes about the same length of time for a Pensioner or Rentista. According to law, INTUR and Immigration officials are supposed to hold a Committee meeting once a month for new applications. However, oftentimes they only meet every other month. Then Immigration has 45 – 60 days to print the Residency Card. With the INTUR certification, the applicant can import household goods and the vehicle (my advice is do not import anything without the certification to avoid fines and penalties for storage in Nicaragua, some people has been waiting 2 or 3 months to get their belongings out of Customs). Immigration is also double checking former law enforcement agents seeking residency, so their application process usually takes longer.
For foreign investors, Immigration charges C$ 6,400 (Cordobas). MIFIC doesn’t charge for the inspection, however the investor must pay the whole transportation and lodging or accommodations if apply.
For Pensioners and rentistas, Immigration charge C$ 5,900.
It is a crime to offer any tips or bribes, so don’t even think about it.
Please note: the comments made in this article are based in my expertise, the law and the internal rules of application. But the law is subject to change.
Paul Tiffer is a English-speaking lawyer in Managua with the firm Tiffer & Asociados. He can be reached at tel. (505) 8884-1652 , or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org