How to apply for residency in Nicaragua

Editor’s note: The comments on this article are closed. The residency discussion has migrated to the forum topic under the same name. Click: here.

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.

Cost:

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.

Tips:

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: ptiffer@cablenet.com.ni

 

 

 

  • Nick

    Don’t forget the route of “carta de manutención”, basically having someone declare before a notary that they will cover your living expenses. Requires a declaration of income of the person offering the support.

    • Kelvin

      Nick, that is one of the documents needed when you apply as married to a Nica or in a long term relationship (for more than 2 years). Its not a separate category, I mean you cant just find someone who will swear that they will do that!! (Even though in fact we both did but we got married first!)

  • Christine Lydon

    As a missionary, we were required to deposit the equivalent of a one-way ticket back to the States. We have met others that were also required to do the same thing. Upon permanent transition to the homeland, you can apply to have the deposit refunded with proof of final exit. We were told in 2011 that we could renew 2 more times (hold a cedula 3 years) and then apply for 5 year residency. Upon this renewal, we were told we would have to reapply 4 times (hold cedula 5 years) before applying for a 5 year.

  • Nick Chalmers

    I also have experience of obrtaining my cedula. I live part time in the UK so I was able to get all the documents fairly quickly and easily and had them translated and legalised. The Nicaraguan consulate in London took aboput a month to do their bit and then i sent them to a Nicaraguan lawyer in Managua who started the tramite process. Well eventually we got Intur approval but by that time the documents were nearly six months old so I had to go through the whole process again and finally I got ammigration approval. Went to immigration to get my cedula but surprise surpise the machine was not working and continued not to work until I had to go back to the UK. On my return went back to immigration and the machine was now working but they wanted to give me a multa because I had not turned up immediately the machine was fixed. A discussion ensued and they eventually backed down. They then issued me with a one year cedula and had to go through the whole process again when I showed them their mistake. Worth the wait as now life is easier and cheaper as a residente.
    You should also include a little piece on how to get a Nicaraguan driving licence. I lkive in Jinotega so maybe it is a bit easier there but it was the adventure of weekfor me to get one and I speak passable Spanish . Better to lose your Nicaraguan licence than the one from home.

  • Mark

    I own a couple pieces of property there and am building a home on one of them investing well over $30,000. Would this qualify me for residency (assuming everything else is in order)? Is there a downside to having residency for someone who hopes to spend ~90 days a year in country?

  • http://www.explorecasatranquila.com Sharon

    My husband and I are approaching the expiration of our 5-year “pensionado” residency, and we learned a couple new things during our recent attempt to renew the identity cards. First, the residency status does not expire after 5 years – just the cedulas expire. The cedulas need to be renewed during the short window exactly at the end of the 5-year period. We knew we should plan to be in Nicaragua for about a month to complete that process. My husband and I were not able to be in Nicaragua during the required renewal period because of a health crisis in my family, so the Nicaraguan immigration office in Managua issued an extension to allow us to spend extra months away from Nicaragua and still legally renew our cedulas upon our return to Nicaragua in the spring. Plan to be in Nicaragua to request the extension.

  • Martin Nelson

    Yes, I went through the Cedula renewal process last year. It is as diffficult as was the getting the Cedula the first time … and far more expensive. I made two trial runs to Immigration to assure the papers I was bringing were correct. After that, when the window opened I just had to hope the laminating machine was working, the camera was working and whoever has to approve the paper work was in town.

    Question: When I first brought goods from the USA to Nicaragua the limit was $10,000. Can I bring another $10,000 now since the limit was raised to $20,000?

  • http://www.creativebrownpeople.com MarkA

    Seems a lot easier than Costa Rica. Any immigration process takes anywhere from 18 months to 36 months in Costa Rica. Very informative article. Thanks.

    • Cheri

      My husband and I had our cedula’s in 6 months for here in Costa Rica. I did all the paperwork myself.

  • Paul Tiffer

    Hello,

    I am glad you are reading this “Very informative article” as Mark says. Regarding the questions; a) If somebody is going to come for 90 is not mandatory to apply for Residency, you will receive a 90 days tourist Visa and will be able to apply for an extension of another 90 days; on the other hand the investment must be in a property which to use for business, a Guest House for example, it doesn´t matter if you will live there, and you must incorporate a Corporation a run a business; as I explain in the comment; probably I will include a most comprehensive article about it; but a house just for you and your family to leave in; is not going to be consider a Foreign Investment by the government. b) I afraid if somebody used his right to bring his/her Household goods it expire, you can´t bring more; however you will be able to buy a new vehicle every 4 years, and if your pension is lower than $600 and you qualified with the previous law, because the law of 1974 required just $400 of pension; you will be cover by the new law of 2009; and you are not going to lose your residency.-

    Best Regards,

    Paul Tiffer
    ptiffer@cablenet.com.ni

  • http://www.retirenicaragua.wordpress.com Debbie Goehring

    My husband and I received the Pensionado Visa residency in April. It took approximately 6 mo. from beginning to end. Actually, the process in the U.S. was more difficult than in Nicaragua. It took us a while to figure out how to certify and authenticate all of our documents. Here are a few suggestions to make the process easier for U.S. citizens:
    1. Remember that the entire process of authenticating documents starts with the notary. It makes no difference where you live in the states or where your documents come from. We took all of our original documents to Florida. Then, a Florida notary stamped all of our copied documents. It is illegal in most states to copy your original birth certificate, so request extra copies to include in your packets.
    2. Once the Florida notary stamped all of our documents, we sent a courier to Tallahassee with ONE copy of my health certificate, which was stamped by the notary. You only need to send one document to the State Department to certify that the notary is a legal notary of the State of Florida. This is important: Choose a non-legal document to send to the State Department for certification. Our birth certificates, police report, pension statement, and marriage license were government documents. Most State Departments won’t certify government documents from other states.
    3. The State Department of Florida returned my health certificate and attached a sheet on top certifying that the notary was a legal licensed notary in Florida. Important: You only need ONE certification page. We removed the staple and inserted all of our other notarized documents, put a cover letter on the packet, then flew to Miami to the Nicaraguan consulate in Miami to have the packet authenticated.
    4. At the Nicaraguan consulate in Miami, we made two additional copies of our packets and stood in a long line to turn in our packet for same day authentication. Cost of $50. Two hours later, we received our authenticated packet and flew back to Nicaragua.

    I do have one question about the dates of the documents. We assumed that ALL documents had an expiration date after 6 months. This is what caused us the most stress because we had to try to time our visit to the states and the dates for when our documents were issued, so that they would not expire before we got them to Intur. Which documents expire? Only the police report and the health report?

    • Paul Tiffer

      Yes, you are right, just police and health ceritificate expire; INTUR just accept it with 5 months not six; six is for people who go directly to Immigration like Investors for example. I would like to explain the Nicaraguan Government just accept orginal – with three copies if is as retiree – but must be originals (some people has problem with this word; I am trying to say not photocopy; is not mandatory the first birth certificate) even if a document is photocopy and authenticated and law states must be consider as original Nicaraguan authorities are not going to accept it.-

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer

    • Pha V.

      Hi Debbie, (1) when you deal with State department, you sent them the original certificate AND the notarized copy of the certificate, or just only the later; (2) when you deal with Nicaraguan consulate, you gave them both the original certificates AND the notarized, authenticated copies of certificates, or just only those later with two additional, simple copies of each of them? Thanks.

  • Brian

    Thanks for the great information, Tim!

  • Jennifer

    We have been in Costa Rica for the year leaning Spanish, we will go back to the states for a month and then go to Nicaragua. We know we need police records for our visa but do we need a background check from Costa Rica or just the US?

    • RobertW

      You need a background check from the US. The background check can be from the state police, and it must be authenticated by the Secretary of State (the state one, not the federal one). For example, google: Texas document authentication. The first result should be the relevant TX Secretary of State page.

    • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

      Hello,

      If you were legally Residents in Costa Rica, you must bring it from Costa Rica, the same with Health Certificate; however if you didn´t resident in CR you must bring it from US.

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer

  • Pha V.

    Mr. Tiffer, I am from Canada, having only a citizenship card, looks like a driver license with picture on it; could a two-sides copy of it, notarized by a notary, then authenticated by Canada government be considered to be good as a birth certificate? Many thanks.

  • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

    Hello,

    I afraid your document is not good enough, you must be registered in the municipality or any other place where you were born and they must give to you a certification. However why don´t you send me – scanned – the document you have to check it: ptiffer@cablenet.com.ni

    Best Regards,

    Paul Tiffer

    • Pha V.

      Mr. Tiffer, thank you very much for your reply. It is very kind of you. As many people already know for long while, you always do great services to many readers in various web sites about immigration to Nicaragua. I will certainly be glad to be able to contact you thru email very soon. Cordially. Pha V.

  • Karen G

    Do documents need to be authenticated by Canadian authorities first? For example: a certified true copy of a birth certificate?? Im confused as to whether the document can just be brought to the consul here (the only one close to toronto is in Whitby,ON) or must be brought With the extra canadian authentication then taken to the consul?

    • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

      Photocopies copies are not accepted by the Nicaraguan government. So the original or a new certification must be authenticated, in Canada by the Foreign Affair Ministry of Ottawa. Them it could be authenticated in US in any Nicaraguan Consulate or in Managua in the Canadian Consulate.

      Be aware each page of the file must be authenticated, not the whole package or in a bundle as many canadians are used to do it.

      The Nicaraguan Government doesn´t accept it in bundle just individually authenticated.

      Best Regards

      Paul Tiffer
      Attorney at law
      ptiffer@cablenet.com.ni

  • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

    Hello readers:

    I am glad to inform you than Nicaragua now is part of The Hague Convention (Apostille Treaty ) which entered into force in Nicaragua on 14 May 2013, abolishing the requirement for legalization or authentication of foreign public documents by the local and state authorities and by the Nicaraguan Consulate abroad, for the countries which are members of the Convention.

    As of now any residency applicant under any category from the countries under the Convention, just need to Apostille their documents – Birth Certificate, Police Record, Health Certificate, Marriage License etc., and have them translated to be accepted in Nicaragua.

    This new rule will make a simpler process to the people who need to submit their documents in Nicaragua as retirees, foreign investors, missioners, etc.

    The list of the countries is:

    Albania, Alemania, Andorra, Antigua y Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaiyán, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarús o Bielorrusia, Bélgica, Belice, Bosnia y Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, China Popular, Chipre, Colombia, Cook, Islas, Corea del Sur, Costa Rica, Croacia, Dinamarca, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eslovaquia, Eslovenia, España, Estados Unidos de América*,Estonia, Fiji (Fiyi), Finlandia, Francia, Georgia, Granada, Grecia, Honduras, Hungría, India, Irlanda, Islandia, Israel, Italia, Japón, Kazajstán, Kirguistán, La ex República Yugoslava de Macedonia, Lesotho, Letonia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lituania, Luxemburgo, Malawi, Malta, Marshall, Islas, Mauricio, México, Mónaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niue, Noruega, Nueva Zelandia, Omán, Países Bajos, Panamá, Perú, Polonia, Portugal, Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte, República Checa, República de Moldavia, República Dominicana, Rumania, Rusia, Federación de, Saint Kitts-Nevis(San Cristobal y Nieves), Samoa, San Marino, San Vicente y las Granadinas, Santa Lucía, Santo Tomé y Príncipe, Serbia, Seychelles, Sudáfrica, Suecia, Suiza, Suriname, Swazilandia, Tonga, Trinidad y Tabago, Turquía, Ucrania, Uruguay, Uzbekistán, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

    Best Regards,

    Paul Tiffer

    • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

      Apostille in USA new

      Today the Amercian Embassy in Managua gave the information of the website to contact in USA, for Apostille American documents: http://www.nass.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=262&I temid=484

      This new Agreement will make more easy for residency applicant to complete their documents.

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer.

  • Kelvin

    Canadians are out of luck. Still gotta do the two step!!
    (But the Washington Consul who handles Canada was extremely efficient – same day service).

    • http://www.nicaliving.com Paul Tiffer

      For Canadians the other option is to legalized in Canada in the Deparment of Foreign Affair and International Trade, in Ottawa and them in the Canadian Consulate in Managua, for retirees is free of charge.

  • Oliver

    I’m a German citizen married to a Nicaraguan citizen. We got married in the US (New Jersey). I have the US/NJ marriage certificate but it was not authenticated at a Nicaraguan consulate and I have no plans on going back to the US anytime soon. Question 1: Can the necessary steps be taken at the US Embassy in Managua so that the Nicaraguan immigration authorities can accept the marriage license? Question 2: Would it make sense to get married in Nicaragua so I get a Nicaraguan marriage certificate and if so, how long would it take?

  • Kelvin

    Oliver, if you look at the link above from Paul re; state by state requirements, you will see this form under NJ:

    http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/revenue/pdforms/ApostilleRequestForm.pdf?Button=Download+Form

    The rules have just changed so you can now get your birth certificate Apostilled in NJ by mail. Looks fairly simple, good luck!

  • Hans

    If you get married in Nicaragua to a Nica, you should be able to get a marriage certificate and be able to use that. This may cost you $50-$70. I don’t see the need of having the US marriage license get Apostilled.
    Does anyone see a reason why that would not work? Is there a requirement of how long someone would need to be married?

  • Karen

    Am I reading this correctly, do I have to get my certified birth certificate apostilled in the state it came from?

  • Mel erickson

    what if you have a child that was born in Nicarauga, does that qualify to get residency

    • Paul Tiffer

      Hello Mel,

      If you prove you have a child that was born in Nicaragua the law states Immigration must granted the residency, you must prove it, and prove yoru incomes.

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer

  • RichB

    Hi!

    My wife and I are looking into residency in Nica. We do not have a pension, but we have reasonably significant savings that have provided dividend income well over the required $750 per month. We’ve had this income for several years and can show statements from my brokerage.

    What sort of evidence does the Nica government require from me in order to qualify for the Rentista program? I’ve read that this program is a bit tricky.

    Thanks in Advance!
    Rich

    • Paul Tiffer

      Hello Richard,

      If you want to apply as rentier, a CPA certification will be good enough to prove you have the regular income over $ 750 per month for you and $ 150 for your wife as your dependent; it could be a certification of the company where you have your money too.

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer

  • Bizwe

    Are American citizens showing a HIV+ status in their health certificate automatically disqualified from residency status in Nicaragua even if they carry their own private health insurance?

    • Paul Tiffer

      Hello,

      No, I asked once in Immigration and you can apply, I didn´t assisted yet anyone with this condition but the reply from Immigration was you can apply.

      Best Regards,

      Paul Tiffer

  • Nclas

    Please clarify the cost and is that US dollars?

    • Paul Tiffer

      Yes, the law 694 states the pension must be in dollars:
      “Art. 4 Monto de la Pensión o Renta.
      Para obtener la categoría migratoria de Residente Pensionado o Residente Rentista, la persona
      aplicante deberá gozar de una pensión o renta mínima generada en el extranjero conforme los
      siguientes parámetros:
      1. La persona aplicante para obtener la condición de Residente Pensionado debe demostrar que
      recibe en el extranjero de forma estable y permanente, otorgada por gobiernos, instituciones
      públicas o privadas, una pensión mensual equivalente en moneda nacional a la cantidad de
      Seiscientos Dólares de los Estados Unidos de América (US$ 600.00).
      2. La persona aplicante para obtener la condición de Residente Rentista debe demostrar que
      recibe en el extranjero de forma estable y permanente, rentas generadas por distribución de
      utilidades, alquiler u otros negocios legales análogos que le generen un monto
      mínimo mensual equivalente en moneda nacional a la cantidad de Setecientos Cincuenta Dólares
      de los Estados Unidos de América (US$ 750.00).”

      P.S. I have a client who applied and obtain the pension from UK, and of course his pension is in sterling pounds , the goverment just did the convertion and it was ok.

  • Wesley

    What if you just want to go to work as a nurse and live in Nicaragua I’m 22 years old and i would like to live over there

    • Paul Tiffer

      Hello Wesley,

      If you want to work as a nurse, you can obtain residency once you get a job and the labor contract will be the support to prove what are you going to do in Nicaragua. It will be a provisional residency for one year, which can be renewal, after the third renewal you can apply for permanent which is for five years.-

    • Paul Tiffer

      If you want to work as a nurse, you can obtain residency once you get a job and the labor contract will be the support to prove what are you going to do in Nicaragua. It will be a provisional residency for one year, which can be renewal, after the third renewal you can apply for permanent which is for five years.-

  • http://bigpond peter moore

    You do not mention cedula which may cost as well.I live in australia since 1966 although born in USA ,I dare not return for paper work so may be wasting my time?

  • sepehr

    hey
    I wonder is there any age restriction to apply as a pensioner or rentista ?
    I’m 29 and have a private income of more than $750 coming from my investments.

  • Jay Jones

    is the age limit of 45 still in effect?

  • Zoli

    hi , i got married with an indian citizin , im from Nicaragua . we actually living in India, and we going to move Nicaragua, my husban wants to apply for resident, requirents are same like the other countries… thanks in advance for information… Zoli

  • Tom

    I have two questions regarding the rentista visa:

    1) Once all the required paperwork is in order, how long should a person expect to stay in Nicaragua to complete the application process?

    2) Once permanent residency is obtained, how often must a person travel to Nicaragua to maintain it? Some countries require annual visits.

    Thank you.

  • http://nicaraguadispatch.com/2012/10/how-to-apply-for-residency-in-nicaragua/5804/ Maria

    Hi Paul

    I am a UK citizen and would like to apply for the Pensioner Visa I receive well above the qualifying amount of money but in Pounds Sterling. I am currently living in Egypt with my Egyptian husband I have been here for two years. If we applied (with my spouse as a dependent) would my police record and health documents need to be from Egypt or the UK? Also will my husband have to say that he is going to be making a application for residency when he applies for his visa at the consulate in Cairo?

    Thanks

    Maria

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