Re: Residency Revisited


J. Schroder

Re: Residency Revisited

Some Additional Information Regarding Residency??..

Lic. Guzman's posting covered some very important and truthful points. To further add or expand upon the discussion, the following are our experiences with completing residency for our clients.

What is the Residency Process? What are the political changes that have taken place regarding residency and naturalization (citizenship)? What is the difference between a "Cedula" and "Immigration Card"?

The Dominican Republic does not have a group of formal "economic" residency / naturalization programs that, for example, can be found in Panama or elsewhere. With that said, there certainly are some changes in "direction" with regards to the previous residency process that interested applicants may find worthwhile knowing.

In the past, it seems that permanent residency was granted fairly quickly and without much with regards to a concrete process or extensive list of "requirements". To state it another way, there was a somewhat relaxed attitude regarding the residency & naturalization process in the past. For this reason and because many Dominicans had in the past taken advantage of visa free travel to enter some countries with the intent of staying (working) illegally, many foreign governments had "downgraded" the previous visa free travel status that Dominican passport holders previously enjoyed. This is not a negative comment about the Dominican people, just a fact of what had taken place in the past. The point is that the Dominican passport is not the ideal visa free travel document that it once was. However, we believe that will change in the future. We also believe that the residency and related citizenship process is certainly easier and less time consuming than what exists in many other countries.

The obvious question you now have is, "What does that have to do with residency"? The answer is simple. The current administration of President Fernandez has set out to both improve and more strictly regulate the immigration, residency and related naturalization processes. As a result the current residency application process is different from what existed before. In our opinion, this is a very positive step in the right direction. In addition, while many Dominicans have criticized the current president for spending a great deal of time traveling and visiting foreign countries, it is obvious to us what he is doing. Namely pursuing improved foreign relations for both the attraction of additional business / foreign investment and improved "diplomatic" relations.

With that said, the Dominican Government certainly wants to take a closer look at why someone would want permanent residence. But because the focus has changed, many local attorneys do not know how to deal with the new "direction" or requirements. They are foolishly attempting to "navigate new channels with an old boat". Some, as in the case of a few Sosua attorneys we have heard about, are attempting to convince clients to purchase real estate as part of the residency process, in order to prove a "tie to the country". Some are of course just plain incompetent crooks, which is another story altogether (and why one reader ended up with a business visa instead of his permanent residency). Rest assured that you neither need an expensive real estate purchase, nor deal with a "crook" if you wish to seek residency (and perhaps an eventual second citizenship).

The residency process is basically as follows:

Applicants are required to complete a formal application for permanent residency. This process should be handled by a competent and honest local attorney (there are a few out there). The applicant should provide at least (2) copies of official or certified birth certificates. We also ask our clients to obtain a letter of good conduct from their local police department, and any other supporting documents with regards to additional reference, and depending upon the circumstances, perhaps economic solvency. There are a few different types of "applications" we present for our clients, which space will not allow for here (we also are not interested in teaching the local bunglers how to practice law and good client service in their own country). I apologize for the lack of details on this.

Despite some other comments to the contrary, this application must first go to immigration. As part of the process, the applicant must take a blood test (AIDS) and submit to a chest x-ray (TB). In addition, immigration will complete a background check, including a search with INTERPOL.

Assuming all is well, the applicant should obtain their first or initial "card", which is issued by immigration within 90 days from the initial application process. This first immigration card is a green and white card, complete with new tamper-poof holograms and other security features. This card is usually valid for six months (although we have seen some with longer expirations).

The immigration card offers the right to leave the country and re-enter without a tourist card. The applicant need not necessarily remain in the country during this entire process. However, it is important to note that the immigration card and Cedula card must be obtained personally by the applicant. In essence, this means you must be present to receive these cards. Even your lawyer cannot receive these cards in your absence. If you tells you otherwise, please provide his or her name to the folks at Immigration & The Junta Electoral (I am sure they would like to hear about it).

The second phase of the process is the receipt of the client's "Cedula", which is issued by the "Junta Electoral". In theory, the immigration card is set to expire or coincide with the receipt of the client's "Cedula", which is within six months of receiving the immigration card. Stated another way, the immigration card comes first, with the idea you will turn in the immigration card for your Cedula (when ready).

For Americans especially, it is important to note what a Cedula actually is. It is literally a voter registration card, and is only issued by the voter registration board or "Junta Electoral". While you cannot vote in local elections with this card (only naturalized citizens can vote), the Cedula really is used as an permanent identification document in all Latin American countries (the way the social security card or driving license may be used in the US). Dominicans all receive their Cedula at the age of majority, which is why the Cedula is also asked for when being "proofed" at a night-club (in the US, usually the doorman will ask for your Driving License to prove legal age).

The Cedula you obtain carries a one-year expiration, and of course must be renewed each year. It is interesting to note that some local lawyers charge up to US $ 2500 per year to re-new a Cedula for foreign clients. We know of a few American firms in the free zones that pay this amount for their American or non-Dominican employees. Why they pay such an amount to do so is beyond our comprehention.....That's like paying someone US$ 2,000 to renew your Driver's License.

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