Moving to the Dominican Republic: A 2024 Expat’s Guide

Last updated on April 30th, 2024 at 11:22 pm

Moving to the Dominican Republic? You’re not the only one. Of all the Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic boasts the largest foreign-born population. Roughly 450,000 people[cm_simple_footnote id=”1″] living in the island nation were born elsewhere, meaning immigrants comprise 4.5% of the country’s total population.

If you’re thinking of relocating, this guide will give you an overview of the moving process and what you can expect from life in your new home.

Moving to the Dominican Republic

An overview of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located on an island that borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It touches only one other country, Haiti.

  • Size: 18,619 sq. mi. (48,223 sq km)
  • Capital: Santo Domingo
  • Major cities: Santiago De Los Caballeros, Puerto Plata, San Cristóbal Province, Higuey
  • Population: roughly 10.6 million people
  • Foreign-born population: roughly 4.5% of total
  • Official language: Spanish
  • Demographics: 73% mixed race, 16% white, 11% Black

Can a U.S. or Canadian citizen move to the Dominican Republic?

U.S. and Canadian citizens can move to the Dominican Republic if they meet the country’s criteria for immigration and go through the process outlined in Dominican immigration laws.

What are the requirements to move to the Dominican Republic?

To move to the Dominican Republic, you will need to obtain a temporary residence visa.

There are several visas that Canadian and U.S. citizens may qualify for:

  • Ordinary temporary residence visa: Normally, this visa is reserved for people who are married to or the children or parents of citizens or permanent residents of the Dominican Republic. You’ll need to submit proof of the relationship, like a marriage or birth certificate.
  • Retired or pensioned residence visa: To qualify for this visa, you must be retired and have a minimum monthly pension of $1,500 plus an additional $250 for each dependent who moves with you. You will have to show proof of the pension, like a certificate from the government agency or company that administers it translated into Spanish.
  • Investment residence visa: For this visa, you need to show proof of investments of at least $200,000 in real estate or companies in the Dominican Republic. Valid proof may include stock certificates, a notarized investment portfolio breakdown, or a deed to property.
  • Management and staff visa: To get this visa, you must be employed by a foreign company that operates in the Dominican Republic. You will need to show proof of employment, such as a notarized letter from your company printed on official letterhead.
  • Renter residence visa: This visa is open to anyone who has a permanent income of at least $2,000 per month from a foreign company or organization. Examples could include remote workers and people who live off investment income. To qualify, you’ll need to show proof that you have permanent income, such as several months of bank statements or investment account printouts.

How do you get a visa to move to the Dominican Republic?

To obtain a visa to move to the Dominican Republic, you will need to complete the online application. The website is in Spanish, but you can use a browser plug-in to translate it to English.

You’ll need to register for an account if you don’t already have one, and then select the visa type that you’re applying for. The application page will list the documentation required for consideration and allow you to upload scans of the documents in .jpg format. All documents must be professionally translated into Spanish before submission.

After you have completed the application, you’ll be prompted to pay a variable fee. The amount varies based on the type of visa you’re applying for and the number of pages of documentation you submit. You will also receive a medical examination form that you will need to take to a physician. The doctor will perform a physical and record the findings on the form.

Then, you will need to scan and upload it to your account. Once everything is uploaded, it normally takes around 45 business days to receive a decision.

Does the Dominican Republic offer digital nomad visas?

A digital nomad visa is a type of visa designed specifically for people who want to move to a foreign country and work remotely for their employers in their home countries. The Dominican Republic doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa. However, people with permanent employment may qualify for a temporary residence visa, as described above.

Can you live in the Dominican Republic permanently?

Temporary residence visas are normally issued for one year. Before the temporary visa expires, you can request a renewal using the same system that you used to apply for the visa.

After you have maintained a temporary visa for five years, you can apply for a permanent residence visa through the Dominican Republic’s immigration portal.

How much money do you need to move to the Dominican Republic?

The cost of flying to the Dominican Republic depends on where your trip begins. If you’re planning to fly, try to avoid the peak tourist season from December to April to get the best deals on airfare.

International moving companies charge for the cost of shipping by container, which includes inspection and customs’ fees. As a result, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars.

Expat forums like ExpatExchange will have up-to-date information from others about the cost of moving, as well as recommendations. In general, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the distance you travel and the total weight and size of what needs to be moved.

Once you arrive in the country, factor in the cost of initial accommodation in a hotel or hostel as you search for a residence.

How much monthly income do you need to live in the Dominican Republic?

The amount of money you’ll need per month to live comfortably in the Dominican Republic will vary based on where you choose to live. In Santo Domingo, estimated monthly living costs for a family of four is around $2,200 USD without rent, and a single person can usually live on about $615 without factoring in rent.

The average monthly price to rent a three-bedroom apartment in the D.R. is about $1,200 in the city center and $475 outside of it. For a one-bedroom apartment, average monthly rent is around $700 in the city center and $250 in the surrounding areas.

One Dominican peso was worth about US $0.18 in August 2022, but exchange rates vary. Check out these seven facts about the Dominican peso to learn more about the currency. U.S. dollars are also commonly used on the island.

What type of government does the Dominican Republic have?

The Dominican Republic is a democratic republic, a blend between a republic and a democracy. The president serves as the head of state and executes laws set by the legislative branch. A two-round absolute majority voting system elects the president to serve a four-year term.

Like the U.S., the Dominican Republic has a bicameral or two-house legislature. The lower house is the Senate, and the upper house is the Chamber of Deputies. Thirty-two senators are elected through a plurality vote in their constituencies, and the deputies are elected via a proportional representation system. All legislators serve four-year terms.

The judicial branch has two top courts: the Supreme Court, which decides appeals and actions taken against other branches of government, and the Constitutional Court, which adjudicates matters related to the constitutionality of laws. Justices for both courts are appointed by the country’s national council of the judiciary. Supreme court judges serve for seven years, and constitutional court judges serve for nine years.

Is there a U.S. embassy in the Dominican Republic?

The United States has an embassy in Santo Domingo. Canada also maintains an embassy in the capital city and has consulates in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata.

Is the Dominican Republic a good place for North American expats?

U.S. News and World Report rated the Dominican Republic the 49th best country to live. The country offers plenty of recreational opportunities, has a pro-business economy, and is highly affordable.

However, income inequality is rampant, and the country’s social services are generally not as strong as in the U.S. and Canada. English is also not widely spoken; less than 1% of the population is fluent in English. As a result, many expats choose to learn Spanish before they relocate or once they move.

How safe is it to live in the Dominican Republic?

The U.S. State Department classifies the Dominican Republic as a country where foreigners should exercise increased caution due to rates of violent crimes like homicide and armed robbery. Generally, resort areas tend to be safer than Santo Domingo due to the presence of additional police.

What is the cost of living like in the Dominican Republic?

The cost of living in the Dominican Republic is generally lower than in the U.S. and Canada. Monthly living expenses in Santo Domingo are about 54% less than in New York City, and rent is about 85% lower.

Compared to Vancouver, consumer prices in the capital city are roughly 40% lower and rent costs 72% less.

Moving to the Dominican Republic

What is the education system like in the Dominican Republic?

Roughly 94% of Dominicans have basic literacy, but the public education system in the country faces challenges due to widespread poverty. Children can receive free public education starting at age six. Primary school is mandatory and lasts for six years.

Next, students have the option to continue their education for free if they wish. They can choose one of two tracks. With the traditional track, students complete two-years of intermediate school that culminate in the receipt of a Certificado de Suficiencia en los Estudios Intermedios. High school lasts four years, and during the last year, students decide between teacher training, technical-vocational training, or traditional academics.

Alternatively, students can complete a six-year reform system track that includes four years of science-heavy education and two years of additional education in an area of specialty.

Some expats forego the public school system and place their children in international schools. These private primary and secondary schools usually provide instruction in English as well as Spanish. Most international schools are located in Santo Domingo. The International Schools Database allows you to search for international schools based on your child’s age.

Post-secondary education has grown over the last two decades in the Dominican Republic. The most well-known post-secondary schools in the country are the Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago and the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo.

What is the healthcare system like in the Dominican Republic?

CEOWORLD magazine’s Health Care Index ranked the healthcare system of the Dominican Republic 72nd out of 89 countries studied. The country does offer a single-payer healthcare system that provides free and low-cost healthcare. However, the system does not provide equal access to all Dominicans. People living in rural areas often lack access to basic healthcare and are vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera and malaria.

Private healthcare is available to Dominicans on top of what the government provides. Private hospitals are mostly found in Santo Domingo and Santiago. Expats can access care through either public or private hospitals, but private institutions are more likely to have standards of care closer to what you’re used to experiencing in the U.S. and Canada. Even in private hospitals, not all staff will speak English.

The U.S. State Department provides a list of hospitals in Punta Cana, La Romana, Puerto Plata, Santiago, and Santo Domingo for quick reference.

What is the climate/weather like in the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has a tropical climate with warm, humid weather year-round. During the winter months of December–February, average temperatures are around 68–77°F (20–25°C). In the summer months, they rise to 77–81°F (25–27°C).

From May–November, the country goes through a rainy season that usually brings 4–8″ (100–200 mm) of rain per month. The country is inside of the Atlantic hurricane belt and is at risk for severe storms from August–October.

What is the quality of life in the Dominican Republic?

Expats often enjoy a better quality of life than many Dominican citizens due to increased financial security. The 2022 World Happiness Index ranked the Dominican Republic at 69 out of 146 countries. That’s higher than any other Caribbean nation, in fact.

Can I get a driver’s license in the Dominican Republic?

In Santo Domingo, you can travel to many places via the Metro Santo Domingo subway system, taxis, and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Cabify. To travel between cities, you can also take advantage of low-cost private bus services through companies like Metro Tours and Caribe Tours or minivan buses called guaguas.

Some expats decide to purchase cars and drive in the Dominican Republic. You can drive on a valid U.S. or Canadian license for up to three months before you need to obtain a Dominican license. The simplest way to do so is to have the embassy for your home country validate your license. Then visit your local office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Normally, you won’t have to take an additional test or undergo a medical exam, but you can expect to pay a fee that varies based on where you live.

Is it easy for Americans and Canadians to find a job in the Dominican Republic?

Unemployment has averaged around 5.5% in the Dominican Republic over the last 10 years. These economic conditions mean that there should be job opportunities, but many open positions will require a strong command of Spanish.

What are some things to do in the Dominican Republic? Exploring your new home

With around 800 miles of coastline (1,288 km) and water on three of its borders, the Dominican Republic is a paradise for beach lovers.

Some of the most popular beaches include:

  • Bávaro Beach in Punta Cana
  • Cabarete Beach in Cabarete
  • Kite Beach in Cabarete
  • Las Galeras beach area
  • Playa Dorada in Puerto Plata
  • Playa Grande in Rio San Juan
  • Playa Rincón beach area
  • Punta Rucia beach area

Beyond the beach, there are plenty of other popular tourist attractions to check out, such as:

Dominican culture: what to know

Some important customs and features of the culture of the Dominican Republic include:

  • Dancing: Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic. You will find this fast-paced, lively dance music playing in many places on the island, and it’s common to see people dancing the merengue in clubs and at festivals.
  • Cuisine: Dominican food blends flavors from Spain, Africa, and the local Taíno culture. One favorite dish is sancocho, a stew that includes seven types of meat.
  • Festivals and holidays: Some Dominican festivals are local and attract visitors from all over the island. An example is the annual El Carnaval de la Vega, which began as a religious celebration of good triumphing over evil. It has come to symbolize the island’s independence in modern times. Celebrations usually include wearing intricate papier mache masks. Other Dominican holidays are celebrated throughout the country, such as Christmas and Easter.
  • Sports: Baseball is the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, followed closely by boxing.
  • Kissing hands: You may sometimes hear talk of younger people kissing hands with their older relatives. This term doesn’t actually refer to kissing. Instead, it describes asking an older relative for a blessing.
  • Focus on fashion: Clothing is an important status symbol in the Dominican culture, particularly in the cities. Designer labels are highly sought as symbols of status and success.

What are the best places to live in the Dominican Republic?

When deciding where to live in the Dominican Republic, age, marital status, whether you have kids, and your income are important considerations. You’ll also want to consider your lifestyle and personal preferences.

For retirees

Juan Dolio is an ideal place for seniors looking for a comfortable, quiet retirement. The area has a small-town atmosphere and is home to expats from around the world. There are many restaurants, two golf courses, and a beach club, as well as gated communities to call home. In addition, Santo Domingo is just 45 minutes away, so there is still access to top hospitals.

La Romana is another great place to retire. There are both private and public hospitals and a wealth of recreational and cultural activities to enjoy. Accessing the city is easy, thanks to an international airport, and many expats call the area home. The area is more expensive than Juan Dolio, but the size of the population means there is also more to do and more housing options to consider.

For families

Families that want access to the most international schools and job opportunities may wish to settle in Santo Domingo. Popular neighborhoods for expats include quieter areas like Los Cacicazgos and Bella Vista or more bustling areas with access to services and shopping like Naco and Piantini.

People with significant savings or investments can consider Casa de Campo. The cost of living here is higher due to the presence of many luxury homes. There are large villas, three golf courses, and many upscale restaurants that give the area a country-club-type feel. Due to the high concentration of wealth, there are good schools and healthcare facilities in the area.

For young singles

As a hotspot for tourists, Punta Cana can be a great place for young singles to live. The area has a thriving nightlife. Many hotels and restaurants in the area look to hire English speakers who can communicate with tourists easily.

Sosua is another option for young adults who want plenty to do after the sun sets. The main strip in the beach city is home to clubs, bars, and restaurants. A large community of expats means that you’re likely to find other English speakers to socialize with.

How to find a place to live in the Dominican Republic

Online rental finders like International tend to feature high-priced luxury apartments, condos, and homes. If you’re looking for something in an affordable price range, consider working with a real estate agent located in the area where you plan to live.

Some people also rent out long-term AirBnB properties and then look for permanent housing. Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other expatriate forums can be a rich source of information for finding housing.

How to set up a bank account in the Dominican Republic

To pay for purchases and allow your employer or family members to send money to the Dominican Republic for you, it’s easiest to open a Dominican checking account. While you can get cash from an ATM with your home country debit card, you’ll want the convenience of local banking for your permanent residency.

The Corporate Finance Institute lists the following as among the best banks in the country:

Remitly is a trusted app for transferring money between accounts in your home country and your Dominican bank. You can choose to send money to the D.R. in pesos or in U.S. dollars with Remitly.