Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, located pre- cisely in the center of the Americas and bordered by Honduras to the north, Costa Rica to the South and both, the Pacific Ocean to the west and Caribbean Sea to the east, is a country that has it all: assured beauty, hospitable people, rich natural resources and tropical climate; a safe haven with excellent investment opportunities.
Residency and Citizenship in Nicaragua is regulated by Law 761 “General Law of Migration”. According to the Law, residents, defined as foreigners authorized by the General Customs Department to remain in Nicaragua for a period exceeding one year are classified as Temporary Residents, the foreigner who enters with the intention of residing in the country over a renewable period of one to three years, or for the time necessary to carry out the activities, cause or purpose that determined their admission, or Permanent Resident, the foreigner authorized by the General Customs Department, to reside in the country indefi- nitely, considering our country as his actual domicile.
Temporary residents are subdivided into different categories such as: Scientists, professionals, technicians and specialized person- nel; Entrepreneurs, directors, managers and administrative staff or operating domestic or foreign companies , business agents, Journalists; Students; Religious; independent workers as em- ployees; Artists ; Athletes; Refugees; Stateless Persons; and Exiles. In another hand, Permanent Residents includes Immigrant Resident with Capital or Investor, Resident with Employment Contract; Institutional Resident; Independent Resident and Retiree Resident.
In order to obtain a Nicaraguan Residency, the applicant must comply with the following requirements: Application form (available at Nicaraguan Immigration offices); Photocopy of the bio data page and most recent Nicaraguan entry stamps; two passport size photos; Birth certificate or Naturalization; Criminal Record Certificate; Health Certificate; Guarantee Deposit equivalent to the value of an airline ticket to the country of origin or previous residence; and any supporting docu- ments requested by Nicaraguan Immigration in the interview process, in order to support the residency application.
The previous documents must be issued by the competent authorities of the country of origin of the applicant, must be submitted in original and duly authenticated by the Consulate of Nicaragua in the country of origin, or Apostille in countries where the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents applies. Please note that each type of migratory category has additional requirements that must be fulfilled.
It is important to highlight that foreigners may acquire Nicaraguan Nationality by proving a four years residence from the date of obtaining permanent resident card, following the renunciation of origin or acquired nationality. An exception to this rule are foreigners natural from Spain and from Central America, and Resident with capital or Investor who can obtain Nicaraguan nationality when being permanent residents in Nicaragua for a continuous period of two years without having to renounce their country of origin. Similarly, the spouse by marriage with a Nicaraguan citizen may acquire Nicaraguan nationality when credited two years of permanent residence.
Another important Law that regulates this area is Law 694 “Law Promoting Immigration for Pensioners Residents and Resident Annuitant”. The multiple benefits assured by this Law, has defi- nitely encourage retirees from around the world to take up residence here in the past few years. Such Law contemplates two types of categories for residents. For Pensioner Resident status the applicant must demonstrate to receive a monthly pension equivalent in national currency to the amount of Six hundred Dollars (USD600.00) granted by governments or public or private institutions in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner; for Resident Annuitant status, it is required to demonstrate monthly pensions and permanent income generated by distribution utilities, rent or similar legal businesses that generate an amount minimum to the equivalent of Seven Hundred Fifty Dollars (USD750.00).
Among other benefits and exemptions, retirees has the opportunity to take advantage of duty free and import tax exemption for the introduction of household goods whose value cannot exceed USD20,000; exemption from import duties and value added tax (VAT) for the introduction or local purchase of a new or used vehicle, for personal use or their dependents; tax exemption on the purchase of building materials for their own housing, for a value not exceeding USD50,000; exemption of the Guarantee Deposit equivalent to the value of an airline ticket to the country of origin or previous residence required by authorities.
As to the process itself, it is not easy to estimate how long it will take to obtain residency in each of the categories, but it is relatively straightforward and with the proper guidance, an applicant can usualy obtain his residency within a 4-5 month period.
Regarding investment in our country, the Government of Nicaragua encourages foreign investors with attractive tax benefits in priority economic sectors such as: forestry, agriculture, Free Trade Zones, Electricity generation from renewable sources, exploration and exploitation of mines, fisheries and aquaculture industry, Hydrocarbons and Tourism, each of the sectors with a specific law regulation and also general laws such as: Investment Promotion Law (Law 344) and Tempo- rary Admission Regime in accordance with Law 382.
It is essential therefore, that investors be informed of the requirements and procedures to enjoy these tax benefits.