How to move to
The Dominican Republic
Find A Job
The Dominican Republic is popular amongst adventurous expats seeking employment. It is a beautiful location on the island of Hispaniola, and offers opportunities for different kinds of work. The Republic operates a number of Free Trade Zones, in which expats can either set up their own businesses or work for an employer. These Free Zones operate 74 industrial parks, which are home to 705 companies. Secondment from your existing employer, if they have a base in the Dominican Republic, is also a possibility. Several multinationals are based there, including Canadian mining companies and the World Bank. Teaching and working in the hospitality industry are also options.
However, expats aspiring to work in the region should note that this can be a challenging working environment. Although the Republic is comparatively prosperous compared to its neighbours, it has a high rate of poverty and unemployment, and working conditions outside urban centres can be tough. Wages are also low, so if you’re looking to take up employment, it may be more for the experience than the salary. Be aware, too, that the region is prone to climate shocks.
What are the legal requirements for foreign employees?
You can apply for a temporary work visa, valid for one year, called a Carnet de permiso de trabajador con validez de un año. To do this, you/your employer will need to submit the following documents to the Department of Immigration:
• your passport (valid for 6 months)
• visa application form
• a medical certificate
• visa application letter – this must include your name, nationality, place of residence, current occupation and your plans when you enter the country, and should be addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• proof of funds, such as bank statements
• one 30mm x 30mm photo, stamped to show the date it was taken (this cannot be more than 6 months old)
• evidence that the place of work you will be joining in the Dominican Republic is registered with the Integrated System of Labour Registration (Sistema Integrado de Registro Laborales (SIRLA)). The place of work must also comply with Article 135 of the Dominican Labour Code on labour nationalisation
• an offer of work which shows you will be contracted for a year
• criminal record check
• your birth certificate (original) – this needs to be legalised and translated
• receipt of payment made to the Dominican Republic Consulate
Once on the ground, you will need to visit the General Directorate of Migration in Santo Domingo within 15 days of your arrival and complete the visa process. Immigration will need copies of the following:
• a medical certification to state you are in good health, and a receipt for payment
• original passport, plus three copies
• birth certificate, legalised and translated
• work contract
• two completed documents known as Application Form for Employers (Formulario de solicitud para empleadores) and Application Form for Workers (Formulario de solicitud para trabajadores)
• a criminal record check
• four passport photos
• a document showing your workplace insurance
You can also apply for a business visa that allows you multiple entries for a limited period. For example, if you are working on a contract with a company based in the Dominican Republic, this would allow you to travel back and forth.
However, if you are intending to spend more than two months consecutively in the Republic, you will need to apply for a residence permit (visa de residencia).
Are any skills in particular demand?
The Dominican Republic suffers from a general skills shortage and lack of education.
Teaching is a popular choice among expats, particularly TEFL, although salaries are low compared to other countries.
There is also work available in the construction industry, in nursing and medicine, and in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
It will be helpful if you speak at least basic Spanish.
What are typical working hours and annual holiday entitlement?
The working week is typically 40 hours: eight hours spread over a five-day week (Monday to Friday). Business hours range, but are usually sometime between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
You will be entitled to annual leave after one year of employment. Employees with less than five years in the company have the right to take 14 working days as annual leave, while those with more than five years will be entitled to 18 working days.
If you become pregnant, you are entitled to paid maternity leave during the six weeks that precede the birth and the six weeks that follow it.
Wages are typically low in the Dominican Republic, although you can expect to earn more as an expat, depending on your sector. The minimum wage is currently RD$10,000 (US$200) per month, but is due to rise by around 14%.
Can my spouse work?
Your spouse will need a separate work visa if they wish to take up employment, and they will also need to apply for a residence permit.
Are speculative applications to companies common?
You can approach companies in the region directly.
What is the best method of finding a job?
There are a number of online job boards and recruitment agencies that cover the Dominican Republic, including several for TEFL teaching work.
What is the recommended format for CVs/resumes and covering letters?
It is advisable to have your CV/resume translated into Spanish, the official language of the country, if you are not applying to an English-speaking multinational.
Which questions are illegal / can be asked in an interview?
The Dominican Republic is not yet up to speed with Western nations in terms of human rights, and there are reports of discrimination against those with lower incomes, people with disabilities, people of Haitian descent, women, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
Qualifications and training
If you are applying to a local company, you will need to have your qualifications translated into Spanish and you will also need to get them notarised. The immigration authorities may insist that this is done through an approved authority.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
In order to enter the Dominican Republic, you will first need to obtain a tourist visa, unless you are a resident of the United Kingdom (UK) or currently hold a visa for entry into the United States (US), Canada or any country in the European Union (EU). There are other types of visa available, but standard working visas and permits do not exist.
In order to work in the country, you simply need to hold a residence permit, either a temporary or a permanent one. Your temporary permit entitles you to live and work in the Dominican Republic for up to a year, at the end of which you are eligible to reapply. Once you have repeated this process for five years, you are able to apply for a permanent residence permit.
There are four types of entry visa available for the Dominican Republic: tourist, business, volunteer and student. However, as stated above, UK citizens (anyone with a British passport) are not required to obtain a tourist visa prior to entering the country, provided they fulfil certain requirements. You will usually be granted a 30-day stay upon arrival in the Dominican Republic, which can be extended to 60 days upon payment of a fee. All foreign nationals are required to give fingerprints and have a photograph taken in order to enter the country.
You must carry a photocopy of your passport, a copy of your entry stamp, and proof of return or onward travel with you at all times, in case you are asked to produce them for authorities such as the police. You may be refused entry if you cannot provide proof of onward or return travel upon entering the Dominican Republic.
As a UK citizen, if you intend to stay longer than 60 days, you can initially apply for a temporary residence permit. To do this, you will need to visit the Department of Migration and fill in the required paperwork. Once granted, the temporary residence permit enables you to live and work freely in the Dominican Republic.
For those travelling to the Dominican Republic from outside the UK, EU, US or Canada, there are four visa options:
A tourist visa is for anyone travelling for short-term leisure purposes. In order to apply for a tourist visa, you will need to visit your nearest Dominican Consulate and provide the following:
• your completed visa form (must be legible)
• one photograph
• your original passport, which must be valid for at least six months
• proof of economic solvency, for example, a current or savings account statement
• a copy of your National ID card, residence card or other identification that proves your nationality and residence status
• a copy of your hotel reservation in the Dominican Republic
• a copy of your return flight reservation with dates clearly visible
• the £200 fee (payable in cash or by postal order; cheques are not accepted)
Once your tourist visa is granted, it is valid for 30 days.
A business visa is for individuals intending to remain in the Dominican Republic on a long-term basis for business purposes. To apply for a one-year business visa, each person applying will need to provide the following:
• a valid passport
• one photograph
• contract or letter from the Dominican company you will be working for
• birth certificate
• proof of university degree and CV
• Certificate of Labour from the Ministry of Labour of the Dominican Republic, including the Resolution No. 135 (this document will be supplied by the local company you are contracted to work for)
• Certificate of Good Conduct
• Letter of Guarantee from a Dominican citizen or company
• a letter from your GP stating that you are healthy
• a recent bank statement, as proof of capital
• application form
• the £450 visa fee (non-refundable and payable at time of application)
All documents must be in Spanish. If you require help with translating your documents into Spanish, your local embassy should offer a translation service, though the fee for this is around £40 per document.
Volunteer Or Religious Work Visa
This visa is suitable for anyone who has already secured voluntary or religious work in the Dominican Republic. To apply for a year-long visa, each applicant must supply the following:
• a valid passport
• one photograph
• a contract or letter from the Dominican company or religious organisation they will be working for
• birth certificate
• certificate of good conduct
• a letter from your GP stating that you are healthy
• recent bank statement, as proof of capital
• application form
• the £450 visa fee (non-refundable and payable at time of application)
Although this visa is valid for 12 months, it is based upon the idea of the bearer travelling in and out of the country and only staying for two consecutive months at a time. If you intend to stay for the whole year-long period, you need to speak to the Migration Directorate in Santo Domingo, who will grant you permission to do so.
This option is for students who have been accepted onto a course at a local school or university in the Dominican Republic. To apply for a 12-month student visa, you must provide:
• your valid passport
• one photograph
• a letter of acceptance from a registered school, institute or university
• Certificate of Good Conduct
• a letter from your GP stating that you are in good health
• a recent bank statement, as proof of funds
• application form
• the £300 visa fee (non-refundable and payable at time of application)
Foreign nationals in the Dominican Republic are categorised as either non-resident or resident. Non-residents are individuals who are visiting the country for a short period and with a specific intention, such as to take a holiday. Residents are foreign nationals who are living in the country for an extended period, and have sought legal residency status and obtained an identification card (Cedula de Identidad Personal).
Anyone over the age of 18 may apply for Dominican residency. Initially, you must apply for temporary residency. Once granted, this is valid for 12 months, during which time you may freely live and work in the country. At the end of this period, you can renew your temporary permit for another year.
After five years as a temporary resident, you will be entitled to apply for permanent residency. This visa can take up to six months to be issued, so it is important to apply well in advance of your most recent temporary visa expiring. Your first step is to send a letter of application to the Minister of Foreign Relations. This should contain your personal details, including your full name, nationality and place of residence. You should also explain your connection to the country; this could be by origin, marriage or employment.
Further to your application letter, you will need to provide:
• the visa application form
• your valid passport, plus two copies
• birth certificate, plus one copy
• a medical certificate
• a police certificate, including a criminal record check
• your employment contract
• marriage certificate, if the application includes a spouse
• birth certificates of any children (under the age of 18) included in the application
• three photographs (2 x 2 inches, with a white background)
If the application includes a child who will not be residing in the country with both parents, it is required that the parent who is remaining outside the Dominican Republic authorises the other parent to move permanently to the country with the child.
Once the visa is granted, you must report to the Department of Immigration within 30 days, taking with you the following:
• medical examination results
• a police certificate
• character references from two independent witnesses
• your residence card
• four recent passport-style photographs
At this stage, you will be asked to sign papers and have your fingerprints taken.
Permanent residents must renew their residency card after 12 months, initially, and then once every four years. After 10 years, permanent residents will be issued a non-renewable residency card.
You must live in the Dominican Republic on a temporary residency for five years before you are eligible for permanent residency. You must then wait a further two years before you can apply for citizenship.
You can apply to the Department of Interior for citizenship. The procedure includes an interview, which will be undertaken in Spanish, alongside the paper application process. Within five months of passing the interview, you will be summoned to take an oath. Within a further two months, you will be issued a Dominican birth certificate and be eligible to obtain a Dominican identification card. Once these steps have been taken, you will be able to apply for a Dominican passport.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
Most leases in the Dominican Republic are negotiable. However, if you have inadvertently rented a short-term holiday let, the landlord may be resistant to your wanting to stay longer than a few months.
You will usually be expected to pay for the drawing up of the lease agreement. This will be in Spanish, so you need to make sure you understand all of it.
You will normally pay three months’ deposit up front, and if you find your home through a third party, such as an estate agent, then they will receive one month of your deposit as a fee, so you will not be getting that back.
Many apartments are in complexes, with their own security and shared amenities, such as pools. These have management charges on top of the usual rent, which typically range from RD$5,440 to $27,200 (US$100 to US$500).
You will probably be responsible for repairs to the property. If you find a place that you think needs work, don’t take on more than you can handle.
The most popular method of finding rental properties is word of mouth. Many long-term renters first book to stay in hotels or holiday apartments, while they search for somewhere more permanent.
If you are working, then you will probably want to live in Santo Domingo or Punta Cana, which have the best infrastructures and connections. These are also the two most expensive destinations. A one-bedroom apartment in central Santo Domingo costs, on average, around RD$24,100 (US$443) per month. Further out, the price drops to an average of RD$12,560 (US$231) per month, while a three-bedroom apartment averages RD$21,900 (US$403). Punta Cana manages to be more expensive than the capital, with a central one-bedroom apartment costing around RD$30,100 (US$565).
Inexpensive living in coastal towns is also popular with expats. In Puerto Plata, a central one-bedroom apartment costs, on average, RD$10,000 (US$185) per month, while a three-bedroom apartment costs around RD$20,200 (US$371). Prices drop by US$50 or more as you head away from the centre.
Note that the further you are from a population centre, the more you will need good Spanish.
Remember that everything is negotiable in advance. Always be respectful, but always be prepared to walk away. Always be suspicious of anyone who seems to be rushing you into an agreement.
The lease must be in Spanish, but you are entitled to a copy in your own language. You may want to translate the Spanish copy yourself and compare it to the translation supplied. The best leases are simple, one-page affairs. The longer the lease, the higher the chances of someone trying their luck.
Some landlords may require you to name a Dominican citizen or resident as a rent guarantor.
Take responsibility for your own utilities, as landlords may let them lapse without giving you warning. See if you can deduct the necessary costs from your rent.
Check that there are no outstanding bills from the previous tenant, as otherwise you may find yourself liable for paying them. If it turns out there are bills, you can offer to pay them on the condition that the amount is deducted from your rent.
Water and electricity can be unreliable. Make sure you know how often the electricity goes out. If it is often, make sure that the property has a backup generator, or invest in your own. Some areas will shut power off on a regular basis to conserve supplies; try to learn the schedule. Many backup systems cannot run full air conditioning, but can manage fans. Consider whether you can bear to live in your property with just fans to keep you cool.
If the property cooks on gas, find out whether this comes from a central system or from individual propane tanks that will need refilling. If the former, check whether this is included in the rent or means a separate gas bill. If the latter, check the costs and the procedure.
The qualities of internet connections vary widely, especially in non-urban areas. Bear this in mind if you want to stream high quality videos.
Get a receipt for everything. Not having a receipt is a common excuse for someone trying to rip you off.
The Dominican Republic welcomes foreign buyers with open arms. Retirees with a minimum stable income of just $1,500 a month are guaranteed residence. Foreign buyers have a 50% exemption from property tax, and exemption from taxes on forms of income, such as pensions, dividends or interests, whether they come from home or abroad.
The first thing to do if you find a property is to research it at the local titles office. Verify that the property officially exists, i.e. that it has been subject to an official government demarcation survey (deslinde). Check that the people selling it actually have the right to do so. See whether there is a mortgage or other lien already on the property – if there is, then it will be recorded with the title deed. Also, check there are no squatter’s rights on the property. Next, go to the tax office (Impuestos Internos) to make sure that all taxes relating to the property have been paid.
You can conduct both checks yourself, but will probably want to hire a solicitor instead. They should also check there are no unpaid bills.
Once you are satisfied, make your offer verbally to the seller, taking into account any unpaid taxes etc. Written offers are rare and carry no weight. You may be asked to establish your identity, but your passport is enough to do this.
The seller’s solicitor (normally paid for by the buyer) then draws up a Promise of Sale (promesa de venta). This is legally binding and must be signed by both parties (including spouses) in front of a notary. A 10% deposit is usually paid into an escrow account at this stage, to reserve the property for you and to confirm it is off the market for other buyers.
The promesa de venta must include: full names and particulars of all parties; a full legal description of the property; purchase price and payment terms; a default clause; the date of the property being handed over; any due diligence still to be done; remedies in the event of misrepresentation; and an obligation for the seller to sign the Deed of Sale upon receipt of final payment.
All funds from the buyer need to be in escrow three days before the formal closing. The Deed of Sale (contracto de venta) is then signed by both parties in front of a notary, which conveys the property from the buyer to the seller. The buyer has immediate right to take possession, though it may be a month before the sale is formally recorded with the Register of Titles by your solicitor.
If the property is worth more than RD$6.5 million (around US$135,000), the new owner must pay an annual property tax of 1% of its value. There is also a one-time property transfer tax of 3% of the value. With the incentives offered to foreign buyers, you may be exempt from these, but this must still be established formally. The contracto de venta must therefore be taken to the nearest taxation office, and a request must be made for the property to be appraised. This must be done before the title deed can be filed.
No transfer tax is paid if the property is held in a Dominican corporate name. The corporation holds only one asset – the property – and this is transferred. For around US$1200, your solicitor can establish a corporation that will let you avoid this tax when you decide to sell.
In all, you will pay around 5% of the total sale price in taxes, closing costs and legal fees.
Using Google and local knowledge are good bets for finding property. Bearing in mind that all the legal parts of the process will be in Spanish, you may prefer to go through an estate agent, who can take care of the formalities on your behalf.
Almost anyone can present themselves as an estate agent, so make sure you use a proper, bona fide organisation if you choose this route. It may be worth checking that they have an office, a website and more than one member of staff. Professional agencies will have staff who speak Spanish and English. Choose a local agency with local staff; they will feel more involved in your purchase in their area.
Foreigners enjoy the same rights as citizens. For statistical purposes, the Title Registry Office must keep a record of all purchases made by foreigners.
Before purchasing a property, check which electrical circuit it is on: A, B, C, or D. Circuit A has electricity 24 hours a day, but the others have less, with circuit D only having around 8 hours a day.
Check whether water comes from a cistern, a well or the mains and whether it goes off.
Not all areas have an organised rubbish collection. You may have to find a way to dispose of your rubbish yourself.
Most property transactions in the Dominican Republic are done in cash. However, the government is encouraging foreign investment with tax incentives, and the local mortgage market has recently boomed. Typically, local banks will loan 70% of the appraised value of the property, with interest rates typically ranging from 7% to 9%.
Once a mortgage has been agreed, you will need to sign it in person. However, you may be able to nominate someone with power of attorney to sign it in your name, so long as you discuss this with your bank.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Dominican Republic health insurance
The healthcare system in the Dominican Republic has faced a lot of reforms since 2001, year by year. The old system was considered inefficient, underfunded and low quality. Patients used to have huge out-of-pocket expenses, even for the poorest Dominican citizens.
The current healthcare system has three different tiers:
- Subsidized regime, which is financed by the government for unemployed, poor, disabled and indigent people.
- Contributive regime, which is financed by workers and employers
- Contributive subsidized regime, which is financed by independent workers, technical workers, and self-employed people, but subsidized by the state
Expats who work in the Dominican Republic are mostly part of the contributive regime, but it is wise to check out your options with your employer. Private health insurance or complementary insurance is very important to obtain in order to avoid huge gaps in costs when going for a treatment or even just visiting a doctor. The reforms still have a long way to go when it comes to the public healthcare system. Four years ago, even though reforms started in 2001, just 60% of workers were contributing to the public healthcare.
The phone number for emergency medical assistance in the Dominican Republic is 911. It’s wise to have emergency numbers of the local police station, clinic, ambulance and fire department on hand too. The standard of healthcare in this country largely depends on the chosen clinic. If expats have to visit a doctor for non-urgent reasons, then the services in are fine. However, in an emergency, things can be quite complicated. The emergency number can often be offline and there are very few ambulances available. When people need emergency help due to an accident or similar situation, they can expect to be transferred to a hospital by any means, such as car, police car or even motorbike.
Movimed, Santo Domingo
809 532 0000
Promed, Santon Domingo
809 948 7200
Santiago, Puerta Plata, La Romana
1 200 0911
Apart from in public hospitals where the healthcare is mostly free, insurance is crucial in this country. Many hospitals do not treat expats without proof that they can pay for it. Expats need to show cash or proof of insurance. Hospitals in the Dominican Republic do not all accept the same kinds of insurance, so it is best to check with a local hospital or clinic to see which insurance type is accepted before you are admitted. Emergency treatment is not free and it can cost quite a lot. In general, there are no particular problems with healthcare for foreigners, but the costs can be significantly higher than for Dominican citizens.
Diet and common health problems
The percentage of diabetes and high blood pressure among the Dominican population is higher than in other countries. The reason for that can be found in a diet which includes a lot of salt, sugar and oil. The average diet in the Dominican Republic largely lacks vitamins and fresh vegetables. It has a high carbohydrate level, mostly because of the rice which is eaten almost on daily basis. In the last ten years, there has been an increase in obesity and heart disease problems in this country.
The attitude of this country towards smoking can be seen as quite relaxed. There are very few restaurants and bars that forbid smoking in the Dominican Republic. Air-conditioned restaurants sometimes have a ban on smoking, but this is never the case when it comes to open-air restaurants. Smoking among Dominicans is not so common, largely because of the high price of cigarettes. However, the vast majority of expats are smokers, probably due to the country’s relaxed attitude towards it and the prices that are still lower than in many other countries.
Health risks and vaccinations
As the Dominican Republic is a tropical country, there are some health risks that cannot be found in Europe and North America. Due to high temperatures and quite intense sunshine, it is advised to wear sunscreen. It is interesting to know that most expats who live here rarely sunbathe.
There are a number of insects that people should be aware of, even though they do not bring fatal consequences. Numerous mosquitoes in the Dominican Republic can bring you dengue fever or malaria. As dengue fever is widespread in this country, it is best to prevent bites by using a repellent, fumigating the home and garden, to ensure that there’s no standing water which may be inviting for them. Long trousers are also a good idea. The mosquitoes that carry dengue are known as "patas blancas", meaning that they have white feet, which makes them easily recognizable compared to other insects.
The water in the Dominican Republic is not safe to drink, but 5 gallon containers of drinking water can be bought for just one dollar. The tap water is considered to be safe for cooking and brushing teeth, but it is still smart to double check, depending on the area. The water comes from either a central water system or a well, which then goes to the cistern.
Other health problems
Most tourists and expats have stomach troubles while spending time in the Dominican Republic. This happens mostly due to food poisoning or infections caused by amoebas and parasites. They can be all easily dealt with by taking proper medications, but it’s better to visit a doctor first, in order to find out which infection it is and determine which medications are best for it. All areas of this country have testing facilities. In order to avoid health issues, it’s smart to wash fruit and vegetables with bottled water before eating them. Hands should be also washed frequently.
There are also some other diseases that are frequent in this country, such as Hepatitis, Typhoid, Aids and Cholera. Even though it’s not necessary to be vaccinated before entering the country, expats should be aware that they are contractable here.
Open A Bank Account
Several banks operate in the Dominican Republic, both retail and commercial ones. After the huge collapse of Banco Intercontinental in 2003, when it was discovered that the bank’s leading executives had been committing fraud, banking law was changed and strengthened in order to avoid any future banking problems. The only foreign retail bank is Scotiabank who bought a large part of Banco Intercontinental, or "Baninter". Other major retail banks in Dominican Republic include Banco Leon, Banco Popular and Banreservas.
The official currency in the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso (RD$). One peso is divided into 100 centavos. Pesos come in $20, $50, $100, $200, $500, $1000 and $2000 notes, while centavos come in $1, $5, $10 and $25 coins. Even though the peso is the official currency in this country, US dollars and Euros are accepted everywhere, because tourism is one of the country’s biggest industries. The use of other currencies is sanctioned by the government and the Dominican peso is currently quite stable after a huge value drop in 2004, but inflation is a common issue in this country.
The opening hours in this country vary by bank, but in general, banks are open from 9 am to 4 pm and until noon on Saturdays. Some banks open at 8 am, while some close at 5 pm. Very long queues can expected on work days, especially near the beginning and the end of the month. The best time to visit a bank would be around lunchtime, when most people are at home eating. There are several banks inside supermarkets that have the same opening hours as the supermarkets themselves. A good thing about these is that they are mostly open until 8 pm, when the shopping complex also closes. Many banks in supermarkets are open even on Sundays.
Opening a bank account
Opening a new bank account in the Dominican Republic is quite a straightforward process, although it varies from bank to bank, and sometimes even by branch. As is the case with most businesses in the country, a good personal relationship is always important. It’s not common for bank managers to speak English except in expat areas. When opening an account, it’s necessary to provide a copy of your passport, a letter of recommendation from the home bank and details of existing bank account with sources of income.
In the Dominican Republic, there are several types of bank accounts. Accounts can be opened in pesos or dollars. A Dominican peso account brings customers the advantage of having a credit or debit card and a cheque book, while a dollar account can only get you a transaction booklet. Credit cards are not common in this country as the interest rates are around 10%, which is quite expensive.
Mortgages and loans
Mortgages and loans are available in the Dominican Republic, but expats must be aware that interest rates are very high. When it comes to mortgages, the penalties for late payment are very high. Due to the high level of interest rates for loans, there are also high levels for savings. The Central Bank offers Certificates of Deposits for different periods of time, with interest paid monthly into the retail bank account. The levels of interest depend on the amount that was invested and the duration. Many expats actually live off this income.
ATMs and credit cards
ATMs can be found all over the country, inside and outside banks, at gas stations, in supermarkets and shopping malls. Expats must be aware of the transaction limits as well. The maximum is usually 10,000 pesos, which is around $210 USD. Because of the presence of ATM fraud, it is best to withdraw money at the bank, where it’s always possible to talk to the staff when some problems occur. ATMs usually accept all sorts of cards, not just Dominican, but also foreign ones. However, charges for using the cards of some overseas banks are around 100 pesos.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in this country, but American Express is not an option in some of the country’s major outlets. Even though there’s a large number of ATMs in the country, expats rarely use credit cards, but rather deal with cash, considering it much safer. Transferring money from abroad can take up to 10 days, and any sum over $10,000 USD is often held by the bank until the recipient proves the source of the funds.
Income tax is established by the law 11-92 and governed by the Direccion General de Impuestos Internos, or DGII. All work which is carried out in the Dominican Republic is taxable, while any type of work from outside the country is not taxable. However, once expats have had residency status for more than three years, their income from overseas - both financial and investing - is the subject of taxation. When expats work for a company, their taxes are automatically deducted, while in the case of self-employed people, it’s necessary to register with the DGII. Tax is paid monthly, but the DGII usually demands more money at the end of the year, especially from foreigners.
The tax is based on a sliding scale, which rises each year along with inflation. In reality, only 8% of people pay tax in this country, as all the others earn below the minimum level. Those who work on a freelance basis must know that it’s a common practice for the client to deduct 10% of the agreed fee for taxation. There is no double taxation agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States, but there is one with Canada.
More information can be found via the Direccion General de Impuestos Internos.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
If you are intending to move to the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with its neighbour Haiti, one of your first questions will be how easy it is to communicate. Will you need to learn Spanish (the official language of the island)? Do many people speak English? We will answer some of your questions below.
The Dominican Republic is Spanish-speaking with a number of dialects. However, it has influences from West African languages, from Arawak (the tongue of the Taíno people, the island’s original indigenous inhabitants) and may use words that come from older forms of Spanish, so if you speak pure Castillian yourself, you may find that Dominican Spanish is not entirely familiar. It has been described by native speakers as an Andaluzian-Canarian Spanish-West African dialect with Portuguese influences: its basis is from the dialects of Southern Spain. Local accents and linguistic quirks further make communication tricky, but if you have basic Spanish, you should be able to make yourself understood.
Around 80% of the population speak Dominican Spanish. Other dialects on the island include:
• Haitian Creole (a blend of West African, Spanish and French)
• Southwestern Creole English (a combination of West African and English)
• Samaná English (similar to Southwestern Creole and spoken by the descendents of African slaves: the dialect is waning today)
• Chinese (the island has a Chinese population, mainly refugees from the time of the Chinese Revolution)
English is recognised by the Dominican government and along with French, is taught in schools: it is mandatory for pupils to learn the language. Thus many Dominicans will speak basic English, particularly younger people and those who work in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Dominican American expats have influenced the rise of English, and so has the popularity of American television and music. The use of the English language is thus growing in the island.
Despite its rise, however, Spanish is still the main business language in the Dominican Republic and if you are working in the region, a good standard of Spanish will stand you in good stead.
It is advisable to learn some basic phrases before you go, but if you are on the ground, then you might like to take Spanish classes. There are language schools across the country, particularly in urban centres such as Santo Domingo and Sosua: some are situated in the University Quarter of Santo Domingo and you may wish to enquire at the University itself as well. You can even combine your Spanish tuition with learning to surf! A number of schools offer immersive courses and if you sign up for one of these, make the most of your tuition by going out and talking to local people as well, rather than an English-speaking student group.
English teachers who like the idea of a Caribbean experience might like to put the Dominican Republic high on their list: it is a friendly place to work and although there are wealth inequalities, the standard of living is reasonably high in comparison to some of the country’s neighbours.
You will need a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
Language schools in the Dominican Republic do not insist on a Bachelor’s degree: but basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries range from US$500 – 800 per month: you will not make a fortune teaching English here although the cost of living is commensurate.
This is a country in which teaching English is more about seeing the world and experiencing another culture than earning a high salary, although you could earn more through teaching business professionals rather than younger students. The English market sector in the Dominican Republic is not great and you are most likely to find work in the cities, such as Santo Domingo and Santiago. The peak hiring months are January-March and May-August.
The government has been hiring TEFL teachers for university and college level work, but you may find jobs in local schools as well, in addition to the private sector. There is a growing demand for English tuition due to the rise of employment opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industries. International schools tend to follow an American curriculum.
If you are intending to take up interpreting or translation work, you may not find many opportunities to do this in the Dominican Republic, and it goes without saying that your Spanish will need to be of an extremely high standard. If you are a professional interpreter or translator, however, it is worth enquiring at university or government level, or advertising for work privately if you are permitted to work in the country.
Choose A School
The government of the Dominican Republic spends around 2-4% of GDP on education, which is below the OECD reporting average. The education system is seen by some as somewhat perpetuating the disadvantages faced by the rural/poorer population. However, the literacy rate has been improved considerably, and stands at around 93%. Additionally, there has been a significant government-led drive to create extra vocational qualification opportunities for Dominican children.
State education in the Dominican Republic is compulsory for ages 6 – 15 or 16, and is provided free for all children up to university level. The system has undergone massive reforms, under a series of government-led drives to improve equality and standards. Alongside the state system, there are a number of private schools, many run by the Church.
There are also a few independently run international schools, where multilingualism is strongly encouraged, and generally classes are given in English/Spanish.
If you are coming to the Dominican Republic, you will find that the education system here is of course very different from the UK or US systems. For a start, all lessons in state schools will be conducted in Spanish. If your child needs Spanish tuition to be able to enter the state system, this is best arranged locally on arriva.
State education provisions, controlled by the Ministry of Education are divided into several levels:
• pre-education (optional before age 6)
• primary education (from 6 to 10)
• middle school (from age 11 – 14)
• upper secondary school (from age 15 – 18), or
• technical/vocational programs (from age 15 – finish)
After completion of compulsory middle school, students will have to choose whether to continue with general academic studies in upper secondary school, with the ultimate aim of going on to university, or to enter a technical school or vocational program, where subjects would include teaching, medicine, construction, engineering, IT, agriculture and many other fields. The duration of tuition will depend on the field chosen, but is typically 3 – 6 years.
Tertiary education is provided by colleges or the university of San Domingo, or in association with overseas universities.
The curriculum at all levels is set by the Ministry of Education, with the express aim of improving quality and equality.
Homeschooling is legal in the Dominican Republic, and there are expat groups on the island who are willing to help you through the whole process if you choose this route for your children.
Private schools will generally have similar curricula to state schools, but are increasingly used by foreign nationals who feel that they might give their children a better education than that provided by the state.
There are also a small number of international schools, mainly bilingual English/Spanish, running on US, UK or European curricula, with one or two offering the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). The IB is widely recognized throughout the world by further education institutions, for those wanting to go on and attend foreign universities.
Here are just a few of the international schools in the Dominican Republic:
• Doulos Discovery School, Jarabacoa (Christian bilingual Spanish/English)
• Abraham Lincoln School, La Romana (bilingual English/Spanish to university entrance level)
• Ecole Francaise, Las Terrenas (French to university entrance level)
• American School, Santo Domingo (English, US curriculum)
• Saint George School, Santo Domingo (IBDP)
• Saint Joseph School, Santo Domingo (US college prep curriculum)
• Garden Kids International School, Puerto Plata (bilingual English/Spanish, with local and expat enrolment)
There are many others to choose from depending on your eventual destination in the country, and your needs and budget.
International schools are in general very popular with expats, so it will be necessary to contact them as soon as possible to secure a place for your child. Fees can also be quite expensive, which may need to be factored in to contract negotiations with your employer.
Further education is provided for Dominican nationals and foreign students at a mixture of public and private universities and colleges. Some expat children may choose to at least look at local higher education opportunities here, especially if they intend to stay in the country after attaining a degree.
However, whilst the University of Santo Domingo is a solid institution, with a decent reputation, many students (local and foreign) will choose to continue their studies abroad. In general, those who successfully complete their education under the Dominican education system (public or private), will find their academic achievements widely recognised, allowing them to fit in wherever they go in the world.