Getting Residency in Nicaragua

Buying real estate in Nicaragua can make getting residency easy! 

Getting Residency in Nicaragua

Joel Stott-Jess, Century 21, San Juan Del Sur

If you're moving to Nicaragua, getting residency is something you will want to consider.

Lets start with the basics. Until recently it was not absolutely necessary to get Nicaraguan residency even if you planned to spend most of the year in the country. Visitors from almost all nations receive a 90 day tourist visa on entry. These visas can be extended at Immigration offices in the major cities . It can be a pain to deal with these offices, so most people instead chose instead to leave the country and immediately come back in, getting a new 90 day visa on re-entry. Nicaragua is part of the CA-4 agreement with EL Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. As a result, leaving to any of these countries does not provide you with a new stamp. Costa Rica, however, is not part of the CA-4. So even an hour spent in Costa Rica was enough to immediately come back in.

This out-and-back method worked for many years, but now the Nicaraguan government has started cracking down on these "perpetual tourists". Immigration officials have begun hassling people who's passports are full of same-day exit and entry stamps for Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In the last couple months (August and September 2017) agents at the border have been warning these perpetual tourists that they may not be allowed back in the country next time. As far as we know no one has actually been denied re-entry as a result of an extended period of time here on a tourist visa. If they do change the rules a person could always stay a few days in Costa Rica every time to be sure of re-entry. There has been no change in the laws, only in the level of scrutiny of border agents and their policies.

Due to these changes, applying for residency is advantageous for permanently living or investing in Nicaragua. Some people with patience and good Spanish skills are able to navigate the byzantine government process of the immigration office. The vast majority of successful applicants for residency, however, use the services of an agent or lawyer. There are a number of agents in the major cities that do good work. You can ask around in your city for the best offer to suit your needs.

A Nicaraguan Cedula (ID or drivers license)

A Nicaraguan Cedula (ID or drivers license)

Categories of Residency:

The categories of Nicaraguan residency that can be applied for are: Foreigner Investor, Pensioner, Rentista, Employee, NGO/Ministry, and Spousal

  • Foreign Investor: A person can apply for residency in Nicaragua with a minimum of $30,000 invested into the country in any industry. The applicant is required to run a business or form a corporation. There are certain restrictions on whether the foreign investor can work in their own establishment, a subject your lawyer or adviser can answer for you.

  • Pensioner: Available to people aged 45 and older who can demonstrate stable future income. Pensioners must prove the value of their fixed income pensions, with a minimum of $600 per month.

  • Rentista: Similar to the pensioner, but applicable to people who's income derives from investments. This category is often more difficult to apply under, due to the variable nature of income from investments, equity, and dividends.

  • Employee: A Nicaraguan company can assist in acquiring residency for an employee. Generally the residency is valid for one year, and after three years it can be extended for five years.

  • NGO/Missionary: A valid local NGO or qualified religious group must support the application and provide proof of its work and status in Nicaragua. Residency is usually granted for one year.

  • Spousal: This category is usually more simple, requiring only the mandatory documents and a marriage certificate.

Mandatory Documents:

The Immigration Department, Dirrection General de Migracion y Extranjeria, lists the requirements for applying on their website  - in Spanish only. All documents must be submitted in triplicate.

  • Application form

  • Original passport with color photocopies

  • Photographs: Passport size, 4 ½ inches high by 3 ½ wide, on a white background, without glasses, without hat, ears and forehead must be visible

  • Birth Certificate

  • Criminal Record Check: authenticated by the Nicaraguan Consulate and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, apostilled, or in its absence, the Certificate of Interpol Nicaragua. Interpol in Managua can provide this document for $25

  • Health certificate, issued by the competent authority of your country of origin, or previous residence, or by the Nicaraguan health authorities.

Category-specific documents:

  • Copies of the article of incorporation of the company (for investors)

  • Pension letter (for retirees)

  • Proof of Investment investment income (for rentistas)

  • Marriage certificate (for spouses)

  • Complete and detailed list of household items and/or vehicle to be imported if applicable. This is not needed for residency process but will be required to process your received goods and/or vehicle.

Other documents will almost certainly be required to support the application, especially in the case of investors, retirees and rentistas. You can find out this information from your lawyer/agent or the representative at immigration.

Document Verification:

If you are from one of the 114 countries  of the 1961 Hague convention your documents can receive an apostille, an international certification similar to notarization.(Sorry Canadians, not you! We get to you in a minute.)

To receive an apostille the documents must be from the applicant’s home country must be authenticated by the nearest Nicaraguan Consulate within the issuing country. To get authentication in the United States, documents must be notarized and authenticated by a County Clerk or Secretary of State. See the Association of Departments of State website  for information on where in the US you can get the apostille.

Canadians need to have their documents notarized 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. Check before leaving Canada what documentation can be certified in Nicaragua.

Length of the Process

As of September 2017 the average wait time is twelve months. There is a back-log of applications for residency in Nicaragua at the moment and it is taking longer to process each one at this time. Another important this to note is how the applications are processed. If you submit your application and are missing a document, the immigration department will notify you and request the new item. However, when you re-submit with the new document, your application goes back to the "bottom of the pile" as it were. Meaning potentially months of extra wait time. So it's very important to ensure that you submit all the required documents, with apostille or notary certifications, and translations the first time. This is where a lawyer or agent truly earns their fee.

You should also note that police and health certificates are time-sensitive. They are only valid for 6 months after the time of issue. Ensure that you have all the other documents in order before applying for the police record check and health certificate. As long as these certificates are valid at the time of submission they will stay valid during the year-long process.

Residencies come in one year and 5 year approvals. Most people receive 5 year residency permits with pensioner, rentista, and spousal applications. One year residencies usually are for employees, NGO volunteers and missionaries.

Obligations of residency::

  • You must spend at least half the year in Nicaragua

  • Must respect the law

  • Renew your cedula every 5 years or when it expires

  • May not become involved in political activities

  • Provide proof of investment or pension income, if applicable, to INTUR

Cost to Apply:

Investor: $213 USD / 6400 Cordobas, plus costs of inspection of assets. MIFIC does not charge for the inspection but the investor must cover the transport and stipend costs of the inspector to come from Managua to check on the investment.

Pensioner/Rentista: $197 / 5900 Cordobas

Spousal: $197 / 5900 Cordobas

Other categories: $197 / 5900 Cordobas, ask at Immigration

Most lawyers and agents will charge from $500 to $1000 for their services. By the time you include the multiple trips to Managua, the time, and the costs in translating and notarizing documents it is often worthwhile to hire someone. In addition, if your application is rejected due to and incomplete or faulty documents you must pay the application fee again and start all over.

If you are looking at buying property and using that for residency contact me any time!

Joel Stott-Jess.jpg

Joel Stott-Jess

The author is an agent with Century 21 / Nica Life Realty in San Juan Del Sur. Originally from Alberta, Canada he has been doing business in Nicaragua since 2014. A serial entrepreneur, surfer, and outdoor enthusiast he is an expert on both the real estate and investment markets in Nicaragua.  Thanks to his lovely Nicaraguan wife, a medical doctor, he is also well informed on health care services in the country. 

Contact Information:

Joel Stott-Jess

Century 21 / Nica Life Realty

San Juan Del Sur

(+505) 8176 8624

skype: joel.stott.jess

Instagram: jstottjess


Some of those most recommended English speaking lawyers in Managua and San Juan Del Sur are:

Paul Tiffer, Managua

Tiffer and Associates

Lawyer and Public Notary

Address: Reparto Bolonia Hospital Militar 1c. al lago 1c. abajo

Cell: 8884-1652; Office Telephone: 2266-8622


Javier Quinto, San Juan Del Sur

Consortium Legal

Lawyer and Public Notary

Adress: BDF Bank, Half Block North, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragu

Tel: (+505) 8376 5632


Francisco Acevedo, San Juan Del Sur

Garcia and Bodan, Law Firm

Lawyer and Public Notary

Adress: Restuarante El Timon, Dos Cuadras Norte, Garcia and Bodan

Telephone: (505) 8435 3005 /