Settle in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s national motto is Pura Vida, which translates to “pure life,” and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this gorgeous Central American country. Thanks to its stunning scenery and friendly locals, Costa Rica has attracted nomads and ex-pats from all over the world. Although certain Costa Rican cities have a bit of a bad reputation as party towns, this country is one of the safest in Central America. And thanks to its popularity as a tourist destination, it has good health care and transportation.
It’s not as cheap as some of the other countries on this list, but you can live well in Costa Rica for a fraction of the cost of living in major cities like New York or Los Angeles. In general, Costa Rican residency can be a good option for people who want a second residency with minimal physical presence requirements, great health care benefits, or the possibility of citizenship.
Settle in Panama
If you’re looking for a second residency with minimal physical presence requirements in a business-friendly jurisdiction, look no further than Panama. Although the hype over the Panama Papers might tell you otherwise, Panama is a high-quality banking and business jurisdiction, and it’s also a tax-friendly second residency with its territorial tax system.
Panama is also a great option if you want to live in Central America with all of the conveniences that you have at home. It has most of the Western amenities that you’re used to, and it’s relatively well-connected to other parts of the world. Panama also has an incredibly low cost of living, and it’s quite possible to enjoy big city living in Panama City for as little as $1,500 per month.
Out of all the countries on this list, Panama perhaps offers the largest variety of residency options. The easiest option for Panamanian residency is the Friendly Nations Visa, but if you’re not from a qualifying country, then you still have other options as well.
THE PANAMA FRIENDLY NATIONS VISA
Most Westerners can use Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa to become a Panamanian resident. To be eligible to apply for the Friendly Nations Visa, you must be able to deposit $5,000 in a Panamanian bank account, and you must also have an economic tie to the country. The easiest way to do this is to start a company there, but you can also choose other options, such as investing in Panamanian businesses.
If you’re married or have children, you’ll need to deposit an extra $2,000 per dependent. From there, the process for applying for a Friendly Nations Visa is quite simple. Once you complete the financial requirements and gather your required documents, you’ll be all set for your Panamanian residency. Additionally, under this program, physical presence requirements are quite minimal. Like Costa Rica, you’ll only need to spend a day in the country per year to keep your residence permit.
The problem with the Friendly Nations Visa is that it’s only available to citizens of 50 different countries, which include most EU countries, major Asian economies like Taiwan and South Korea, and, of course, the US. If you’re like me and do not have citizenship in one of these countries, then you will not be eligible for this visa. Additionally, if you plan to renounce your US citizenship, you may not be able to keep your Friendly Nations Visa after you renounce – unless you choose to get Panamanian citizenship.
Settle in Honduras
Out Of the Central American countries on this list, Honduras tends to fly under the radar. While the country has a bit of a bad reputation internationally, there are plenty of excellent places to live in the country, and you’ll be able to enjoy breathtaking beaches for a fraction of the cost that you’d pay in Miami or even Costa Rica.
Obtaining residency in Honduras is also relatively simple. Most people will qualify for Honduran residency through three different visa types – Rentista, Retiree, or Investor. For all visa types, you will first need to enter the country on a tourist visa, and you will need a Honduran lawyer to represent you during the application process.
THE HONDURAN RENTISTA VISA
In order to qualify for the Honduran Rentista visa, you will need to show proof that you have an income of at least $2,500 from outside of Honduras. Unlike similar Rentista programs in Central America, this income cannot be from employment or self-employment. Instead, it must be from a more passive source like rental income or savings. If you meet that qualification, then you may hire a Honduran lawyer to begin the residency process. Because finding a good lawyer in Central America can be tricky, we recommend using a consultation service as well.
HONDURAN RETIREMENT VISA
If you can prove that you have a lifetime pension income of at least $1,500 per month, then you are eligible for the Honduran Retiree Visa.
To apply for a retiree visa, you will need to provide certified proof of that monthly income as well as standard residency documentation, including a police report from your current country of residence and a medical examination. Like all other visa types, you will need a Honduran lawyer to represent you during the application process.
Settle in Nicaragua
If you’re looking for a low cost of living with an outstanding quality of life, head to Nicaragua. This Central American country is one of the safest and most scenic countries in Latin America, but unlike its more expensive neighbor, Costa Rica, you can live there for remarkably little money. In fact, hiring a full-time housekeeper will only cost you slightly over $100 per month.
Getting a second residency in Nicaragua can, therefore, be a great way to lower your cost of living while enhancing your quality of life. And, luckily, getting your residence permit there isn’t too difficult.
GETTING THE SECOND RESIDENCY IN NICARAGUA
The process of getting your residence permit in Nicaragua is quite simple. And there are options for getting a second residence without an investment, making Nicaragua one of the easier places on this list to establish residency. In general, there are three ways that people commonly qualify for Nicaraguan residency. First, retirees who receive a public or foreign pension of $600 or more per month can qualify for Nicaraguan residency.
If you’re not retired, a second option is to qualify as a financier by proving that you have a foreign income of $750 per month (plus $150 for each dependent). Or, your third option is to invest $30,000 in an employment-generating business (creating 15 new jobs) or in land. For the most part, these criteria are straightforward and are enforced uniformly, but people occasionally run into trouble when applying for the financier residence permit since what qualifies as foreign income can be up to interpretation.
For example, while an investment account or annuity that pays $750 per month will surely qualify, running a remote business might not count in the eyes of all Nicaraguan officials. Once you’ve determined whether you can qualify for residency under one of those categories, you must then travel to Nicaragua to apply for your residence permit. You must remain in Nicaragua for 30 days after you submit your application.
For your application, you will need to fill out all the paperwork that Nicaraguan immigration requires for your particular type of residence permit, such as a formal application and health assessment. You will also need other documents like an apostilled copy of your birth certificate. When you complete your application, we highly recommend hiring a trusted local lawyer to assist with the process and speak directly with local officials.