Visas, Residency, and More

Recently, a number of people have asked me for advice on obtaining residency in Nicaragua.  Since Justin and I do not yet have it, I am no expert.  Nevertheless, I thought it might be helpful to post some info I found on the process for those people exploring the option:

Information below was found at the following website:

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  A valid U.S. passport is required to enter Nicaragua.  Although there is a bilateral agreement that waives the six-month validity passport requirement, U.S. citizens are urged to ensure that their passports are valid for the length of their projected stay in the country before traveling.  U.S. citizens must have an onward or return ticket and evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay.  A visa is not required for U.S. citizens; however, a tourist card must be purchased ($5.00) upon arrival.  Tourist cards are typically issued for 30 to 90 days.

A valid entry stamp is required to exit Nicaragua.  Pay attention to the authorized stay that will be written into your entry stamp by the immigration inspector.  Visitors remaining more than the authorized time must obtain an extension from Nicaraguan Immigration.  Failure to do so will prevent departure until a fine is paid.

There is also a $32 departure tax, the payment of which may or may not be included in your ticket.  If not, payment can be made at the ticket counter.

Per Nicaraguan law, individuals should exit Nicaragua with the same passport with which they entered the country.  Dual national minors who entered Nicaragua on their Nicaraguan passports will be subject to departure requirements specific to Nicaraguan children under the age of 18, even though they may also be citizens of other countries.  More information on these requirements can be found on the U.S. Embassy web site at  

Also note that all non-Nicaraguan citizens must be in possession of a valid identity document  — passport or Nicaraguan permanent or temporary residency card — at all times while traveling or residing in Nicaragua and may be required to show their documentation to Nicaraguan authorities upon request.

In June 2006, Nicaragua entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints.  U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries.  Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days.  Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the four-country region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present, or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region.  Foreigners “expelled” from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire “CA-4” region.  In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to some travelers and has resulted in others being fined more than one hundred dollars or detained in custody for 72 hours or longer.

For the most current information about visas to visit Nicaragua, visit the Embassy of Nicaragua web site at


U.S. citizens coming for short visits to Nicaragua generally do not need Nicaraguan visas.  However, if you plan to live here on a more permanent basis, you will need to obtain a residency permit.  The best source of information on Nicaraguan Immigration laws is the Nicaraguan government.  We strongly suggest that you contact the Nicaraguan government and/or a Nicaraguan attorney should you have specific questions regarding Nicaraguan immigration laws and procedures.  Hiring an attorney can help guide you through the bureaucratic process.

The information below provides a brief sketch of Nicaraguan immigration procedures and – as Nicaraguan immigration laws change – may not be entirely accurate.

Requesting an Extension of Stay

Nicaraguan Entry/Exit Stamps

Nicaraguan Residency Requirements

Dual Nationality

At the port of entry, Nicaraguan immigration officials determine how long foreign tourists may stay in Nicaragua.  Those entering without a visa generally can stay up to ninety (90) days.  Foreign tourists requesting an extension of stay should apply at the main offices of Nicaraguan Immigration.

Generally speaking, the following is required:

  • Form requesting an extension of stay (available at the Immigration office)
  • Your Passport (valid for at least an additional six months)
  • Your Nicaraguan entry/exit Stamp given to you by Immigration when you entered Nicaragua
  • Fee ranging from approximately $12.00 for one month to less than $40.00 for a three-month extension.

Nicaraguan Immigration imposes a fine on foreigners who exceed their length of stay without proper authorization.  Generally, the fine amounts to a little over $1.00 per day of illegal stay and the foreigner may not leave the country until the fine is paid.  This fine is often waived if the U.S. citizen is a dual national and has a Nicaraguan passport.

If you are a foreign tourist, your Nicaraguan entry/exit stamp or form authorizing an extension-of-stay must be presented to Nicaraguan Immigration prior to departing Nicaragua.

If you cannot present either of these documents, you will need to go to a Nicaraguan immigration office to seek a replacement.

If you cannot present your entry/exit stamp because it was stolen or lost along with your U.S. passport, then the U.S. Embassy can provide you with a letter for Nicaraguan Immigration.  This letter will explain the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the new passport and request the issuance of a replacement entry/stamp stamp.  You will need to present this letter, your new passport, and request form (available in their offices).  Unless you have overstayed the time allotted to you upon entry into Nicaragua, you will not have to pay a fee.

There are two main categories of residency in Nicaragua: permanent and temporary. Under these two main categories exist a wide variety of subcategories with varying requirements.  The best source of information on Nicaraguan residency requirements is the Nicaraguan government and/or a Nicaraguan attorney

The following requirements are common to most subcategories of residency:

  • Residency request form (available at the Immigration office)
  • Your passport (valid for at least an additional six months)
  • Photocopy of every used page of your passport
  • Two Nicaraguan passport-size photographs
  • Criminal background certificate* (requirement waived for minors)
    Health certificate*
  • Birth certificate*
  • Fees ranging from approximately $12.00 for the residence card to $30.00 for the residency fee.

*Please note that the Nicaraguan government has specific requirements for these documents.  You should contact them before you begin this process in order to understand the exact requirements. The Nicaraguan goverment generally requires that documents coming from the United States be aunthenticated. You will need to contact the authenticating authority in the State (or jurisdiction) where the document was issued to initiate this process. In some cases the Nicaraguan goverment has been known to accept copies of documents sworn to be true  and accurate by the bearer and notarized at the U. S. Embassy. Sample language for such a sworn statement can be found here. You should check with the Nicaragua goverment first to understand what they will accept.

Subcategories for permanent residency include:

• Immigrant resident
• Investors
• Resident leasing or renting property or goods
• Retired or pensioned resident
• Resident through family extension

Subcategories for temporary residency include:

• Work-based resident
• Journalist resident
• Student resident
• Religious resident
• Resident through family extension

For more information on requirements and fees for establishing Nicaraguan residency, contact the Nicaraguan government and/or a Nicaraguan attorney. 




A Stranger in my Hometown…A Visit to the States After Living Abroad

I’ve been living abroad for just about 5 months now and the time quickly approached for my first visit back to the States.  I eagerly anticipated my reunion with family and friends, but also felt oddly anxious about this pending vacation.  Have I accomplished enough abroad in 5 months to warrant a visit home?  Is my Spanish strong enough to carry on a conversation with my Gringo friends who studied Spanish in high school and want to test my newly acquired language skills?  Am I tan?  Have I lost any weight?  Have I lost too much weight?  What will happen to my anxiety-prone, super attached dog while I’m gone?  How do I reconcile my new Nicaragüense lifestyle with my North American upbringing?  What kind of culture shock should I expect to experience and am I bad person if I don’t experience any and my first stop off the plane is a Dunkin’ Donuts?

Now home, many of those fears have been assuaged.  At my age, I have friends who accept me regardless of whether or not I can quote Rueben Dario and they automatically tell me that I sound great and know enough not to comment on my physical appearance – positive or negative.  And my family lovingly tells me I’ve put on a few pounds J

It is also an incredible experience to view your own hometown as a foreigner.  I’ve lived in Boston for the last 10 years, but this year, I spent my very first 4th of July at the Hatch Shell, on the Esplanade, among 150,000 other Patriots.   I took photos as if I were a tourist, snapping pictures of the Citgo sign, the Hancock Building, and the Charles River.  It was a pleasant surprise to turn things inside out.

However, there are some challenges that accompany a first trip home.  My 19-month old niece had no memory of her favorite aunt Sarah, having last met me when she was just a little over a year-old. Upon our reintroduction, she ran sobbing past my wide-stretched arms and into those of my sister’s, when she thought my hug was an attempt at kidnapping her stuffed dog.  Three days later, we have found a middle ground and she now Gracefully nods off in my arms for her mid-afternoon nap.

It is also a challenge to reintegrate into the world of consumerism. Though maybe not a conscious decision, part of the move to a third world country was the blissful escape from the consumption and “Keeping up with the Jones'” mentality we had become such a part of in North America.  However, upon our return to the States, I found it all too easy to slip right back into regular trips to the mall and the “need to have” mindset.  It required frequent self-checks to reevaluate what I truly needed versus what I just wanted. 

It is also exciting and invigorating to see all of the people you’ve missed over the last 5 months, but it is also exhausting.  There is an emotional obligation, not only to your family and friends, but also to yourself, to see everyone that you’ve missed while abroad.  It’s fun to regale people with tales of getting the 4×4 stuck in the mud…twice in two days (and getting pulled out by oxen) and make them jealous with the idea of spending afternoons at the beach, cerveza in hand.  However, by the 10th repetition of the story, it begins to sound oddly rehearsed.


 And more importantly, there is the realization that back home, life went on without me.  While we spew our tales of tropical paradise they are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to share their own stories of growth, which I have tactfully tried to avoid hearing, for fear that listening to them will only make me terribly homesick and ready to jump ship, turn in my airline ticket and stay put, in Boston. By our second week home, I broke into tears in front of my husband from sheer exhaustion and expressed the need for a vacation.


Then, there is the definition of home, altogether. I throw the word around loosely, but the truth is that, even half a year into my Nicaraguan sabbatical, I don’t quite know where home is anymore. To further complicate matters, after the obligatory “life is clearly treating you well there,” everyone follows by asking when we intend to move back home – to Boston.  I’ve learned to take this as a compliment, suggesting that people miss us and want us home; however, it does re-open the proverbial can of worms.  How long are we staying abroad?  Is this a lifetime decision? 


The reality is that life abroad is pretty incredible and that first trip back is revitalizing and essential.  Nevertheless, it does come with its challenges, some great and some small.

Some recommendations:

-Plan some alone time (or time with your spouse, significant other, etc.), particularly if this trip is intended to also be a vacation.  The first time home can be exhausting, filled with friendly reunions and family visits and you’ll need some time away.

-Remember that your friends and family had lives going on, too, while you were away.  It’s important to ask about them and not hyper-focus on your life-style change.  Most people will inquire after your big adventure, but be sure to reciprocate.

-It’s cliché, but do your best to live in the moment.  I spent the better part of a week waking up in the morning and counting how many days I had left before returning to San Juan – not because I couldn’t wait to get back – but because I was already sad about leaving – and I had just arrived!  Enjoy the time you have back in the States.

-Do be prepared for some culture shock. 

-Before departing Nicaragua, take stock of what you currently have and make a list of the things you want to purchase while in the States.  It’s exciting to return home to Suburbia/Mallandia/etc., but it’s also overwhelming having relied on 3-5 stores max for the greater part of a season.  It’s best to return home with a plan of what you need to purchase, and get the shopping out of the way, so that you can spend the remainder of your vacation with family, friends, and relaxing,

-Bring limited items and an extra suitcase to the States so that you have room in your suitcase to return with things.  These days, airlines are nickel and diming us for everything, so it’s preferable to pay for extra luggage in only one direction.


– Have fun!

Packing/Moving List – Nicaragua

Before moving to San Juan del Sur, I was lucky enough to make a connection with a woman who had made a similar transition to Nicaragua, with her boyfriend, just a few years before us.  Her advice on what things to bring to Nicaragua were invaluable.  In the same spirit, I’d like to pass along some of her words of wisdom, as well as a few of my own regarding preparing for the big move:

1) Bring creature comforts that will help ease the transition – photos from home, your favorite tea, books, etc.

2) Good linens are expensive in Nicaragua – they can be purchased in places like Pricesmart (in bulk), but I recommend bringing a set or two of sheets and towels.  

3) Flip flops!  I rarely wear any other type of footwear.  

4) Sunglasses

5) Electronics are worth bringing if they are things you use regularly, i.e. laptops, iPods, etc.  Appliances are more expensive in Nicaragua, so at some point, you need to evaluate what you need from home or what you can live without.  I’ve learned to toast bread in our oven and defrost food in the sun.

6) Headlamps are a great investment (and actually very inexpensive).  When the power goes out, you will be happy to be hand’s free.

7) Medication that you require and you can’t get in Nicaragua.  It’s helpful to know the generic names of your medications, as well as the dosage, because you can often find more common ones in pharmacies in Nicaragua.

8) Shorts – might seem obvious, but I never wore shorts when I lived in the States.  I always stuck with capris, etc.  However, it gets hot down here and you will appreciate having  lightweight clothes.

9) Clothing in general: bring breathable fabrics – cotton, linen.  

10) Raincoat – stay away from heavy, unbreathable gortex.  It stays pretty hot when it rains and you don’t want to sweat under your coat.  It’s also worth investing in a looooong raincoat that falls below your knees.  In heavy rains, your lower half will get soaked in a waist-length raincoat.

11) My husband can’t live without his Goldbond powder – it helps to ease the chaffing during the really humid days 🙂


It’s also helpful “to reevaluate what your “needs” are and simplify them. Once you’ve spent some time among Nicaraguan families and seen how much they are able to do with so few resources, you might reconsider some things you previously thought were indispensable. This is highly personal, but you might very well discover that in your new lifestyle in Central America you can live more simply than you’d expected.”  borrowed from Transitions Abroad.

Nicaragua is Safer than U.S.

When my husband and I first told people we were moving to Nicaragua, we were met with a lot of skepticism. Most were concerned about our safety, as many believe this country to be dangerous.  Which is why when I read this article in CNN, I felt the need to post it.

“CNN reports that a global index of peace sponsored by the respected Economist Intelligence Group ranks Nicaragua safer than the U.S. On a peace scale of 1 (most peaceful) to 5 (most violent), Nicaragua is 1.92. It’s higest sub-ratings are earned for its respect of human rights, very low odds of terrorist attacks and armed conflict, as well as treatment of foreigners and property rights.  There is crime here and elsewhere in Nicaragua, as there is everywhere on this planet, but when it happens here, it’s the talk of the neighborhood and the talk of the town, which highlights how rare it is when it happens — and how special this place is.”



Poneloya and León

We headed north to Poneloya, with a bunch of friends, this past weekend to watch a surf competition in Las Peñitas.  Poneloya is a popular beach about a 20-minute drive from León.  We stayed in this huge house right on the beach.  Everyone brought food and we cooked up shrimp, steak, drank Nica-libres, and watched the sunset.


The next day, we stayed with some friends at their parents hostel in León and wandered around the city.

Ometepe and my Parents’ Visit

My folks were just here for a 10-day visit.  During their trip, we took a day-trip to Ometepe.  One day just doesn’t do that place justice.  You really need more time to explore the island of two volcanoes, to hike, to stay in one of the awesome hotels, etc.  Even with just an afternoon, we saw a ton, including petroglyphs in Altagracia, Charco Verde Nature Reserve, and my personal favorite – Ojo de Agua – a natural spring with a rope swing.  


When we returned from Ometepe, my parents were so taken by San Juan, the culture and the warmth of the people here, that they actually bought a home here!  It’s not done yet, but you can check out a photo of the mock-up.