Expat in Central America – the 90 Day Rule

October 23rd, 2012 by The JetSetter Team | 2 Comments »

Central America is the skinny region on the map that connects Mexico to Panama, and includes the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Though Panama has received the lion’s share of attention from the travel press and American expatriates over the past decade, one shouldn’t overlook other options in the region. Expect to find the same great tropical weather, beaches, and mountains.

Anyone interested in living in Central America without going through the hassle of establishing legal residency should, however, be aware of the 90 day rule, which requires visitors to leave the country for at least three days every three months (or 90 days). As silly and occasionally inconvenient as this might seem, the governments of these countries seem to be getting a bit more serious about enforcing the regulation.

Until recently, all an American expat really had to do was take their passport to the nearest border, get it stamped, and get on with the business of living in their chosen tropical paradise. Nonexistent enforcement has been upgraded to sporadic now, so there is the odd chance you might be refused admittance back until you’ve been out three days. With that in mind, it would be a good idea to pack clean undies.

And if you happen to want to obey the letter of the law, it is a simple enough matter to hop a flight to Panama, charter a boat to a nearby Caribbean island, or even head back north to the United States for a bit. Of course, the easiest way to get around the 90 day rule for good is to establish legal residency in your adopted home country.

The following are a few factors that make it easier to be approved:

  • You plan to invest in or open a business.
  • You have a reliable retirement pension.
  • You plan to marry someone from the country and/or have a child there.
  • You have no criminal record.

If, for some reason, you’re afraid you won’t qualify for residency, it only costs $10-$20 per hour to see a local attorney (they call them abogado in Spanish) and ask some questions. You can forget your preconceived notions of high-dollar, double-talking men and women in suits that cost more than the GDP of Iowa. Central American

legal professionals tend to be friendly, and more importantly, helpful, and come at rates that don’t set a stopwatch running in your head.

If you’re wondering how in the heck anyone could ever afford to expatriate, you must not be familiar with Jason Hartman’s income property investing style yet. His simple, conservative, repeatable strategies are the way real people are building real wealth in America today.

Good luck wherever you may roam! (Top image: Flickr | A is for Angie)

The Jetsetter Show Team


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