X
COVID-19: Resource Center. Stay Informed with Updated Information and Support.
Discover more
Fundeu

US Embassy Memo on Dominican Divorce

American Citizens who wish to obtain a Divorce in the Dominican Republic should consult with a local attorney for advice and legal representation.

Before seeking a divorce in the Dominican Republic, U.S. citizens should be aware of possible legal restrictions by their U.S. state of residence on divorcesobtained abroad. It is advisable to contact an attorney in your state of residence to determine whether or not the courts of your state will recognize a Dominican divorce as valid. Some states, even if they will recognize Dominican divorces, may have special criteria or procedures particular to that state.

At a minimum, in order to be recognized in the U.S., the divorce decree must be “authenticated” by a U.S. Embassy consular officer. This authentication states only that the signature on the decree matches the signature of a Dominican official on record with the U.S. Embassy as an official competent and empowered to sign such a decree.

There are two types of divorces available to foreigners in the Dominican Republic: divorce by mutual consent and divorce for cause. The majority of Dominican divorces granted to foreigners are mutual consent divorces. In such divorces, the demanding party does not have to prove a specific cause for dissolving the bond of matrimony, but rather must show mutual agreement to dissolve the marriage. Although residency is not required, at least one of the parties must appear at the hearing. An attorney authorized by power of attorney duly filed in the Civil Registry Office may represent the other party.

A foreigner can obtain a divorce for cause (e.g., incompatibility of character, adultery, etc.) if he or she resided in the Dominican Republic and the cause of action or reason for the divorce arose during the period of residence. The divorce for cause requires the personal appearance of the plaintiff or his/her legal representative. In a divorce for cause, the judge has extensive powers, including the right to determine the disposition of marital properties and support payments, if any, for the spouse and children.

divorce in the Dominican Republic, whether by mutual consent or for cause, has no effect or validity until such time as certain precise steps have been taken during the final phase of the divorce process. The judgment or “sentencia” must be rendered and filed in the Office of the Civil Registry, or “Oficina de Registro Civil.” This filing date begins the 60-day period during which either party may appeal the judgment. The next step is to have the judgment “pronounced” by an appropriate, non-judicial official of the Office of the Civil Registry. The pronouncement ends the marriage. The parties are then considered single. Within eight days of the pronouncement, thedivorce judgment must be published once in a newspaper of general circulation. This publication is the responsibility of the parties involved and/or their lawyer. Without the pronouncement and publication of the judgment, the divorce is not valid under Dominican law.

Among the different effects produced by divorce are:

a) Spouses who remarry each other may only do so under the same system that governed their prior marriage; and

b) Divorced women cannot get married again until 10 months after their divorce is finalized, unless her new husband is the same man she divorced.

Obtaining a Copy of a Dominican Divorce Decree

The Dominican public registry offices operate differently from those in the U.S. and documents concerning legal procedures are obtained differently here. The only record of a divorce is a hand-written entry in a book in one of the many civil registry offices in the city where the divorce was performed. Since the records are not entered alphabetically but chronologically, they can only be retrieved on that basis. In addition, registry employees do not perform searches for the public. Books for a particular month are made available so that an individual or her/his representative can locate the desired entry. An extract of the record can then be prepared by the registry employee for a fee.

Searching for a particular record can be very time consuming unless one knows the precise date of the divorce and the precise location of the civil registry office in which the book is physically located. Therefore, if you cannot be in the Dominican Republic to perform the search, you should consider hiring a lawyer or other representative to obtain the extract on your behalf.

Quick Divorce: An Overview

A special provision in Dominican divorce law allows foreigners to obtain a divorce in the Dominican Republic in one day without any residency requirement, provided that both spouses are in agreement and consent to the jurisdiction of the Dominican Court. Only one of the spouses must travel to the Dominican Republic to be present in court. The other spouse may be represented by a lawyer in our firm after executing the required power-of-attorney. In any case a lawyer from our Santo Domingo office will accompany you at all times in court. The divorce judgment will be handed down the day of the appearance in court. The divorce documentation, including authentication by the parties’ embassy in the Dominican Republic, is sent by courier to both parties a few days after the court appearance.

Before going ahead with a Dominican divorce, parties are advised to consult local counsel to determine its legality in their place of residence. Although courts in some jurisdictions (New York, Connecticut, Tennessee) have upheld Dominican divorces and found them valid, courts in other jurisdictions either have not had the opportunity to rule on the matter or consider them invalid based on reasons of public order. Many web-based services offering Dominican divorces and some Dominican attorneys do not address this issue properly.

U.S. State Department Memo on Dominican Republic Adoptions

March 2006

Disclaimer: The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Two sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child’s country of birth govern all activity in that country including the adoptability of individual children as well as the adoption of children in country in general; and 2) U.S. Federal immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States.

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. It does not necessarily reflect the actual state of the laws of a child’s country of birth and is provided for general information only. Moreover, U.S. immigration law, including regulations and interpretation, changes from time to time. This flyer reflects our current understanding of the law as of this date and is not legally authoritative. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing office of the appropriate state government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.

PLEASE NOTE: The October 2004 entry into force of Dominican Law 136-03 changed many of the regulations and procedures regarding international adoption. Please refer to the eligibility and residency requirements listed below for further information.

The Dominican authorities will not allow a child to exit the country until the adoption is completed under Dominican law. For this reason, U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo’s Immigrant Visa (IV) Unit does not process immigrant visas in the IR-4 (“Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen”) category. Depending on the circumstances of the adoption, the IV Unit issues adopted children visas in the IR-2 (“Child of a U.S. citizen”) or IR-3 (“Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen”) category. See the section below on U.S. immigration requirements for more information.

PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

Fiscal Year Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
FY 2005
21
FY 2004
18
FY 2003
1
FY 2002
1
FY 2001
12

DOMINICAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia (CONANI), the Dominican child welfare agency, is the country’s adoption authority. Contact information for CONANI:

Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia (CONANI)
Edificio Gubermental, Bloque D
30 de Marzo esq. México
Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
Phone: 809-685-9161 (Office of Adoptions, ext. 1182)
Web site: www.conani.gov.do
E-mail address of Adoption Coordinator: nuris.gomez@conani.gov.do

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR PROSPECTIVE PARENTS: For intercountry adoption, Dominican law permits only heterosexual couples who have been married for five years or more to adopt a Dominican child. The prospective adoptive parents must be between 30 and 60 years old and at least 15 years older than the child they wish to adopt. Singles and unmarried couples are no longer permitted to adopt from the Dominican Republic.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: One prospective adoptive parent must meet specific residency requirements. If the child is under 12, the parent must reside with the child in the Dominican Republic for 60 days; for children 12 and over, the parent must reside with the child for 30 days.

TIME FRAME: Many variables can influence the total time it takes to complete the international adoption of a Dominican child. In general, however, if the adoptive parents work to fulfill both the U.S. and the Dominican requirements simultaneously, an adoption can be completed within nine to ten months after the application is made in the Dominican Republic.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo is not aware of any private adoption agencies in the Dominican Republic. Prospective adoptive families must hire a Dominican attorney specializing in adoption. The U.S. Embassy’s list of attorneys can be found online at: http://www.usemb.gov.do/Consular/ACS/legal_assistance-e.htm. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor CONANI recommends any particular attorney. The list indicates each lawyer or firm’s area(s) of specialization and language(s) spoken.

Please see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at our Web site travel.state.gov.

ADOPTION FEES: Attorney fees for the adoption of a Dominican child range from US$5,000 – US$8,000. All adoption-related expenses, including court costs and document fees, are included in this estimate.

ADOPTION PROCEDURES: Dominican adoption law is governed by the Dominican Code of Fundamental Protection and Rights for Children and Adolescents, Law 136-03, Articles 111-167. The adoption process is comprised of an administrative and judicial phase. To begin the administrative phase, prospective adoptive parents should hire a Dominican attorney to initiate contact with CONANI and begin the process of locating a child who meets the definition of “orphan” under both Dominican and U.S. law. Once the family receives and accepts the referral of a child, CONANI reviews the prospective adoptive family’s file of required documents (see below) and, if satisfied, issues a Certificate of Suitability. The family is then allowed to present its formal, legal application to the Dominican Court of Minors, which subsequently issues a Final Order of Adoption.

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN DOMINCAN REPUBLIC:

Biopsychosocial study of the adoptive parents;
Legalized adoption consent;
Adoptive parents’ birth certificates;
Adoptive parents’ marriage certificate;
Declaration of the loss of authority of the biological parents or authorization for adoption;
Certificate of Suitability, no more than six months old, issued by CONANI;
Certificate issued by a civic, community, or religious entity/organization attesting to the physical, mental, social, and moral suitability of the adoptive parents;
Certificate confirming that the adoptive parents have fulfilled the residency requirements, issued by CONANI;
Certificate of completion of all criteria for the assignment of the child, issued by CONANI;
Prospective adoptive parents’ police certificates issued by a competent authority;
Prospective adoptive parents’ medical certificates;
Power of attorney from the adoptive parents to their lawyer, legalized by the Dominican “Procuraduría General”;
Copy of the identification documents or passports of the adoptive parents;
Act of No Opposition in the case of the existence of older children;
Certification issued by a competent authority that will provide follow-up on the minor’s adjustment;
Authorization or visa from the country where the child will live.

AUTHENTICATING U.S. DOCUMENTS TO BE USED ABROAD: The language describing the process of authenticating U.S. documents to be used abroad is currently under review. Please click on the following link for more information until the new language is finalized: http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/.

EMBASSY OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND CONSULATE IN THE UNITED STATES:

Embassy of the Dominican Republic
1715 22nd Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 332-6280
Fax: (202) 265-8057
Consulate of the Dominican Republic
1501 New Broadway Ave., Suite 410
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 768-2480
Fax: (212) 768-2677

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The USCIS publication is available at the USCIS Web site. The Department of State publication International Adoption can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, travel.state.gov, under “International Adoption.”

Before completing an adoption abroad, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to read the requirements for filing Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. Please see our flyer “ How Can Adopted Children Come to the United States” at our Web site travel.state.gov.

FILING AN ORPHAN PETITION

It is advisable for all adoptive parents to begin the adoption process by filing an “Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition” (Form I-600A) with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. This form is used by prospective adoptive parents who do not yet have a specific child in mind and allows the most time-consuming part of the process to be completed in advance. Once USCIS approves the I-600A, is it valid for 18 months. Upon approval, USCIS will send a notification of a favorable determination (Form I-171H) to the prospective adoptive parents and to the USCIS office in Santo Domingo.

Once the adoptive parents have identified a specific child and completed the Dominican adoption procedures, they should file the “Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative” (Form I-600) with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. Prospective adoptive parents who have an approved I-600A, however, may file the I-600 at Santo Domingo’s USCIS office. This option represents the quickest, most efficient way to file the petition and apply for the child’s immigrant visa.

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on USCIS’s Web site at: http://www.uscis.gov/. If the I-600 is approved by USCIS in the United States, the petition will be sent to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC)in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The National Visa Center (NVC) retains the approved petition until the case is ready for adjudication by a consular officer at Embassy Santo Domingo’s Immigrant Visa (IV) Unit. I-600 petitions approved by Santo Domingo’s USCIS office are transferred directly to the IV Unit. The IV Unit will then contact the parents, inform them of the interview date, and provide additional instructions. For further information on the immigrant visa process, visit the U.S. Embassy’s immigrant visa home page at http://www.usemb.gov.do/Consular/iv-e.htm.

APPLYING FOR A VISA AT THE U.S. EMBASSY IN Dominican Republic: Americans living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the country of travel. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. EMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO’S IMMIGRANT VISA UNIT: Contact information for U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo’s Immigrant Visa Unit:

To send documents from the United States, you must use either the United States Postal Service or a private delivery service (e.g., FedEx, DHL or UPS). The mailing address if you use the United States Postal Service is:

IV
Unit 5542
APO AA 34041-5542
The mailing address if you use a private delivery service is:

Embassy of the United States of America
César Nicolás Penson 85A esq. Leopoldo Navarro
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
To send documents from the Dominican Republic, you must use the Dominican postal system, INPOSDOM. If you use INPOSDOM, the mailing address is:

Embajada de los Estados Unidos de América
César Nicolás Penson 85A esq. Leopoldo Navarro
Apartado Postal 11302
Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
Phone: 809-271-2171
SANTO DOMINGO USCIS SUB OFFICE:
Contact information for the Santo Domingo USCIS Sub Office:

Mailing address from the United States:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
American Embassy – Santo Domingo
Unit 5542
APO AA 34041-5542
Mailing address if writing from any country other than the United States or if using a delivery service:

American Embassy
Santo Domingo
Calle César Nicolás Penson
Calle Leopoldo Navarro
Unidad 5500
Dominican Republic
Phone: 809-221-2171 ext. 6608
Fax: 809-731-4350
E-mail: dradoptions@dhs.gov

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Specific questions about adoption in the Dominican Republic may be addressed to U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo at the numbers listed in this flyer. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.

Useful information is also available from several other sources:

Telephone:

Toll Free – For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, call Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
U.S. Department of State Visa Office – recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adopting children, (202) 663-1225.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).

Internet :

Adoption Information Flyers: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site at: http://travel.state.gov/ contains international country adoption information flyers like this one and the International Adoptions brochure.

Consular Information Sheets: The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney and authenticating documents that may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flier. In addition, the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets (CISes) for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. If the situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CIS for that country, the State Department may issue a Public Announcement alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations. If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov/ or by calling the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services toll free at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.

USCIS Web site – https://uscis.gov/.

Dominican Republic Adoption Law

TITLE V
FILIATION THROUGH ADOPTION

CHAPTER I
GENERAL PROVISIONS

ON ADOPTION

Art. 111.- NATURE. Adoption is a legal institution of public order and social interest that allows the creation, by a judgment rendered for such a purpose, of a voluntary parent-child relationship among individuals who are not related by birth.

Art. 112.- SOCIAL AND HUMAN CHARACTER. Adoption is a mechanism of family integration and protection created for children and adolescents, taking into consideration their best interest, the process of which must be conducted under the constant vigilance of the State.

Art. 113.- EXCEPTIONALITY. Adoption should only be considered for exceptional cases and under such circumstances as are determined in this Code.

Art. 114.- STATE RESPONSIBILITY. The State has the obligation to create the necessary mechanisms to prevent the indiscriminate use of adoption. For this purpose, administrative processes should be channeled through the Adoptions Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia —CONANI), and they need to be reviewed by the Children and Adolescents’ Court (Tribunal de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes).

CHAPTER II
TYPES OF ADOPTION

Art. 115.- GENERAL. All adoptions are privileged. A privileged adoption may be national or international, depending on whether the adoptive parents are Dominicans residing in this country, or foreign nationals.

Art. 116.- PRIVILEGED ADOPTION. Through privileged adoption, an adoptee will cease belonging to his/her natural family, and all ties with the members of such family are severed, leaving such relationships without legal effects except as regards the legal impediments for marriage. The adoptive child has the same rights and obligations as the biological children in the adoptive family. Privileged adoptions are irrevocable.

CHAPTER III
DOMESTIC PRIVILEGED ADOPTION

SECTION I
SUBSTANTIVE CONDITIONS FOR PRIVILEGED ADOPTION

SUBSECTION I
WHO MAY ADOPT OR BE ADOPTED

Art. 117.- WHO MAY ADOPT. Regardless of their marital status, individuals over 30 years of age may become adoptive parents, provided that they have the physical, moral, social and sexual integrity that would enable them to offer a child or adolescent a home that would ensure his/her integral well-being. The same qualities shall be required of those wishing to adopt together. The age limit for adopting is 60 years. Exceptionally, a person exceeding such age may adopt under the following circumstances:

a) When, prior to applying for adoption, he/she has been in charge of raising, caring for, and protecting the child or adolescent.

b) In the case of relatives wishing to adopt a child or adolescent, when his or her parents have been divested by a decision of the court of the custody of such child or adolescent.

Art. 118.- WHO MAY PETITION FOR ADOPTION. The following people may petition for adoption:

a) Dominican couples who have been married for three (3) years; and foreign couples who have been married for five (5) years.

b) Dominican couples, consisting of a man and a woman, with at least five (5) years of known and uninterrupted union.

c) Single individuals who are or have been in charge of raising, caring for, and educating a child or adolescent.

d) The widow or widower if, during the deceased spouse’s life, both spouses had initiated the adoption proceedings.

e) A divorced or separated spouse, when the adoption proceedings were already in place at the time of such divorce or separation.

f) The spouse or member of a consensual couple may adopt the other spouse’s child.

g) The grandparents, aunts and uncles, and adult brothers or sisters may adopt their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and younger siblings, whose father or mother or both parents are deceased, if the adoptive petitioners guarantee the adoptee’s integral well-being.

Art. 119.- UNWED PERSON. When an unwed person files a petition to adopt, the appropriate authorities should particularly and thoroughly consider the applicant’s motivation, in order to prevent a distortion of the spirit of adoption, and to propitiate, to the fullest extent possible, the optimal physical, psychological, social and sexual development of the prospective adoptee.

Art. 120.- EXISTENCE OF BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN. The existence of the applicant’s biological children shall be no obstacle for adopting. However, when such children are 12 years of age or older, they should express their opinion about the intended adoption at a personal appearance before a Judge at the Children and Adolescents Court, or at the Consulate of the country of residence of said biological children, where such opinion shall be received and put on record in a document to be submitted to the competent adoption authorities. Exceptionally, under circumstances deemed appropriate by the judge, they may express in writing their points of view regarding such adoption.

SUBSECTION II
CONDITIONS REGARDING ADOPTEES

Art. 121.- ADOPTEES’ AGE. In order to be eligible for adoption, a person should be under 18 years of age at the time when the petition for adoption is submitted.

Art. 122.- CANDIDATES FOR ADOPTION. The following persons may be adopted:

a) Orphan children and adolescents with both parents deceased.

b) Children or adolescents in State custody, or whose parents are unknown.

c) Children or adolescents whose father and mother have lost parental authority by a court judgment.

d) Children or adolescents whose parents consent to their being adopted.

Paragraph.- No person shall be subject to more than one adoption.

Art. 123.- AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADOPTERS AND ADOPTEES. There should be an age difference of not less than 15 years between an adoptive parent and his/her adoptee. Such age difference should be compatible with a parent/child relationship, and shall not be required when an adoption is made in favor of the other spouse’s child, with prior consent by the mother or the father—if the latter has acknowledged said child.

SECTION II
FORMALITIES REQUIRED FOR PRIVILEGED ADOPTIONS

Art.124.- PARENTAL CONSENT. The father and the mother are required to consent, validly and voluntarily, to their children’s privileged adoption.

Art. 125.- FORMS OF CONSENT. In the cases provided, parental consent shall be given in the adoption document or by means of a separate authenticated instrument signed before a notary public, or before the Justice of the Peace of the domicile or residence of the child’s parents or guardians, or before the diplomatic or consular agents abroad.

Art. 126.- INDIVIDUALS ENTITLED TO CONSENT. The following persons are entitled to consent:

a) Parents who are married or who have a consensual union: In the event of the adoption of children, declared or acknowledged, the father and mother should give their consent for the adoption of a child whose filiation has been established.

b) Father or mother incapable of expressing consent: If one parent is deceased or incapable of expressing his/her will, the other parent’s consent shall suffice. If both parents are deceased or incapable of expressing their will due to absence, disappearance, or mental defect, the consent for adoption should be given by the child’s legal representative or ad-hoc guardian.

c) Separated or divorced parents: If the parents are separated or divorced, the consent of both parents shall be necessary. In the event of disagreement between both parents as to the child’s adoption, the Civil Chamber of the Children’s and Adolescents’ Court shall be competent to decide whether the adoption is appropriate or not with the sole consent of the parent who has custody of the child.

d) Consent in the case of a parent divested of authority: The status of child or adolescent whose parents have lost their authority shall be established by the declaration of loss of authority upon presentation of the court judgment stipulating such loss. Consent shall be given by the legal representative, upon advice of the Family Council.

e) Children of Unknown Parents: In the case of a child of unknown parents, consent shall be given by the President of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CONANI]), in its capacity as ad-hoc guardian.

Paragraph I.- The status of child or adolescent of unknown filiation shall be established by the judgment declaring abandonment rendered by the Children’s Court of the location where the child or adolescent was found.

Paragraph II- Adoptees over twelve (12) years of age need to personally agree to their own adoption. In all adoption proceedings, the child or adolescent should be heard, taking into consideration his/her age and maturity.

Art. 127.- CONSENT OF ADOPTING SPOUSES. Neither one of the spouses may adopt without the other spouse’s consent, except in the case of separation or presumed absence or disappearance.

SECTION III
PROCEEDINGS FOR PRIVILEGED ADOPTION

Art. 128.- PHASES OF PROCEEDINGS. Adoption is a legal institution whose proceedings are administrative and jurisdictional in nature. Its proceedings consist of two phases: administrative-protective and administrative-jurisdictional.

SUBSECTION I
ADMINISTRATIVE PHASE OF PRIVILEGED ADOPTION

Art. 129.- ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY IN CHARGE. The Adoptions Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CONANI]) is in charge of the administrative protective phase. There are two procedures to be followed in the administrative protective phase, depending on whether it is a matter of voluntary surrender or if previously there has been a declaration of abandonment or loss of parental authority.

Art. 130.- VOLUNTARY SURRENDER. A parent who has decided to give his/her child up for adoption should inform the National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CONANI]) of his/her decision, justifying the reasons therefor, so that the said institution may choose an adoptive family for the child from all those having submitted and application for adoption thereto.

Paragraph.- If the National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CONANI]) receives the child or adolescent, it shall be responsible for his/her protection until the adoptive family is selected.

Art. 131.- CONSENT FOR VOLUNTARY SURRENDER. The surrender of a child for adoption shall be made by means of an authenticated instrument subscribed by the biological parents and the President of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), pursuant to all legal requirements.

Art. 132.- ADOPTION DUE TO UNKNOWN FILIATION. An adoption due to unknown filiation should be preceded by a declaration of abandonment, duly ordered by the Court of First Instance of Children and Adolescents, pursuant to the terms of this Code, at the request of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), which shall submit to the court the results of the investigation of abandonment of the child or adolescent. Once the court has rendered its administrative judgment, it shall remit it to the Department of Adoptions of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), in order for said institution to formalize the adoption.

Art. 133.- AN ADOPTION PRECEDED BY A DECLARATION OF LOSS OF PARENTAL AUTHORITY. In the case of children and adolescents whose parents have been divested of parental authority by a judgment of the Children and Adolescents Court, the Adoption Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) shall promote their adoption in the extended family, or shall assign them a family from those who have filed an application with such institution.

Art. 134.- TRIAL PERIOD. Prior to filing a petition for adoption, the adoptive petitioners should live with the prospective adoptee for such period of time as is established in this Code, taking into consideration the circumstances in each case.

Paragraph I.- In the case of adoptive parents domiciled or residing abroad, the period of time for living together with the adoptee in this country should be at least sixty (60) days when the adoptee is under twelve (12) years of age, and thirty (30) days when the adoptee is twelve or older.

Paragraph II.-However, the concerned party, for reasons of force majeure, or taking into consideration the circumstances of the case, may petition a judge to reduce the trial period, provided that an institution from the adoptive parents’ country of origin guarantees the adoptee’s safety, as well as the observance of the conditions for the trial period. In the case of a child, under no circumstances may such period be less than thirty (30) days.

Art.135.- PLACEMENT OF ADOPTABLE CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN FAMILIES. The National Council for Children and Adolescents shall place children and adolescents in families qualifying for adoption according to the following criteria:

a) Upon completion of the requirements herein established, preference shall be given to applications for adoption submitted by Dominican adoptive petitioners over those submitted by foreigners.

b) The order of submission of every application for adoption shall be taken into account. To control the order of files, every application shall be given a number when received.

c) Characteristics of Children and Adolescents. The main criterion is finding a family for the prospective adoptee, avoiding those that would not be in the child’s best interests.

d) Preference shall be given to applications for adoption submitted by Dominican citizens, and failing those, to citizens from countries having ratified or adhered to the Hague Convention on Adoption. In this case, the adoption shall be subject to the clauses established therein.

Art. 136.-COMMISSION FOR PLACING CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WITH ADOPTIVE FAMILIES. The placement of prospective adoptees shall be the responsibility of the Adoptions Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), a psychologist working for said Council, the person in charge of the Center for prospective adoptive children, if that is the case, and two psychologists from two non-governmental organizations working in the area of family or children and adolescents’ rights.

Paragraph.- The Commission shall meet once a month, or as often as needed in order to make the appropriate placement, always according to the criteria established in the foregoing article.

Art. 137.-CERTIFICATION OF FULFILLMENT OF PLACEMENT CRITERIA. Once a family has been assigned to a child or adolescent, the Commission shall draw up a document certifying that the placement criteria established in article 135 have been met. Such document shall not be valid unless it is signed by two-thirds of the Commission members.

Paragraph.- Any conflict that may arise shall be settled by the Judge of the Children and Adolescents’ Court, upon petition by an interested party.

Art. 138.- ISSUANCE OF CERTIFICATE OF SUITABILITY. Upon finishing the administrative procedures at the Adoptions Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), the said institution shall issue a certificate of suitability to allow the adoptive petitioners to file a petition for review before the appropriate jurisdiction.

Paragraph.- The National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) should issue such certificate of suitability within a period of time not exceeding two months after the end of the trial period. Failure to comply with this term is considered to be a serious dereliction of duty by the person or persons in charge of such issuance.

SUBSECTION II
ADMINISTRATIVE JURISDICTIONAL PHASE OF PRIVILEGED ADOPTION

Art. 139.- WHO MAY APPLY FOR ADOPTION. An adoption review request may only be submitted by those desiring to be declared as adoptive parents, or by their representative, before the Children and Adolescents’ Court of the domicile of the individual or entity having custody of the adoptee.

Art. 140.- DOCUMENTS EVIDENCING SUITABILITY . The request for review of an adoption executed by the adoptive parent(s) should be submitted personally or through a representative, together with the following documents:

a) Bio-Psychosocial Study of Adoptive petitioner(s).

b) Consent for adoption, duly legalized.

c) Birth records of the prospective adopters and adoptee.

d) Certificate of marriage, or act witnessed by a notary certifying the extra-matrimonial life of the adoptive petitioners, without lessening other requirements prescribed by this Code.

e) A copy of the declaration of loss of parental authority, or authorization for adoption, as the case may be;

f) Certificate of suitability, effective for a period not longer than six months, issued by the Adoptions Department of the National Council for Children and Adolescents.

g) A certification issued by a civic, community, or religious entity regarding the physical, mental, social and moral suitability of the adoptive petitioners.

h) Certification of compliance with trial period, issued by the National Council for Children and Adolescents.

i) Certificate of compliance with children and adolescents placement criteria, issued by the Committee for Placing Children and Adolescents in adoptive families.

j) Certification of No Criminal Record, and certificate of no delinquency of adoptive petitioners, issued by a competent authority.

k) Health certificate of adoptive petitioners.

l) Special power of attorney given to the lawyer of the prospective adoptive parents, duly legalized by the Office of the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic.

m) Copy of the identification cards or passports of the adoptive petitioners and the biological parents.

n) Deed of no objection of the adoptive petitioners’ children over twelve (12) years of age, if any.

Art. 141.- APPLICATION FOR ADOPTION. The adoption review petition shall be submitted to the Civil Chamber of the Children and Adolescents’ Court, together with the documents described above.

Paragraph I.- Within three days after the submission of the application, the court shall send the file to the Defender of Children and Adolescents, who shall render an opinion within five (5) days after having received it .

Paragraph II.- Upon the expiration of the above-mentioned terms, the Judge of the Children and Adolescents’ Court shall render a judgment approving or refusing the application, within the next ten days.

Art. 142.- INSUFFICIENCY OF PROBATORY DOCUMENTS. If the judge deems that the documents probative of suitability contained in the file are insufficient as established in article 140, he/she shall grant the party concerned a period of ten (10) days to complete the file. At the expiration of such term, the Judge of the Children and Adolescents’ Court shall make a decision within the next ten (10) days.

Art. 143.- ADVERSARIAL PETITION FOR ADOPTION. In the event that the petition for adoption is impugned, the proceeding shall become adversarial, and the Judge of the Children and Adolescents’ Court shall fix a date for hearing the case.

Paragraph I.- Those entitled to attack a petition for adoption are the father or the mother and, in their absence, relatives up to a fourth degree of relation, following a Succession order, and the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI).

Paragraph II.- The judgment resulting from the litigation referred to in this article may be appealed before the Children and Adolescents’ Court.

Art. 144.- DEATH OF ONE OF THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS. In the case of a joint adoption, if one of the adoptive petitioners dies before a judgment has been rendered, the process shall continue with the surviving parent, if he/she wishes to pursue it.

Paragraph.- If the petition for adoption is made by only one person and he/she dies before a judgment is rendered, the process shall continue with all legal effects and according to the expressed wishes of the deceased and with due regards to the interest of the child or adolescent.

Art. 145.- SEPARATION OR DIVORCE OF THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS. If the adoptive parents divorce or are separated, the court shall apply to the adoptive children the rules of custody and visitation established in this Code.

Art. 146.- THE ADOPTEE’S FAMILY COUNCIL. The adoptee’s Family Council shall be established as provided in the Civil Code.

Art. 147.- REQUIREMENTS FOR ADOPTEES’ LEAVING THE COUNTRY. In order for an adopted child or adolescent to be allowed to leave the country, whether with foreigners or Dominican nationals, the judgment validating the adoption should be duly registered and legalized at the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, at the State Department of Foreign Affairs, and at the Consulate of the adoptive parents’ country of origin. The emigration authorities shall demand an authentic copy of the adoption judgment, with proof of the enforceability thereof.

SUBSECTION II
PRIVILEGED ADOPTION JUDGMENTS AND PUBLICATION THEREOF

Art. 148.- CONTENTS. Adoption judgments shall include the reasons considered, even in the case of adoptions of a jurisdictional-administrative nature, and they should be written in clear and precise terms.

Art. 149.- TRANSCRIPTION OF JUDGMENT. Only the conclusive provisions of the adoption judgment need to be transcribed in the adoptions registry of the Office of the City Clerk where the certification of birth of the child or adolescent is made. Such transcription should be made within thirty (30) days from the date when the adoption judgment has become final and irrevocable.

Paragraph.- Such transcription shall include the day, time and place of birth, the sex of the child or adolescent, his/her names as resulting from the adoption judgment, and the adoptive parents’ given names and surnames, date and place of birth, occupation, and domicile. In such transcription, no mention shall be made of the adoptee’s biological family.

Art. 150.- REQUEST AND ISSUANCE OF COPIES. A transcript of the adoption judgment shall replace the adoptee’s birth record. When issuing copies of the birth certificate of an adopted child or adolescent, or when referring to any such child or adolescent in any document issued by them, city clerks shall make no mention of this circumstance or of the biological family, and they may only make reference to the surnames of the adoptive parents.

Art. 151.- MARGINAL ANNOTATIONS. When transcribing an adoption judgment in the adoptions record book, the city clerk shall write the word “adoption” on the top margin of the book containing the adoptee’s original record of birth. Such record may only become effective again if the adoption judgment is revoked.

Art. 152.-NON-RELEASE OF DOCUMENTS. All documents and administrative or jurisdictional acts regarding the adoption process shall be preserved for a period of thirty (30) years at a Children and Adolescents’ Court. Copies thereof may be issued only at the request of the adoptive parents or the adoptee, when he/she becomes of age, and at the request of the Defender of Children and Adolescents.

Paragraph I.- An officer or employee who allows access to or issues copies of such documents to persons not authorized in this article shall incur excess of power and shall be removed from office and condemned to a penalty of one (1) to three (3) minimum wages as established officially.

Paragraph II.- The Children and Adolescents’ Court shall have jurisdiction to judge this offense.

Art. 153.- LIFTING OF NON-RELEASE ORDER. The Children and Adolescents’ Appellate Court for the first-degree court that validated the adoption shall order the lifting of the non-release order when there is serious justification therefor, or when the exceptional remedy of civil revision has been admitted.

Art. 154.- AN ADOPTEE’S RIGHT TO KNOW HIS/HER FAMILY TIES. Without prejudice of the provisions of the preceding article, all adoptees have the right to know their origin and the nature of their family ties. The adoptive parents shall determine the appropriate time to provide them with such information.

Art. 155.- NOTIFICATION OF THE REVIEW JUDGMENT. The judgment validating the act of adoption shall be notified to the biological father and mother, or to the people in charge who consented to it, at the request of the Judge of the Children and Adolescents’ Court.

Art. 156.- SUSPENSION OF PROCEEDINGS. At the request of a party concerned, and with justified cause, the Children and Adolescents’ Court may order the suspension of the adoption process for a non-extendable period of three (3) months.

Art. 157.- IRREVOCABILITY OF PRIVILEGED ADOPTION. A privileged adoption judgment entails certain rights, and is irrevocable from the time when it is pronounced to be final.

Art. 158.- EFFECT OF ADOPTION JUDGMENT. The adoption review judgment shall produce all the effects that create rights and obligations inherent to the parent-child relationship. It shall contain the information necessary for its registration at the civil registry to constitute a birth certificate to replace the original one, which shall be annulled. The names of the birth parents, if known, shall be omitted in the adoption decree. Specifically, adoption produces the following effects:

a) It severs the original family ties. Privileged adoption terminates the adoptee’s original family ties regarding all civil effects, excepting marriage impediments.

b) It creates a parent-child relationship. Through adoption, the adoptee and his/her family acquire the rights and obligations inherent to the parent-child relationship, with all personal, patrimonial and succession prerogatives and consequences.

c) Marriage Impediment. Marriage is prohibited between:

1. An adoptive parent and his/her ascendants and the adoptee and his/her descendants.

2. An adoptee and the adoptive parent’s spouse, and reciprocally between an adoptive parent and the adoptee’s spouse.

3. The adoptive children of the same adoptive parent.

4. An adoptee and the adoptive parent’s surviving child.

d) Succession Rights. An adoptee acquires all the rights of children in the capacity as heir, and is entitled to inherit from family members both directly and collaterally.

e) Surname. The adoptive child acquires the adoptive parents’ surname.

f) Authority. Parental authority and the effects thereof are transferred from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.

Art. 159.- EFFECT BETWEEN THE PARTIES AND THIRD PARTIES. Adoption produces an effect between the parties and is opposable to third parties from the time the judgment is transcribed at the appropriate Civil Registrar’s Office.

SUBSECTION IV
ANNULMENT OF ADOPTION

Art. 160.- ANNULMENT OF THE ADOPTION DECREE. A petition of annulment may be filed regarding an adoption, when there are proven irregularities as to the substance or the procedure established in this Code.

Art. 161.- WHO MAY SUBMIT A PETITION FOR ANNULMENT. After a review judgment has been rendered, an adoption may be annulled at the request of the adoptee or his/her biological parents, the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), or the Defender of Children and Adolescents.

Art. 162.- COMPETENT COURT OF LAW. The civil chamber of the Children and Adolescents Court is competent to rule about the petition of annulment of the adoption review judgment.

Paragraph .- The judgment resulting from the petition of annulment of adoption referred to herein may be appealed before the Children and Adolescents’ Court.

Art. 163.- TERMS. The terms available for requesting an annulment, to appeal, and to request a revision shall be those provided by common law.

CHAPTER IV
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

SECTION I
GENERALITIES ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

Art. 164.- DEFINITION AND NATURE. An adoption is deemed to be international when the adoptive parents and the adoptive child are citizens of different countries or their habitual places of residence or domicile are in different countries.

Paragraph.- Adoptions by foreigners who at the time of applying for adoption have resided in this country for more than three (3) years or are married to a Dominican national shall be governed by the provisions prescribed by this Code for privileged adoptions by Dominicans.

Art. 165.- CONDITIONS FOR ADOPTING. The adoptive parents of a Dominican child or adolescent should be individuals of different sex, joined in matrimony, complying with all legal requirements established herein for privileged adoptions.

Paragraph I.- A Dominican may adopt or be adopted by a foreigner. When a couple petitioning for adoption has children over 12 years of age, the provisions of article 120 shall apply.

Paragraph II.- All international adoptions conducted in the Dominican Republic shall be governed by the provisions contained in this Code, the Children’s Rights Convention, and the Hague Convention on Adoption.

Art. 166.- DOCUMENTS PROBATORY OF SUITABILITY SUBMITTED BY FOREIGN NATIONALS. If the adoptive petitioners are foreign nationals or Dominicans residing abroad, they should also submit the following documents:

a) A certification duly issued by the competente authority, stating their commitment to complete the adoption process of the child or adolescent until his/her nationalization in the adoptive parents’ country of residence;

b) Authorization or visa issued by the government of the adoptive parents’ country of residence, to enable the adopted child or adolescent to enter such country;

c) In addition to the required documents to prove suitability for adoption, as specified in article 140, the competent administrative authority may require from the country of the foreign adoptive petitioner or the country of residence of a Dominican adoptive petitioner such other documents as may be deemed necessary to these ends.

Paragraph.- When the above-mentioned documents are written in a language other than Spanish, they shall be translated by an official translator and shall be duly legalized, observing all pertinent formalities.

Art. 167.- ADVICE. The Adoptions Office of the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) may require the advice of public or private persons or competent professionals, in order to guarantee the follow-up of children and adolescents adopted by foreigners.

SECTION II
COMPETENCE

Art. 168.- COMPETENCE OF THE CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS’ COURTS. The Civil Chamber of the Children and Adolescents’ Court of the adoptee’s place of residence, or of the domicile of the person or entity having custody of the adoptee, shall be competent to grant international adoptions, upon such conditions as are established for privileged adoptions.

Art. 169.- REPEAL. Any provision that, in the matter of adoption, is contrary to the provisions contained in this Code is hereby repealed.

International Adoptions in the Dominican Republic

Legislation

The Dominican Constitution, amended January 26, 2010, guarantees safe and effective adoption policies under the law (Article 55). Law 136-03, enacted August 2003 and amended October 2004, governs international adoption in the Dominican Republic. No adoptable child may leave the country until the adoption process is completed as stipulated by Dominican law and an authenticated copy of the adoption ruling is presented to emigration authorities.

In addition, the immigration laws of the prospective foreign parents’ country of residence are applicable, and a couple seeking to adopt a Dominican child must carefully investigate the legal requirements for bringing the child into their country of residence before proceeding with adoption in the Dominican Republic.

Time to complete an adoption

The time required to complete an adoption in the Dominican Republic will vary depending on the time needed to obtain the necessary supporting documents for the authorities. However, in general, the process should take less than one year from the time a child has been assigned to the adopting parents.

Parent Eligibility

For international adoptions, only heterosexual couples married for a minimum of five years are eligible to adopt a Dominican child. Each parent must be at least thirty years old and no more than sixty, and at least fifteen years older than the child they wish to adopt. Singles are not allowed to adopt.

However, some signatories of the Hague Convention (Austria, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands) have raised objections to the accession of the Dominican Republic. Documents from these jurisdictions, therefore, must still be authenticated through the Dominican Consulate.

Local Adoption Authority

Privately arranged adoptions are not legal in the Dominican Republic. All adoption requests must be made to The National Council for Children and Adolescents (Consejo Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia or CONANI), the government agency with the authority to refer a child and evaluate the suitability of a prospective couple.

Prospective parents must hire a Dominican attorney with experience in international adoptions to navigate the adoption process, which is both administrative and judicial, beginning with the submission of an application to CONANI.

Documents Required for the Application

The following documents must be obtained and authenticated by a Dominican Consulate in the prospective parents’ country of residence, or by an apostille, if the country of residence is a member of the Hague Convention1. If the documents are not in Spanish, they must also be translated and authenticated as separate documents by the same process as the originals. The authentication procedure is specific to the couple’s country of residence and must be followed according to that country’s laws.

  • Power-of-Attorney to the Dominican attorney(s) handling the adoption.
  • Certified copies of the birth certificates of the prospective parents.
  • Certified copy of the marriage certificate of the prospective parents.
  • Copies of the prospective parents’ passports.
  • Biopsychosocial study of the prospective parents.
  • Certification of a clean police record for each prospective parent from the appropriate authority in their country of residence.
  • Affidavit attesting to the prospective parents’ good morals and civic behavior from a religious or community organization in their country of residence.
  • Affidavit guaranteeing that the prospective parents will monitor the child until the child is naturalized in the country where they reside.
  • Certificates of the prospective parents’ good health from a doctor in their country of residence.
  • Evidence of the prospective parents’ financial solvency (bank statements, salary verification, etc.).
  • Authorization or visa for the adopted child’s entrance into the prospective parents’ country of residence.
  • Written or documented verbal opinion about the adoption from the prospective couple’s children over the age of twelve.

After CONANI receives the prospective parents’ application, it will evaluate the applicants’ suitability as parents. If found suitable, the prospective parents proceed to a judicial hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction, which will either order or reject the request for adoption. If adoption is awarded, a new birth certificate for the adopted child is issued, and the adoption is complete under Dominican law.

Suitability Evaluation

When an application is filed with CONANI, a commission comprising the head of the Adoptions Department of CONANI, a CONANI psychologist, the head of the Center for Adoptable Children, and two non-governmental psychologists specialized in family or children’s rights, determines whether the applicants fit to be adoptive parents, and at least two-thirds of the Commission must certify that certain prescribed criteria have been met before referring a child.

The commission’s main criterion for placement is the best interest of the child. Although the commission will assign a child as soon as one is available, preference must first be given to Dominican citizens, then to couples from countries that have ratified or adhered to the adoption policies established under The Hague Convention, an international treaty. It must also refer a child to an approved couple in the order that applications are submitted.

If the approved couple accepts the child referred, both prospective parents must come to the Dominican Republic for a trial cohabitation period with the child. The trial period is 60 days for a child under the age of 12 and 30 days for a child over the age of 12. Within two months from the successful completion of this trial period, CONANI must issue a certificate of suitability, effective for six months, permitting the prospective couple to petition the court for judicial review and a final order of adoption.

Judicial Review

The Court of Children and Adolescents, located where the child’s legal guardian resides, has jurisdiction to review the petition for adoption. The Dominican attorney will file the petition and documents evidencing suitability with the appropriate court. At least one adoptive parent must be present in court; the absent parent may execute a Power of Attorney granting the appearing parent to represent him or her.

In addition to the documents submitted in the adoption application, the following documents must also be submitted to the court:

  • Power of Attorney.
  • Consent by the biological parents or legal guardian to the adoption, properly legalized.
  • Birth certificate of the adoptive child.
  • Consent by the adoptive child to the adoption, if twelve years old or older.
  • Certificate of CONANI’s compliance with the placement criteria.
  • Certification by CONANI that the trial period of cohabitation was completed.
  • Certificate of Suitability, issued by CONANI.

The judge will review the petition and render an opinion within 18  days from filing. If there are any errors in the documents submitted, the petitioner has 10 days to correct them before the judge renders a final judgment.

If a final order of adoption is granted, the court will notify any living biological parents of the judgment and the Civil Registry Division of Junta Central Electoral (JCE), which will authorize the issuance of a new birth certificate. The decision must also be authenticated with the Dominican Republic’s Attorney General’s Office and Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Consulate of the adoptive parent’s country of residence located in the Dominican Republic. Authenticated copies of the final order are required for the new parents to leave the country with the child.

Issuance of  a New Birth Certificate

The Civil Registry Division of Junta Central Electoral (JCE) must authorize the civil registry office that issued the adopted child’s original birth certificate to issue a new birth certificate. The child’s original birth certificate will be annulled and the new certificate will list the adopted child’s birth information, excluding reference to the biological parents, new name, and the adoptive parents’ full names, dates and places of birth, occupations, and place of residence.

The judicial process and issuance of a new birth certificate can take two to three months to complete. Once adoption is granted, it is irrevocable, and an adopted child is deemed to have the same rights and obligations as a biological child in the adoptive family.

Adoption Records

The adoption file is kept for a period of 30 years with the Court of Children and Adolescents that awarded the adoption. Copies of the file can be requested only by the adoptive parents, the adopted child upon reaching the age of 18, or the district attorney for CONANI. Although Dominican law recognizes the right of any child to know his or her origins, it is the adoptive parents’ sole decision when to tell the adopted child about his or her place of birth and biological parents.

GUZMÁN ARIZA ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

Guzman Ariza is the leading law firm for international adoptions in the Dominican Republic, representing adoption agencies in the United States, Canada, and the European Union. We assist foreign adoption agencies and adoptive couples in submitting a properly completed application for adoption, appear with the adoptive parents in court, and ensure that the new family has all of the documents necessary to leave the country and transition to a new life.


Obtaining Residency Status in the Dominican Republic

Beginning June 1, 2012, residency status in the Dominican Republic is governed by Immigration Law No. 285-04 and Immigration Regulation No. 631-11. Foreign nationals are prohibited by statute from entering the Dominican Republic for residency purposes in the following cases:

1) Contagious illness threatening to public health, except, under certain requirements, when sponsored by relatives living in the DR.

2) Mental illness or physical disabilities, with certain exceptions.

3) Conviction for a crime (drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, terrorism, and other serious offences).

4) Previous deportation without reentry permit or prohibition from entering the country. Foreign nationals seeking residency in the Dominican Republic fall into two categories:

a) Those who may apply immediately for permanent residency.

b) Those who first must apply first for temporary residency. The following applicants may apply immediately for permanent residency status without having to previously obtain temporary residency status:

1) Investors of at least 200,000 USD in local businesses (including free zones and government contracts) or in local financial instruments.

2) Retirees with a monthly pension of at least 1,500 USD (plus 250 USD per dependent).

3) Applicants with monthly income of at least 2,000 USD for five years or more (rentistas).

4) Applicants related to Dominicans or to foreigners with permanent residency status in DR (spouses and children).

The application process is essentially the same for both temporary and permanent residency, except for some additional documents required in permanent residency applications. The first step is to apply for a residency visa at the Dominican Consulate nearest to the applicant’s domicile. It is no longer possible to apply for residency from within the Dominican Republic, as was usually done before. Requirements for the visa application are the following:

1) Pictures of the applicant.

2) Original passport valid for at least a stay of 60 days in the DR.

3) Documents justifying the granting of the visa. For example, work contract with a Dominican company.

4) Medical certificate from the health authorities of the country of domicile of the applicant.

5) Criminal record certificate from the authorities of the country of domicile of the applicant.

6) Photocopy of the national I.D. of the applicant, and, if the applicant resides in a third country, photocopy of his/her residency card in the third country.

7) Birth certificate. If in a language other than Spanish, the certificate must be translated by a legal translator and authenticated at the Consulate. Both the original and the translation into Spanish must be filed with the application.

8) Marriage certificate, if applicable. If in a foreign language. The same requirements for birth certificates apply.

9) Letter of guarantee signed by a Dominican or a permanent resident of the DR.

10) Documents justifying the applicant’s solvency.

Foreign documents must be apostilled or legalized at the Dominican Consulate depending on the jurisdiction. Documents in a language other than Spanish must be translated by the Consulate.

Law No. 285-04 mandates that residency applicants must obtain local insurance to cover medical and repatriation expenses. However, this requirement has been temporarily waived by the Immigration Department. Residency applications may include dependents such as a spouse and children, provided that the proper documentation is attached (birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, pictures, etc.).

Criminal Record Certificates are Only Required of Dependents of Legal Age

The residency visa is good for only one entry into the Dominican Republic for an initial period of 60 days. The cost of the application is 90 USD, or 90 € in the Euro Zone.

Residency visas are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santo Domingo. If the visa is approved, the Consulate will stamp the residency visa on the applicant’s passport. The application file will then be forwarded to the Immigration Department for processing. It is highly advisable that applicants keep a copy of the complete visa application file, including translations and authentications.

Within 30 days of his/her arrival in the Dominican Republic, the applicant must go to the Immigration Department with his/her passport to sign application forms, register fingerprints and undergo the required medical tests.

It is estimated that processing time for residency applications will be at least between four and six months from the date of the applicant signs the application at the Immigration Department.

Upon approval of his/her application as a resident, the applicant will receive a temporary or permanent residency card and a cédula de identidad (national I.D.). In both cases, residents must hold current passports at all times.

Temporary residency is granted for one year. Applications for renewal must be made in person within thirty days before the expiration date. Temporary residents may apply for permanent residency after 5 years, within 45 days before the expiration date of their temporary residency card.

The applications properly filed at the Immigration Department before June 1, 2012, will processed under the old rules,without the applicant having to obtain residency visa.

Permanent residents must renew their residency card after one year; subsequent cards will be renewable every four years, except for retirees and rentistas who must renew every two years.

After ten years, permanent residents will be issued a definitive residency card, not subject to renewal.

An annual residency fee, however, will still have to be paid.

An applicant wishing to renew his/her temporary or permanent residency must provide the Immigration Department with a passport valid for at least 18 months, residency card, cédula, pictures, local police certificate, letter of guarantee, etc. To renew his/her permanent residency, the applicant must also undergo a new medical exam, and justify that the conditions under which residency was originally granted have not changed (employment, investment, pension, etc.).

Residents must obtain a special re-entry permit if their residency cards will expire while they are out of the Dominican Republic. Residents must also inform the Immigration Department of any change of domicile.

As a temporary measure, foreign nationals whose provisional residencies have expired will have until August to file for permanent residency under the old rules. The same will apply to those with expired permanent residences who, therefore, need a renewal. If they do not file within this time frame, they’ll lose their status as residents.

Permanent residents may apply for citizenship after two years as permanent residents.

Investors and spouses of Dominican nationals may apply after six months.

It is illegal for nonresidents to work in the DR. Employers of nonresident workers will be subject to fines. Illegal workers are subject to deportation.

Foreign Investment Law of the Dominican Republic #16-95 (LAW 16-95)

THE NATIONAL CONGRESS
IN THE NAME OF THE REPUBLIC

WHEREAS: The Dominican State recognizes that foreign investment and technology transfers contribute to the economic growth and social development of the country insofar as they favor the generation of jobs and foreign currency, promote the process of capitalization and provide efficient production, marketing and management methods;

WHEREAS: It is advantageous that investors, whether foreign or national, should have similar rights and obligations in the investment fields;

THE FOLLOWING LAW HAS BEEN GIVEN

Art. 1.- For the purposes of this law on foreign investment, the following shall be understood to be:

a) Direct Foreign Investment:

Contributions originating from abroad, belonging to foreign individuals or corporations or individual nationals residing abroad, to the capital of a company operating in national territory;

b) Foreign Reinvestment:

That foreign investment made in whole or in part from the profits originating from a registered foreign company into the same company that generated them;

c) New Foreign Investment:

Foreign investment made in whole or in part from the profits originating from a duly registered direct foreign investment into a company different from that which generated the profits;

d) Foreign Investor:

The owner of a duly registered foreign investment;

e) National Investment:

That made by the State, municipalities and national corporations domiciled or resident in the National territory, as well as by foreign individuals residing in the national territory that do not meet the conditions for obtaining the certificate of foreign investor;

f) Central Bank:

This is the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic.

Art. 2.- Foreign Investment can assume the following forms:

a) Contributions in freely-convertible currency, exchanged in a banking institution authorized by the Central Bank.

b) Contributions in kind, such as industrial plants, new and re-conditioned machinery, new and re-conditioned equipment, replacements, spare parts and parts, raw material, intermediate products and final goods, as well as intangible technological contributions; and

c) Those financial instruments the Monetary Board relegates to the category of foreign investment, except those that may be the product of contributions or internment of an operation for the re-conversion of the Dominican foreign debt.

PARAGRAPH I: Independently of the investments foreseen in item b) of this article, contracts for technology transfer can be signed with foreign individuals or corporations, such as contracts for the license of technology, for technical assistance, basic and detailed engineering.

PARAGRAPH II: Intangible technological contributions are understood to be funds originating from technology, such as Trademarks, product models or industrial processes or services, technical assistance and technical knowledge, franchise and management assistance. The application regulation of this law shall determine the general framework that will be applied to technology, including those areas in which the capitalization of intangible technological contributions will be allowed.

Art. 3.- Targets of Foreign Investment:

a) Investments in the capital of an existing or new company, as per the provisions contained in the Commercial Code of the Dominican Republic, including the establishment of branch offices, pursuant to the conditions set by the laws.

Foreign Investment in share companies must be represented in nominative shares.

b) Investments in real properties located in the Dominican Republic, with the limitations in effect and applicable to foreigners; and

c) Investments towards the acquisition of financial assets, pursuant to the general norms issued in this area by the monetary authorities.

Art. 4.- Within 90 days of making its investment, any foreign company or investor must register it with the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic. For these purposes, the following documents will be filed:

a) Application for registration, containing all the information relevant to the invested capital and the area in which the investment has been made;

b) Proof of entry into the country of the foreign currency or physical or tangible goods.

c) Formative documents of the commercial corporation or the authorization of the operation of branch offices via the setting of domicile.

PARAGRAPH I: Once the document filing requisites have been met, the Central Bank will issue immediately to the applicant a Registration Certification of Direct Foreign Investment.

PARAGRAPH II: Foreign Re-Investment and New Foreign Investment, described in article 1 of this law, shall also be registered with the Central Bank, meeting the requisites provided by the regulation for applications.

PARAGRAPH III: In the case of companies operating in Industrial Free Zones, the registration and delivery of information shall be made in the National Council of Export Free Zones, which shall have the obligation of communicating this immediately to the Central Bank.

Art. 5.- Foreign Investment will not be allowed in the following categories:

a) Disposal and remains of toxic, dangerous or radioactive garbage not produced in the country;

b) Activities affecting the public health and the environmental equilibrium of the country, pursuant to the norms that apply in this regard; and

c) Production of materials and equipment directly linked to national defense and security, except for an express authorization from the Chief Executive.

PARAGRAPH I: When the Foreign Investment affects the eco-system in its area of influence, the investor must present a proposal with the provisions for recovering the ecological damage it may cause.

PARAGRAPH II: The competent authorities related to the area in question shall have the responsibility for compliance with the provisions contained in this article.

PARAGRAPH III: Foreign investments shall be made in each area of the national economy, pursuant to the conditions and limitations imposed by the laws and regulations governing each one of said areas.

Art. 6.- Investors and the companies or corporations in which foreign investors may participate or be owners, shall have the same rights and obligations that the laws confer upon national investors, save the exceptions foreseen in this law or in special laws.

Art. 7.- The individuals or corporations that make investments defined in article 1 of this law, shall have the right to remit abroad, in freely-convertible currencies, without the need for prior authorization, the total amount of invested capital and the dividends declared during each fiscal period, up to the total amount of the net current profits of the period, upon payment of income tax, including the capital gains made and registered in the books of the company according to generally accepted accounting practices.

They can also repatriate, under the same conditions, the obligations resulting from technical service contracts where fees are established for the purposes of technology transfers and/or contracts for the local manufacture of foreign brands, which include clauses for the payment of royalties (“regalías”) as long as said contracts and the amounts or procedures for the payments involved have been previously approved by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic or an official agency subsequently designated to coordinate, facilitate and supervise everything related to foreign investment.

Art. 8.- Within the following 60 days, the foreign investor must convey to the Central Bank the following:

a) Statement of profits contained in the fiscal year, duly certified by a Certified Public Accountant (“Contador Público Autorizado”), specifying the percentage of said profits that were subject to remittance;

b) Documentary proof of settlement of tax commitments.

Art. 9.- Non-compliance with this obligation will carry the applicable sanctions contained in the law that governs the obligation of supplying information to the Central Bank of the Republic.

The Central Bank must inform the National Congress annually of everything related to the flows of foreign investment in the country.

Art. 10.- Article 12, added to Law 622, of 28 December 1973 to Law 173, of 6 April 1966, is modified, so that hereinafter it reads in the following manner:

“Art. 10.- Foreign individuals and corporations, as well as nationals, can engage in the Dominican Republic in the promotion or handling of the importation, sale, rental or any other kind of marketing or operations of merchandise and products of foreign origin that may be produced abroad or in the country, whether acting as agent, representative, receiver of commissions, exclusive distributor, licensee or under any denomination. However, if the individual or corporation that is to engage in this activity has maintained a commercial relationship with local licensees, he or it must agree to and deliver beforehand and in writing the fair and complete indemnities for the losses and damages produced by such cause, on the basis of the factors and in the manner described in article 3 of this law.”

Art. 11.- This law repeals Law Number 861, dated 22 July 1978, and Law No. 138 dated 24 June 1983. In like manner, it repeals item d) of article 3 of Law No. 251 of 11 May 1964 on International Fund Transfers.

Art. 12.- (Transitional). In the case of accumulated profits from previous periods retained as a consequence of the limitations on remittances established by Law No. 861, each company shall have the right to request the approval of a program for gradual repatriation, with a minimum of 5 years for fully effecting it.

The reassessment surpluses registered in the capital accounts of companies that have reassessed their assets will not be regarded as foreign investment for the purposes of repatriation of capital, except when said revaluation profits have been converted into liquid assets for the sale to third parties or parties related to the company.

Art. 13.- This law repeals any other express legal provision contrary to it.

Investing in the Dominican Republic

A Receptive Environment for Investors

During the last two decades, the Dominican Republic has sought to foster a highly receptive environment for international investors, adopting policies that minimize regulatory obstacles and, at the same time, provide assistance and incentives to foreign companies and individuals to bring their capital into the country. As a result, the country has become the number one recipient of direct foreign investment in the region: 21 billion dollars’ worth from 2006 to 2015.

Equal Treatment

The Dominican Constitution accords foreign and local investors equal treatment under the law, stating expressly that foreigners in the Dominican Republic are entitled to the same rights as Dominican nationals, except for participating in local  political activities. At the same time, foreign investors are bound by the same rules and regulations applicable to local investors.

Foreign investors can freely hold equity in local businesses and joint ventures, as well as buy real estate in their names.

Legal Framework

Foreign Investment Law 16-95, enacted on November 20, 1995, and its enabling regulations, eliminated all barriers formerly imposed on international investments in the Dominican Republic. Investors contributing  capital to companies operating in the Dominican Republic are granted unlimited access to all sectors of the Dominican economy, except for investments related to national security and other sensitive industries.

Registration of foreign investments is optional. No government approval is required for the repatriation of profits.

Government Assistance to Foreign Investors

The Center for Exports and Investment of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), a government agency created in 2013 with the explicit purpose of attracting foreign investment and fostering exports, assists foreign investors in their business ventures in the Dominican Republic, providing them with timely advice and information, as well as assistance in coordinating their applications for government permits. In 2012, a one-stop investment office was set up within the Center to assist foreign investors in streamlining government permit applications related to free zones, tourism, renewable energy, and the film industry, among others

The Center also sponsors events to promote the Dominican Republic as an investment destination and to provide information to potential investors on how to plan and implement successful business projects in the country.

Government Guarantees for Foreign Loans

The Dominican  government also assists investors by pledging its full faith and credit to loans provided by international agencies for significant infrastructure projects in the Dominican Republic. Foreign investors  in large Dominican projects commonly use capital  and political/exchange insurance risk facilities provided by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).  The Dominican Republic has signed agreements with both entities.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is an independent development cooperation institution created by the World Bank in 1988 to provide, in addition to guarantees to investors against losses caused by political risks, technical assistance to promote investments to developing countries.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is an independent federal agency of the United States federal government that helps American companies to compete in emerging markets by providing insurance against political violence, expropriation, and the inability to convert foreign currency.

Incentives for Investors

In a deliberate effort to attract investment capital, the Dominican Republic has set up one of the most wide-ranging systems of incentives for investors. The most important initiatives in this regard are described below.

Incentives to Investors in Free Zones

Under Free Trade Zones Law 8-90, its amendments and regulations, companies operating in free zones function in a nearly free trade environment and  benefit from considerable tax exemptions for renewable 15-year periods, such as no income, goods and services, municipal or export or re-export taxes, no import duties nor related charges on raw materials, equipment,  construction materials, vehicles, office equipment and other  goods necessary for the preparation, construction, and operation of the business.

All trade in goods or services from and to a free zone is considered an import or an export, even when the source or destination is another location in the Dominican Republic. As a result, goods and services from the free zones sold in the Dominican market are subject to applicable taxes, such as customs duties and goods and services taxes, except (a) textiles, leather goods, and shoes that benefit from a special program set up under a special statute (Law 56-07); and (b) trade between different free zones if approved beforehand by the authorities. However, companies in the free zones  exporting goods or services to the Dominican market pay a preferential income tax rate of 3.5% on gross sales.

Free zones are regulated and supervised by the National Council for Free Zones, which issues the permits allowing companies to operate within a particular free zone, and enforces all applicable legislation.

Special Incentives for Border Region Free Zones

Under Law 28-01, companies established and operating in free zones within the border region with Haiti are entitled, in addition to the exemptions listed before, to additional benefits such as an extension of the exemption period from 15 to 20 years, government subsidies to lease space in the free zone, and preferential loans with lower interest rates.

Special incentives for International Financial Free Zones

Under Law 480-08, companies in special free zones can offer all types of financial and support services to persons or entities located outside the Dominican Republic without having to pay taxes for a 30-year period.

Partners and shareholders of companies in financial free zones are exempted from paying taxes on the profits or dividends received.

International financial free zones are regulated and supervised by the National Council for International Financial Zones, which issues the permits allowing companies to operate within a particular free zone and enforces all applicable legislation.

Special Incentives for Logistic Operators

Executive Order 262-15 defines logistic operators as companies authorized by the Customs Department of the Dominican Republic to supply, within a logistic center, services such as storage, inventory administration, classification, consolidation, cargo distribution, packaging, labeling, division of cargo, refrigeration, re-export, and transport.

Logistic operators benefit from a significant reduction in their income tax, which is set at just 3.5% of sales made in the local market, and from import duties on merchandise brought into the country, repackaged and then exported, if done within a specified time period.

Incentives for Investors in the Tourism Industry

The inflow of tourists to the Dominican Republic began with the enactment, in 1971, of a special statute granting incentives to investors willing to risk their capital in what was then the last tourist destination in the region. Nowadays, when the country is the undisputed tourism leader in the Caribbean, companies still benefit  from very attractive enticements to invest in the industry. Law 158-01 on Tourism Incentives, as amended by Law 195-13, and its regulations, grants wide-ranging tax exemptions, for fifteen years, to qualifying new projects by local or international investors.

The projects and businesses that qualify for these incentives are: (a) hotels and resorts; (b) facilities for conventions, fairs, festivals, shows and concerts; (c) amusement parks,  ecological parks, and theme parks; (d) aquariums, restaurants, golf courses, sports facilities, and any other tourist facility; (e) port infrastructure for tourism, such as recreational ports and seaports; (f) utility infrastructure for the tourist industry such as aqueducts, treatment plants, environmental cleaning, and garbage and solid waste removal; (g) businesses engaged in the promotion of cruises with local ports of call; and (h) small and medium-sized tourism-related businesses such as shops or facilities for handicrafts, ornamental plants, tropical fish, and endemic reptiles.

As for existing projects, hotels and resort-related investments that are five years or older are granted 100% exemptions from taxes and duties related to the acquisition of the equipment, materials and furnishings needed to renovate their premises. In addition, hotels and resort-related investments that are fifteen years or older will receive the same benefits as a new project if the renovation or reconstruction involves 50% or more of the premises.

Finally, individuals and companies get an income tax deduction for investing up to 20% of their annual profits in an approved tourist project.

The Tourism Promotion Council, known by its Spanish acronym of CONFOTOUR, is the government agency in charge of reviewing and approving applications by investors for these exemptions, and, generally, of supervising and enforcing all applicable regulations. Once CONFOTOUR approves an application, the investor benefitting from the incentives must start and continue work in the authorized project within a three-year period to avoid losing all benefits under the program.

Incentives for Investors in Renewable Energy

The Dominican Republic encourages investment in the renewable energy sector. Under Law 57-07 on the Development of Renewable Sources of Energy, investors in this area are granted, among other benefits, the following incentives: (a) no custom duties on the importation of the equipment required for the production, transmission and interconnection of renewable energy; (b) no tax on income derived from the generation and sale of electricity, hot water, steam power, biofuels or synthetic fuels generated from renewable energy sources; and (c) exemption from the goods and services tax in the acquisition or importation of certain types of equipment.

The National Energy Commission is the governmental entity in charge of granting incentives in this industry, which has attracted substantial interest from international investors.

Incentives for Investors in the Film Industry

Film Industry Law 108-10, as amended by Law 257-10, and its enabling regulation, created a legal framework to promote the development, production, distribution and preservation of movies, TV shows, music videos, and other audiovisual productions, as well as the construction of film-making studios and movie theaters. The most important incentives contemplated in the legislation are exemption from payment of the goods and services tax, income tax exemption for the construction of movie theaters and film or recording studios, and a transferable tax credit equal to 25% of expenditures in the Dominican Republic, subject to certain requirements.

To benefit from these incentives, investors need to be registered and authorized with the Dominican Republic Film Commission, which is the regulatory agency in charge of implementing the law.

General Incentives for Innovation and Competitiveness in Manufacture

Industrial Innovation and Competitiveness Law 392-07, as amended by Law 542-14, creates an institutional framework to enhance the ability of Dominican industry to compete in international markets by promoting horizontal and vertical integration and granting incentives to qualified operators such as exemption from custom duties and goods and services tax on raw materials, machinery and capital goods, accelerated depreciation of goods and industrial equipment, and reimbursements of certain taxes to exporters.

To qualify for these incentives, industries must be certified by the Center for Development and Industrial Competitiveness (PROINDUSTRIA), the agency of the Dominican government created to implement Law 392-07.

Incentives for Immigrant Investors

Law 171-07 grants foreign nationals who invest a minimum of $200,000 in the Dominican Republic or meet certain criteria as retirees with special benefits such as expedited residency in the country, exemption from duty for the importation of household goods, exemption from transfer taxes for the first purchase of real estate, exemption from taxes on dividends and interest, and 50% reduction on property and capital gains taxes.

GUZMAN ARIZA ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Guzman Ariza has advised investors on investments and trade incentives in the Dominican Republic through the decades. As a firm with national presence, we know the investment health of localities around the island and combine this with our legal expertise to help you maximize the enormous investment opportunities available in the country in tourism, real estate, free trade zones, renewable energy, telecommunications, mining, sports, etc. No project is beyond our legal capability, nor is any project too small. Whatever your interest, we will help you achieve your investment goals in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic and International Trade

The Dominican Republic at a Glance

Geographically located at the center of the Caribbean, with privileged market access to the United States, Europe, and Central America, an abundant work force, a domestic market of more than ten million people, and a decades-old policy of great openness to foreign investment and international trade, the Dominican Republic has become the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central America, the number one recipient of direct foreign investment in the region (2. 3 billion dollars in 2015), and its most-visited tourist destination (5.6 million tourists in 2015). From 1993 to 2015, gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the Dominican economy averaged 5.4% annually; in 2014 and 2015, it reached 7.3 and 7.0%, respectively, the highest by far in the Western Hemisphere.

Market Size

In 2015, the Dominican Republic bought $16.9 billion dollars’ worth of imported products and exported 9.7 billion dollars in local products. The top four countries for Dominican exports in 2014 were the United States (49%), Haiti (14%), Canada (9%), and Switzerland (2.5%). Imports came mainly from the Unites States ($7.3 billion in 2014), China ($2.1 billion), and Mexico ($1.1 billion).

In the Western Hemisphere, the Dominican Republic is the seventh largest trading partner of the United States, after Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Chile.

Participation in the International Community

The Dominican Republic maintains diplomatic relations with 129 countries and is a member of many regional and international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Central American Integration System, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency, and the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Memmbership in the World Trade Organization

The Dominican Republic has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the world-wide regulator of international trade, since its founding in 1995. The main objective of the WTO is to foster international trade by eliminating trade barriers and enforcing the multiple commercial agreements reached by its members over the decades.

As a developing country, the Dominican Republic is allowed to receive preferential, non-reciprocal treatment from other member states.

Free Trade Agreements

The Dominican Republic enjoys advantageous trade with the United States, the European Union, and countries in the Caribbean and Central America region. Two important agreements are the free trade agreement with the United States and Central America (DR-CAFTA) and the Economic Association Agreement with the European Union (AAE). Both encourage the free flow of trade among the member states by significantly reducing tariffs, opening new markets, and promoting regional integration. Furthermore, the country has initiated discussions to liberalize trade with Canada, Mexico, Mercosur, and Taiwan.

Dominican Republic and  Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA)

Signed August 5, 2004, and effective in the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007, DR-CAFTA facilitates trade and investment between its member states and promotes regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, promoting competition, protecting intellectual property rights, and advancing transparency. Parties to the agreement are the United States, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These last six countries represent the third largest export market for U.S. goods in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.

DR-CAFTA permanently guarantees the Dominican Republic the ability to export most of its products and services to the member states without customs duties. Service sectors with open access to all signatories of DR-CAFTA include financing, insurance, investments, tourism, energy, transport, construction and engineering, government contracts, telecommunications, express delivery, electronic commerce, entertainment, professional services, computer and related services, and environmental industries. Importantly, laws that protect domestic dealers by locking companies into distributorship arrangements have been loosened.

DR-CAFTA also requires member states to effectively enforce local labor and environmental regulations,  and eliminate corruption, in order to ensure fair competition and a level playing field for all.

Certain obstacles to free trade remain under the treaty. Member states have kept tariffs on specific agricultural products up to a certain limit, and have prohibited the importation of certain goods. For instance, the Dominican Republic does not allow the entry of used clothes, used electric household appliances, or cars older than five years.

The administrative structure of DR-CAFTA is headed by the Free Trade Commission, consisting of cabinet-level representatives of the seven parties to the agreement. The Commission is responsible for supervising the implementation of the agreement and resolving disputes regarding its interpretation and application.

Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is a free trade treaty with financing and investment aspects signed in 2007 between the European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM, an organization of Caribbean nations, whose members are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominican Republic. The EPA allows duty-free access to Caribbean products to the 28 countries of the EU and provides economic assistance to Caribbean countries with the stated purpose of reducing poverty, promoting regional integration, and encouraging regional consolidation into the world economy. It also promotes free trade within the Caribbean region. The Dominican Republic entered the EPA on October 15, 2008.

Under the terms of the EPA, access to markets is asymmetrical. Provisions for exports from Caribbean countries to the countries of the EU are generous for eligible products. In contrast, provisions for similar imports from the EU are subject to restrictions for up to 25 years, with safeguards to protect local employment and sensitive industries. This asymmetry protects certain products and sectors in the less-developed Caribbean countries from the potential unequal effect of trade with the EU while affording the less-developed member states access to EU products.

The EPA, together with DR-CAFTA, offers international investors and local producers in the Dominican Republic unprecedented free-trade access to the two largest markets in the world: The EU and the United States. Few other countries benefit from such a privileged situation.

Free Trade Agreement with CARICOM

Signed in 1998 and ratified by the Dominican Republic in February 2001, this agreement involves the Dominican Republic and 14 Caribbean nations (CARICOM), and establishes free trade zones in the region along WTO guidelines. Trade between the Dominican Republic takes place on an equal or reciprocal basis with other more developed Caribbean states, but may be differentiated with those less-developed, such as Antigua y Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti.

The free trade agreement between the Dominican Republic and CARICOM coexists with free trade agreement between the Caribbean nations and the European Union (EPA). A provision in the EPA stipulates that in case of a conflict in the handling of a product or sector between the two agreements, the agreement with the less restrictive treatment will prevail.

Free Trade Agreement with Central America

A free trade agreement between the Dominican Republic and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua was signed in 1998 and came into effect in 2001. Although a regional treaty, it is, in fact, a bilateral agreement between each Central American country and the Dominican Republic. The agreement provides for free trade in all products originating in the region except those registered in a “negative list.”

This agreement coexists with DR-CAFTA, which incorporates several of the provisions of the former, including the negative lists. In case of a conflict in the handling of a product or sector between the two agreements, the agreement with the less restrictive treatment will prevail.

Partial Free Trade Agreement with Panama

This agreement was signed in 1985, but discrepancies over its application delayed implementation until 2003. Four lists of products benefit from liberalized trade, subject to rules of origin: (a) “two-way products,” which consists of those that enjoy free access to the markets of both countries; (b) Dominican products than can be freely exported to Panama; (c) Panamanian products that can be freely exported to the Dominican Republic; and (d) products manufactured in free trade zones.

A Permanent Mixed Commission consisting of representatives from both countries may add new products to the lists.


GUZMÁN ARIZA’S SERVICE IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Involvement exemplifies Guzmán Ariza’s experience in trade agreements. We dedicate a large part of our practice to helping international corporations meet their operational and strategic business objectives in the country. We have actively participated in the negotiation of the most important international trade agreements, giving us intimate knowledge of the local impact of their contents on your business. When DR-CAFTA was enacted, we pioneered the field of public procurement law in the Dominican Republic to meet the objectives of that trade agreement.

Our presence in and attention to trade issues enable us to monitor provisions that impact your business, such as technical barriers to commerce, rules of origin, domestic components, and tariff. Armed with timely information, we can anticipate legal changes and guide your business for the long term.

Buying Real Estate in the Dominican Republic

Title insurance is part of every major real estate transaction in the United States and Canada. For a one-time premium, an insurance company assumes the obligation to indemnify the real estate buyer in case title to the property is defective. In effect, the buyer relies on a policy of title insurance to guarantee that he or she will actually own the property to be purchased. In the event of a lawsuit disputing the title, the title insurance company will defend the buyer in court and if the lawsuit is lost will pay or cure all valid claims or losses up to the amount of the policy. Title insurance may be obtained during or after the purchase of real estate.

In the Dominican Republic, as in many Latin American and European countries, the government provides title insurance. The Land Registry Law establishes an indemnity fund with which to pay claimants who due, for example, to an error of the Registrar, are deprived of their property. Unfortunately, the indemnity fund never collected sufficient funds to become operative and property owners remain unprotected. Recently, however, two American title insurance companies have begun to offer their services to buyers of Dominican real estate: First American Title Insurance Company and Stewart Title. Among the risks covered are: title vested on another person; title defect, lien, charge, privilege, mortgage or encumbrance; forgery, fraud, undue influence, duress, incompetency, incapacity or impersonation in the conveyance; lack of right of access to and from the property; easement or right of way on the title; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was not properly executed, sealed, acknowledged, notarized, delivered or recorded; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was executed under a falsified, expired or otherwise invalid power of attorney; erroneous or inadequate legal description of the land.En los Estados Unidos y Canada es común que el seguro de título (“title insurance”) sea parte de toda operación importante de compraventa inmobiliaria. A cambio del pago de una prima, la compañía de seguro se compromete a resarcir al comprador de cualquier pérdida ocasionada por una deficiencia en el título de propiedad. En efecto, el seguro de título le garantiza al comprador que el inmueble comprado es de su propiedad. En caso de pleito relacionado con el inmueble, la compañía de seguro asume la defensa del asegurado en los tribunales y, de tener resultado adverso, asume la responsabilidad de pagarle las pérdidas hasta el monto de la póliza.

En la República Dominicana, como en otros países latinoamericanos y europeos, el Estado es garante de la validez de los Certificados de Título que expide, estableciendo Fondos de Seguro que permiten, en teoría, indemnizar a aquéllos que, sin cometer negligencia alguna, se han visto despojados de su propiedad, por error en la ejecución de la Ley de Registro de Tierras. En República Dominicana, por desgracia, el Fondo de Seguro jamás ha recaudado los fondos necesarios para hacer efectiva esta protección legal. Para suplir esta deficiencia recientemente se han establecido en el país dos aseguradores privados que expiden pólizas de seguro o garantía de títulos: Stewart Title y American Title Insurance Company. Entre los riesgos cubiertos por estos aseguradores se encuentran: multiplicidad de propietarios, falsificación, fraude, incapacidad del vendedor, falta de acceso a la propiedad, nulidad de fondo o de forma del acto de venta y poderes nulos.Title insurance is part of every major real estate transaction in the United States and Canada. For a one-time premium, an insurance company assumes the obligation to indemnify the real estate buyer in case title to the property is defective. In effect, the buyer relies on a policy of title insurance to guarantee that he or she will actually own the property to be purchased. In the event of a lawsuit disputing the title, the title insurance company will defend the buyer in court and if the lawsuit is lost will pay or cure all valid claims or losses up to the amount of the policy. Title insurance may be obtained during or after the purchase of real estate.

In the Dominican Republic, as in many Latin American and European countries, the government provides title insurance. The Land Registry Law establishes an indemnity fund with which to pay claimants who due, for example, to an error of the Registrar, are deprived of their property. Unfortunately, the indemnity fund never collected sufficient funds to become operative and property owners remain unprotected. Recently, however, two American title insurance companies have begun to offer their services to buyers of Dominican real estate: First American Title Insurance Company and Stewart Title. Among the risks covered are: title vested on another person; title defect, lien, charge, privilege, mortgage or encumbrance; forgery, fraud, undue influence, duress, incompetency, incapacity or impersonation in the conveyance; lack of right of access to and from the property; easement or right of way on the title; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was not properly executed, sealed, acknowledged, notarized, delivered or recorded; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was executed under a falsified, expired or otherwise invalid power of attorney; erroneous or inadequate legal description of the land.Title insurance is part of every major real estate transaction in the United States and Canada. For a one-time premium, an insurance company assumes the obligation to indemnify the real estate buyer in case title to the property is defective. In effect, the buyer relies on a policy of title insurance to guarantee that he or she will actually own the property to be purchased. In the event of a lawsuit disputing the title, the title insurance company will defend the buyer in court and if the lawsuit is lost will pay or cure all valid claims or losses up to the amount of the policy. Title insurance may be obtained during or after the purchase of real estate.

In the Dominican Republic, as in many Latin American and European countries, the government provides title insurance. The Land Registry Law establishes an indemnity fund with which to pay claimants who due, for example, to an error of the Registrar, are deprived of their property. Unfortunately, the indemnity fund never collected sufficient funds to become operative and property owners remain unprotected. Recently, however, two American title insurance companies have begun to offer their services to buyers of Dominican real estate: First American Title Insurance Company and Stewart Title. Among the risks covered are: title vested on another person; title defect, lien, charge, privilege, mortgage or encumbrance; forgery, fraud, undue influence, duress, incompetency, incapacity or impersonation in the conveyance; lack of right of access to and from the property; easement or right of way on the title; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was not properly executed, sealed, acknowledged, notarized, delivered or recorded; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was executed under a falsified, expired or otherwise invalid power of attorney; erroneous or inadequate legal description of the land.Title insurance is part of every major real estate transaction in the United States and Canada. For a one-time premium, an insurance company assumes the obligation to indemnify the real estate buyer in case title to the property is defective. In effect, the buyer relies on a policy of title insurance to guarantee that he or she will actually own the property to be purchased. In the event of a lawsuit disputing the title, the title insurance company will defend the buyer in court and if the lawsuit is lost will pay or cure all valid claims or losses up to the amount of the policy. Title insurance may be obtained during or after the purchase of real estate.

In the Dominican Republic, as in many Latin American and European countries, the government provides title insurance. The Land Registry Law establishes an indemnity fund with which to pay claimants who due, for example, to an error of the Registrar, are deprived of their property. Unfortunately, the indemnity fund never collected sufficient funds to become operative and property owners remain unprotected. Recently, however, two American title insurance companies have begun to offer their services to buyers of Dominican real estate: First American Title Insurance Company and Stewart Title. Among the risks covered are: title vested on another person; title defect, lien, charge, privilege, mortgage or encumbrance; forgery, fraud, undue influence, duress, incompetency, incapacity or impersonation in the conveyance; lack of right of access to and from the property; easement or right of way on the title; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was not properly executed, sealed, acknowledged, notarized, delivered or recorded; invalidity of any document upon which the title is based because it was executed under a falsified, expired or otherwise invalid power of attorney; erroneous or inadequate legal description of the land.

by Fabio J. Guzmán Ariza