How does the investment process work in Nicaragua?
Nicaragua has proven to be an increasingly attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination through the implementation of a series of pro-business policies and the strengthening of its competitive advantages. Let us guide you through the main steps in establishing your operations in this country and begin taking advantage of Nicaragua's business advantages.
1. How to Set Up a Company
The process of registering a company in Nicaragua can be fast tracked by using the services provided by the Investment One-Stop Shop (VUI, for its acronym in Spanish). The office, which gathers the main government institutions involved in the process, provides top-quality services free of charge for investors, reducing the registration time to approximately 13 days. The main steps are:
- Draft Act of Incorporation. The drafting of an Act of Incorporation requires at least two shareholders, either individuals or corporations, and a minimum start-up capital of C$10,000 (approximately US$400). A legal representative with a Nicaraguan residency must be appointed. Additionally, the final act must be authorized and certified by a Nicaraguan public notary.
- Buy Accounting and Corporate Books. These books are required for the registration of a company and may be acquired at local bookstores.
- Submit Act of Incorporation at VUI. These documents are received at the VUI and processed by the Commercial Registry. They require a payment of 1% of the company’s capital but up to a maximum of C$30,000 (approximately US$1,200).
- Register as a trader and register accounting books. Once the act of incorporation has been processed, one must register as a trader and also register the accounting books with the Commercial Registry. This procedure is also done at the VUI.
- Obtain the Single Registration Document (DUR, for its acronym in Spanish). This procedure may be done simultaneously with the previous one. This document is completed and submitted at the VUI and through it the investor receives the Municipal License, the License of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS, for its acronym in Spanish) and the Tax Payer Registration (RUC, for its acronym in Spanish) of the General Revenue Department. The DUR requires a payment of 1% of the company’s capital.
2. Purchasing Property
Before buying a property, the investor should ask the owner about the history of the property registry, which allows them to check for possible conflicts of legitimacy, as well as the document “Free Assessment” to determine that the property has no debt whatsoever.
Additionally, depending on the history of title to the property and if necessary, the owner must submit the “Certification of No Objection” given by the Attorney General’s Office, which certifies that there are no irregularities with the property. This document is a requirement to register the property under the buyer’s name, mainly for those properties that were affected by the agrarian reform. It is also important to identify whether the property is under a special regime such as coastal or border line or if it belongs to indigenous communities, in which cases special treatment of land tenure, through the figure of the lease, may be required.
Obtain the necessary permits to build. Building permits are required by the municipality and by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA, for its acronym Spanish) before any construction work begins. The city grants the building permit certifying that the plans comply with the requirements established by that authority. On the other hand, the environmental permit, which must be requested to MARENA, is a pre-requisite that can involve the certification of an environmental engineer and health during the planning and design process.
It is recommended to seek legal counsel in the process of buying and developing a property.
3. Immigration Status
The Immigration Law (761) provides certain categories under which investors, both non-resident foreign investors and foreign workers who move to Nicaragua as human capital, may have access to a preferential system of immigration status. One of the purposes of that law is to regulate, through the General Immigration Directorate, the entry and stay of foreigners in our country, without violating their individual and social rights and under the same conditions as nationals except for those exceptions contained in the Constitution and laws of the Republic.
There are two types of residence: (i) Temporary and (ii) Permanent. The Temporary Residency classifies the sub-category of self-employed or as dependent employees of a business.
The general requirements to apply for residency in Nicaragua are:
- Original passport, valid for at least 6 months;
- Two passport- size photos up to date;
- Birth certificate or naturalization, as applicable;
- Certificate of Health;
- Certificate of Police Records;
- Marriage Certificate (if the spouse is also applying for the Nicaraguan residency).
All documents before mentioned must be issued by the appropriate authorities of the applicant’s country of origin and submitted in original and duly certified by the Consulate of Nicaragua in that country. Such request may be made to the General Directorate of Immigration if the alien is already in Nicaragua; in those cases the alien is outside of Nicaragua, the application can be made before the Nicaraguan Foreign Service officer in the diplomatic missions and consular offices.
Specific requirements to apply to the sub-category of self-employed or as independent worker or in a dependency relation will be determined in the Regulation issued by that law.
To hire a foreigner, the employer must request the presentation of the residency card, which must always be valid for the duration of the employment relationship.
Companies employing foreign personnel must also fulfill the provisions of labor legislation, the Immigration Act and its regulations.