Curaçao is a Dutch Caribbean island famous for its beautiful beaches, stunning coral reefs, rich architectural history, and friendly population. Being strategically located between Europe and the Americas, it offers foreign investors great opportunities, including access to a thriving real estate market. All of these benefits, among others, make living in Curaçao an attractive option for expats, investors, and pensioners alike.
Immigrating to Curaçao
Every foreign national must obtain a residence card to live for an extended period in Curaçao. One way of acquiring one is by a route of investment through the Curaçao Investor Permit Program. To qualify for the scheme, applicants must have a clean criminal record, valid health insurance, and sufficient funds to invest in Curaçao’s economy, and sustain themselves during their stay.
It takes around four months for a residency application to get processed by the Immigration Department in Curaçao. However, applicants must reside outside the nation at the time of their application, or it may get rejected. Once their application is approved, they must submit a security deposit to the relevant authorities. They may choose to get their investment back once they finally leave Curaçao.
The Benefits of Investing in Curaçao
Curaçao has been undergoing a socio-economic transformation, which provides a handful of benefits to local and foreign investors alike – including a safe and secure business-friendly environment in a strategic geographic location.
A thriving economy
Curaçao boasts contemporary financial and investor services, and is home to popular international banks, accounting firms, law firms, global consultancies, and local offices. With the introduction of the privatization program back in 2001, Curaçao has created multiple business opportunities owing to partnerships with US, Dutch, and Canadian organizations.
Moreover, Curaçao has updated its financial legislation, creating a new economic zone legislation. This brand new civil code constitutes current guidelines and globally accepted business standards.
A flourishing tourism sector
Curaçao’s flourishing tourism sector is opening up employment and investment opportunities for individuals and organizations looking to make lucrative earnings from the hospitality sector.
The island nation is also home to famous hotel and resort companies, including the Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt – all of which offer thrilling activities and luxury lodging to tourists and locals alike.
A booming maritime sector
Curaçao has the second biggest seaport in the Netherlands, and the best mooring facilities across the Caribbean, designed with the latest large cruise ships in mind.
International travel connections
Curaçao has a modern international airport that is primed with contemporary facilities, and can provide easy access to significant global cities and popular destinations, including Columbia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Suriname.
Home to culture and heritage
Curaçao is home to the Historic Area of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known to attract tourists worldwide. The island nation also hosts numerous educational and cultural events that showcase its ability to organize and execute occasions of global significance.
Real Estate in Curaçao
Individuals with valid residence permits can easily invest in Curaçao’s property market in one of two ways. They can either purchase a property and have complete ownership of it – meaning they’ll have to pay property taxes, among other taxes – or enter a lease agreement with Curaçao’s government.
The lease agreement is typically valid for 60 years. The fee amount for the lease is determined by various factors, and will hold the same value until the day the agreement expires. Relevant authorities may choose to extend the lease period once it is on the verge of expiry.
Retiring in Curaçao
Curaçao is a tax-friendly nation that provides its residents with a handful of special tax incentives and advantages, including low tax rates on exports, and tax exemptions on import duty tax, turnover tax, excise tax, and wealth tax, among others.
Anyone who plans to retire in Curaçao may be pleased to know that residence permit holders benefit from double taxation agreements, as Curaçao is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Tax rates for foreign pensioners
Curaçao has a special tax regime for foreign pensioners, called the ‘Pensionado scheme.’ It mainly concerns the individual’s worldwide and foreign accrued income, including any foreign-sourced pensions, dividends, and interests, as well as rental income from properties outside of Curaçao, income accrued from any offshore company, or local bank deposits.
The Pensionado scheme provides two taxation options for pensioners and retirees. One option subjects the pensioner to a flat income tax rate of 10% on their foreign income. The other option subjects them to a fixed annual rate of around €142,927 – or $152,000 more accurately – on their personal income, regardless of how high their worldwide income is.
Of course, some conditions need to be met for an individual to be considered under the Pensionado scheme, including:
- Being 50 years of age or older
- Not having lived in Curaçao, or any other former jurisdictions of the Netherlands Antilles, for at least five years before their application to the tax regime
- Informing Curaçao’s local tax authorities within the first two months of receiving their residence permits, stating that they want to be considered under the Pensionado scheme
Working in Curaçao
Foreign nationals who wish to work in Curaçao must apply for a work permit separately, as holding a residence permit does not automatically grant them the right to work in Curaçao. Individuals are also not allowed to work in the island nation on a tourist visa.
Those who wish to acquire a work permit in Curaçao must have their employer sponsor them. The employer must, therefore, submit an application for a work permit to Curaçao’s government on behalf of their employee. For more information on acquiring a work permit in Curaçao, including application forms, you may contact:
- Directie Buitenlandse Betrekkingen (DBB)
- Fort Amsterdam, 4, Willemstad, Curaçao
- Nieuwe Toelatingsorganisatie (NTO)
- Amerikaan Business Center Building
- Mortiersweg 5, zijweg van Gosieweg, Willemstad, Curaçao
Note that it takes around three to four months for the work permit to be issued. Therefore, it may be best to prepare for the application immediately after you acquire your residence card.
Job opportunities in Curaçao
Tourism is a thriving sector in Curaçao. Hence, multiple jobs are available in tourism, and other allied industries. You may either network with people already established in the nation to discover available vacancies, or seek help from an employment website.
Activities in Curaçao
Owing to its fantastic way of life, Curaçao has emerged as one of the most attractive countries for expats and retirees alike. The island nation is ideal for anyone seeking a peaceful, laidback lifestyle; where they can get involved in an array of exciting activities, including water sports, historical tours, and spectacular wildlife tours, to name a few.
Pensioners relocating to Curaçao also have the chance to spend their retirement days enjoying animal farms, aquatic parks, golf courses, and museums, appreciating the rich natural diversity of the nation, as well as its architecture and heritage.
Family time in Curaçao
You and your family members may access a high quality of life in Curaçao, as it is known for its safety, security, and natural beauty. The island nation is packed full of delicious, fresh food at street markets, and has high-quality drinking water. It also houses some large supermarkets where you can purchase popular grocery items.
Suppose you’re considering going out for a fun family day. In that case, you may visit places like the Curaçao Seaquarium, Criadero Babetti horse stables, Dolphin Academy, and Ostrich Farm, or take a trip to one of the many family beaches spread across the island.
Water sports in Curaçao
According to Scuba Diving Magazine, Curaçao is known to have some of the best snorkeling spots, top shore diving locations, and a rich macro marine life. Divers and snorkelers from all around the world are fond of Curaçao’s underwater ecosystem.
The island nation is hailed as a paradise for water sports fanatics. It has over 40 different dive areas with over 65 individual sites – all of which offer individuals the opportunity of experiencing the extraordinary beauty of the underwater world.
Living in Curaçao: Pros and Cons
Living in Curaçao has its pros and cons, as any other nation. However, there are more advantages to living in the country than disadvantages.
There are a handful of pros to living in Curaçao apart from obtaining residency, and a return on your investment.
- Multilingual nation: There are four languages spoken across the island nation – Dutch, Papiamentu, English, and Spanish; with English being mandatory across all schools in Curaçao.
- Stable currency: Curaçao’s official currency, the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG), is known to be stable. The island nation’s currency exchange rate to the US dollar is $1 to ANG 1.80.
- Very little threat of natural disasters: Since the island nation is situated far from the hurricane belt, there is a relatively lower risk for the country to experience natural calamities.
- Exciting nightlife: Curaçao has an exciting nightlife. Expats often frequent restaurants and locations such as the Mambo Beach Boulevard and St. Tropez Ocean Club.
- Captivating natural scenery: Curaçao enjoys a sunny climate, and is home to beautiful beaches, captivating natural landscapes, and a charming countryside.
- High cost of living: According to Numbeo, consumer prices in Curaçao are around 1.26% higher than in the US on average. However, rent prices are about 62% lower than in the US, and groceries are about 16% lower as well. Still, you can expect to pay more for dining out in the island nation.
- Mediocre infrastructure and transportation system: Curaçao’s public transportation system is not the most reliable. There are no trams, trains, or metros on the island, and transportation is limited to public buses, and local taxis.
- Cultivation in the country is difficult: As the island is arid in nature, most of the produce there is imported from neighboring nations, meaning it has a higher cost.
Curaçao’s Citizenship by Investment Program
As part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the island nation of Curaçao ensures high living standards for all its citizens. The country also provides foreign individuals with a route to Dutch citizenship, provided they place a significant investment in the island nation’s economy through the Curaçao citizenship program.
The government scheme, which is more of a residency-by-investment program, can lead to EU citizenship after a naturalization period. The primary condition to succeed in acquiring European citizenship is to maintain your residency across both the Netherlands and Curaçao for five years, wherein you abide by the program’s stipulated stay requirements, and maintain your investment in the island nation.
To obtain residency rights through Curaçao’s investment program, and be on your way to European citizenship, you must first choose one of three investment options:
- Invest at least €263,872 – or $280,000 more accurately – in real estate property, a local business venture, or a company listed on the Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange (DCSX). This investment route will grant you a renewable three-year residence permit.
- Invest at least €400,520 – or $425,000 more accurately – in real estate property, a local business venture, or a company listed on the DCSX. This investment route will grant you a renewable five-year residence permit.
- Invest at least €801,040 – or $850,000 more accurately – in real estate property, a business venture, or a company listed on the DCSX. This investment route will grant you a permanent and indefinite residence permit.
Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Curaçao
Is it safe to live in Curaçao?
Curaçao is a safe and secure country; however, some areas, such as tourist spots, are safer than other neighborhoods there. Petty crimes and theft have been reported on a few occasions on the island.
What is the cost of living in Curaçao?
The cost of living in Curaçao is, on average, 1.26% higher than in the US. However, rent prices are about 62% lower, and groceries are around 16% lower as well.
Which areas are the best to live in Curaçao?
Areas like Willemstad, Piscadera, Jan Thiel, and Mambo Beach are some of the best places to live in Curaçao.
What are the advantages of retiring in Curaçao?
Curaçao offers retirees a fantastic beach lifestyle, world-class underwater adventure opportunities, a top-tier medical healthcare infrastructure, and an overall high quality of life, among other things – all of which make it one of the most sought-after countries for retirees.
Is moving to Curaçao from the US easy?
American citizens can reside in Curaçao for up to 90 days without needing a visa.