Olivia closed her eyes and remembered.  There she was, barely a year ago, standing in her finely pressed suit in front of the senior partner of her firm, reporting on the client’s latest demands.  Olivia wondered “will this slavery ever stop?”  Pay check after pay check, there was no end in sight to the thankless, routine, life of this educated Wall Street professional.

At about six pm each day, it was time to walk home through the blisteringly cold downtown streets. Olivia recalls how, on one particular night, her pump got caught in a street grate (again).  As she wiggled her ankle to get it out, mumbling a few unnecessary words under her breath, her eye landed on a magazine cover displayed in the corner newsstand.  She couldn’t help but walk over to stare at the picture of turquoise water unfolding on a white, sandy beach.  She remembered feeling a sudden calm inside, and it was somehow no longer cold outside.

Slipping a few dollars to the newsstand guy, Olivia recalled how she clutched the magazine with both hands, her eyes unable to gaze at anything but the words on the first page.  “Diving, snorkeling, gorgeous private beaches, an oasis awaits you…in Curaçao” There was no turning back.

As she opened her eyes gently, Peter said to Olivia “were you day dreaming again, honey?  Let’s go, the students need us to get out there.”  Olivia reached down and grabbed her fins in the sand.  Quickly, she and Peter picked up the rest of their gear and headed to the water to join their crew of resort scuba divers, who were waiting for them on the boat to head out to the first dive site of the day.  Once on the boat, Peter leaned in and whispered in his wife’s ear “were you thinking about home?” Olivia smiled and answered “yes, I was remembering how I made the best decision of my life by coming to Cucaçao.”

Olivia met Peter at the resort where she stayed when she arrived on the island for her two week vacation.  A Dutch scuba instructor living in Curaçao, he taught her to dive and they became friends.  A romance ensued, and Peter asked Olivia to extend her stay in Curaçao.  Being an American Citizen, she was allowed to prolong her stay.  She gave her notice by calling at work, asked a friend to water her plants, and extended her stay for another month.  That month turned into a marriage, a job, and a drastically new happy life for Olivia.

Olivia’s experience is not uncommon.  Most tourists and temporary visitors to Curaçao fall in love with the island (not with Peter…) and decide to either extend their stay, find a job, or move there permanently.  This happens to singles and families alike.  Should you be one of the lucky visitors who dares to make the life-changing dive into Curaçao’s eternal bliss, here are some things you should know about immigrating to Curaçao.

 Passports & Visas

Immigration and tourism rules for Curaçao are the same for all the Netherlands Antilles.  By now, since you are either headed or returning from Curaçao, you probably know that all foreigners coming to Curaçao for a short visit need to present a valid passport and a return ticket home upon entering the island.  Dutch nationals may stay as a tourist for up to 6 months per year; members of the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan may stay up to 3 months per year, and most other nationals may in principle stay up to 30 days.

European Union, U.S.A. and Canadian citizens do not require a tourist visa.  However, most other foreigners do require a visa, including all African countries, all Asian countries, all Middle Eastern countries (except Israel); South America, Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

You may be able to extend a tourist visa for up to three months.  The application to extend is made with the Immigration office prior to the suspension of the visa.

Residence Permits & Local Identification Cards

Foreigners who intend to live and/or work in Curaçao need a residence permit in order to legally establish themselves on the island. They must have a valid reason, such as employment or marriage, to apply for a residency permit.  The only exception to this rule is for Dutch citizens with a Dutch passport, who are subject to some preferential rules. If you are going to start your own business, or will be acting as director of a business and have a foreign nationality, you will also need a residency permit.  Application can be made locally at the Vreemdelingen dienst/Immigratie (Foreigners / Immigration services), at Waaigatplein 1 (at the Post office in Punda) tel: 599-9-866-6400 / 599-9-866-6422. Hours of Operation are M-Th from 08.00 to 15.00 and Friday from 08.00 to 11.30.

The following documents are required to apply:

Valid passport (Copy of all pages, even blank pages)

Original health certificate not more than 2 months old

Six color 2×2 passport-size photographs, signed on the back

A letter of good conduct (police record) issued by the state police department, not more than 3 months old

Birth certificate

Marriage/partnership license

Proof of roundtrip airplane ticket to the country of origin

Copies of all diplomas and certificates (for workers only)

Once these documents have been processed by the immigration authorities, a landing-permit and a residence permit will be issued to you.  You will then be registered as a temporary resident of the Netherlands Antilles and will be issued an Antillean identification card. This card should be carried with you at all times.

It is recommended you check with the consulate and/or embassy of The Kingdom of the Netherlands in your country of origin for the latest information regarding residing and/or working in Curaçao.

Work and Study Permits

Foreigners who intend to work or study in Curaçao must have a valid work or study permit granted to them by the Netherlands Antilles immigration authorities before they arrive.  A form must be completed and submitted with all supporting documents in order to be processed.  The immigration authorities have sole jurisdiction as to the issuing of the above-mentioned permits. Students are strictly forbidden to work in Curaçao while engaged in their studies.

Unless you are a Dutch national, your prospective Curaçao employer will need an employment permit from the Labor department.  Advertising for the job in the local media may be necessary to prove that there are no local employees available for that particular position.

You can enter Curaçao as soon as the work and residency permits are granted.  You may also apply for temporary residency permits for members of your family accompanying you.

The Re-entry Permit

Those in possession of a temporary residence permit must obtain a valid re-entry permit upon leaving the Netherlands Antilles. This permit allows for re-entering the Netherlands Antilles and must be given to the immigration officer upon returning to the Netherlands Antilles.

Customs and Import Duties

One you have a residency or work permit, you need to have a complete and correct list of all movable items (furniture / appliances) you plan on bringing with you to Curaçao.  New acquisitions need to be mentioned to the movers and import duty need to be paid on these.

Taking pets to Curaçao is allowed as long as you have a valid health certificate (not older than two weeks prior to departure) issued by a veterinarian and a proof of vaccination against rabies.  This vaccination has to be issued 1 month prior to departure.
The animal will have to travel in a kennel, and the animal can come ahead of you and stay temporarily in an asylum in Curaçao.

As you have already seen, or will soon discover, Curaçao offers more than just a vacation.  It is your future dream life awaiting you.  And there’s a legal way to do it.  So what are you waiting for?  For more information on how to immigrate to Curaçao or the Dutch Antilles, please consult an immigration attorney or visit: