Moving to Curaçao: Your Guide for a Smooth Start

Symbolbild "Curaçao Auswandern": Landkarte, auf der verschiedene Reiseutensilien zu sehen sind.

Crystal-clear waters and dreamy beaches in the middle of the Caribbean – for many expatriates, Curaçao is a popular destination to start a new life. The pleasant climate, political stability, and relatively low taxes are further advantages that Curaçao has to offer. If you’re considering moving to Curaçao, you should keep an eye on the entry requirements, necessary capital, and cost of living locally. In our article, you’ll find out what you should pay attention to before deciding to emigrate to Curaçao, and get helpful tips.

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Table with interesting information about Curaçao that might be relevant for emigrants. You will find information on the population, languages, currency and capital.

What Are the Entry Requirements for Curaçao for Expatriates & Tourists?

Since a visa is not required, entering Curaçao is comparatively uncomplicated compared to other Caribbean states. However, you must consider several aspects for emigrating, or for the initial entry.

If you are a US-citizen, you initially need a (provisional) passport. It must not be older than ten years and valid for the entire duration of your stay. In some cases, it is also required that the passport be valid for at least six more months.

In addition to the passport, filling out the so-called Digital Immigration Card within seven days before departure is necessary. With both documents presented, you can stay up to 180 days per year in Curaçao without needing a special permit.

For those planning a longer visit or even a permanent stay, obtaining a residence permit is necessary. To apply for this, you will need a visa. As long as you are waiting for your residence permit, you are generally not allowed to be on Curaçao while waiting for the decision. However, a special rule applies for American and Dutch citizens. They receive the status “Verklaring van Rechtswege”. This means that you can also stay on the island while waiting for a decision. 

It is initially granted for a maximum of three years, with the possibility of an extension thereafter. If you have worked and lived in the country for at least ten years, you are eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit. However, before you can accept employment in Curaçao, you must first obtain a work permit.

For entry, you must also demonstrate that you have a valid international health insurance. Besides short-term travel health insurances for a few weeks or months, there are also long-term international health insurances for stays up to five years.

Our tip for your vacation: Health insurance coverage abroad

With travel health insurance you are also covered for medical care during your stay in Curaçao. In our comparison of the most popular international travel health insurances, you’ll learn about the benefits offered and get information on particularly cost-effective family tariffs.

How Do the Cost of Living Compare to Those in the US?

The cost of living in Curaçao is roughly 40% lower overall compared to the USA. For instance, food costs about 15% less. Additionally, housing, dining out, and public transportation are all more affordable in Curaçao.

How Much Starting Capital Do I Need to Move to Curaçao?

The required starting capital depends particularly on your individual requirements. It’s not possible to make a blanket statement about the amount of necessary capital. A rule of thumb you can follow is that your starting capital should be high enough to live six to twelve months without additional income and cover all incurred costs.

This reserve also gives you the option to respond to a sudden job loss or unforeseen expenses, such as major repair works.

We recommend that you perform a detailed calculation in advance, where you compare all potential incomes and expenses. This will help you assess how realistic your dream of emigrating is, or where you might need to cut expenses or whether a higher income is necessary for emigrating.

What Customs Regulations Apply for Entering Curaçao?

Entry regulations for Curaçao are similar to those for other countries. Prescription medications must be properly marked. In addition, you may need to prove ownership of expensive jewelry. People over 18 years are allowed to bring in one liter of spirits, 125 grams of tobacco, 25 cigars, and 200 cigarettes. If you exceed these limits, duty is required. This also applies to cash amounts over $10,000.

Since you are likely to carry more luggage than for a several-week vacation when emigrating, consider whether you want to take your own furniture or buy new furnishings once you arrive in Curaçao.

Your apartment’s furnishings are typically handled by an international moving company you hire. The moving company will store your belongings in shipping containers and transport them overseas to your new home.

The exact amount of import duties is calculated individually by the customs. Therefore, you should carefully consider whether taking your old furniture or buying new ones is cheaper.

If you need to meet specific legal requirements, there is the option to apply for an import exemption for goods during a move. This exemption only applies to previously used, personal items.

New goods always incur customs duties. People who have lived in Curaçao for at least six months before importing furniture can claim an exemption from duties. For importing vehicles, a minimum of twelve months of prior residence is necessary.

There are additional considerations when bringing pets. To take your animal companion to your new home, you must be able to present a vaccination card, a veterinary health certificate, and a pet passport.

The latter must be issued in English or Dutch. During your pet’s transit, these three documents must be available. Moreover, your pet must have been vaccinated at least 30 days prior, and the vaccination must not be more than 12 months old.

Which Language Should I Speak If I Want to Move to Curaçao?

The official language in Curaçao is Dutch. Both in private and in professional contexts, you should therefore be able to get by well with this language. 

The locals in Curaçao also speak Papiamentu. This is a Creole language, a language that has emerged from the contact of different languages. In this case, it is a mixture of Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese. French, English, and African words also flow into the language. Moreover, many island residents also speak English and Spanish.

If you want to emigrate to Curaçao, you should be able to speak at least one of the four languages to cope not only in everyday life but also professionally. Particularly for a longer or even permanent stay, attending a language course is advisable.

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Should I Move to Curaçao?

Whether moving to Curaçao is right for you depends on your individual desires and requirements. Therefore, this question cannot be universally answered – as is often the case. You should thoroughly analyze your financial situation, entry requirements, language skills, and other influencing factors in advance.

Also, consider personal circumstances, such as the family situation. If you have children, moving would involve additional organizational aspects, such as finding a suitable school. Children are uprooted from their familiar environment during a move, especially to a new country. This can cause stress and bring new challenges. Therefore, it would be advisable to consider this in advance to help them accept and feel comfortable in their new home.

Regardless of whether you decide to emigrate or not, you can certainly enjoy the Caribbean flair during an extended vacation. If it fits with your work and family life, you could also move to Curaçao temporarily, essentially “trying out emigration.”

With a US passport, you are freely allowed to explore the beautiful Caribbean island for up to 180 days. The decision whether or not to emigrate to Curaçao is one you must make alone or together with your partner or family. Since you know yourself, your life situation, your financial means, and your dreams best, we are confident that you can answer this question sooner or later.

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