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How to be a Permanent Resident in Puerto Rico

Embarking on the journey towards permanent residency in Puerto Rico represents a significant milestone for many individuals, including U.S. citizens and those from abroad. The essence of this guide lies in its aim to facilitate this process, offering a comprehensive overview designed to assist prospective immigrants in understanding the necessary steps and requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. citizens enjoy a simpler path to Puerto Rican residency by demonstrating long-term living intent.
  • Non-citizens face a complex immigration route requiring visas and possibly a Green Card.
  • Bona fide residency in Puerto Rico is confirmed through presence, tax home, and closer connection tests, underlining a profound island commitment.
  • Investing in luxury real estate greatly supports residency requirements, showing a tangible commitment to Puerto Rican life.

Eligibility for Permanent Residency

Securing permanent residency in Puerto Rico requires adherence to specific eligibility criteria, which vary significantly between U.S. citizens and non-citizens. This differentiation is pivotal in understanding the legal framework and procedural steps one must follow.

For U.S. Citizens

Puerto Rico allows U.S. citizens to live on the island without additional immigration documents. However, establishing permanent residency requires showing intent to reside indefinitely, such as through property purchase, employment, or enrolling children in local schools. To claim tax exemptions and benefits, residents must closely follow IRS guidelines, including spending a significant part of the year in Puerto Rico.

Steps and Requirements

U.S. citizens have a relatively straightforward path to establish permanent residency in Puerto Rico due to the common citizenship and the island's status as a U.S. territory. However, steps and documentation are required, especially for those seeking to benefit from Puerto Rico's tax incentives.

1. Proof of Residence: Establishing a physical presence in Puerto Rico is fundamental. This can be achieved by renting or purchasing property. Documentation such as a lease agreement or property deed will serve as proof.

2. Intent to Reside Indefinitely: Demonstrating intent involves changing your official address and domicile for various legal and governmental purposes. This includes updating your address for:

  • Voter registration
  • Driver's license and vehicle registration
  • Federal and state tax returns indicating Puerto Rico as your primary place of residence

3. Compliance with Tax Requirements: To benefit from local tax advantages, you must file annual tax returns with the Puerto Rican government. Understanding the specific tax rules that apply is crucial, as this might involve spending a significant part of the year (at least 183 days) in Puerto Rico.

4. Banking and Financial Accounts: Opening local bank accounts and transferring funds can further demonstrate your commitment to residing in Puerto Rico.

For Non-U.S. Citizens

Non-citizens seeking residency in Puerto Rico must follow the U.S. immigration process, starting with obtaining a visa for entry and then pursuing a Green Card through employment, family sponsorship, or other means as per U.S. law. This detailed process requires extensive documentation, moral character evidence, and health and background checks compliance.

Steps and Requirements

The process for non-U.S. citizens involves navigating U.S. immigration laws and regulations, as Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

1. Obtain a Visa: The first step is to secure a visa that allows entry into the United States and its territories. The type of visa will depend on your purpose of stay (e.g., work, family, investment).

2. Apply for a Green Card: After entering Puerto Rico with the appropriate visa, the next step toward permanent residency is applying for a Green Card. The eligibility categories include:

  • Family sponsorship: Being sponsored by a family member who is a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder.
  • Employment: Obtaining sponsorship through an employer based in Puerto Rico.
  • Investment: Investing in a Puerto Rican business under the EB-5 visa program.

3. Required Documentation: The documentation required will vary based on your eligibility category but generally includes the following:

  • Proof of visa status or entry into the U.S.
  • Application for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485)
  • Biographic information (Form G-325A)
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport page with nonimmigrant visa
  • Passport page with admission (entry) or parole stamp (if applicable)
  • Proof of sponsor's ability to support you above the poverty line (Form I-864, Affidavit of Support)
  • Results of a medical examination
  • Any applicable fees

4. Attend an Interview: You may be required to attend an interview at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

5. Wait for Approval: After submitting your application and attending the interview, you must wait for your Green Card to be processed and approved.


The processes and requirements can be complex and are subject to change, so checking with official U.S. government sources, such as the Department of State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is advisable for the most accurate and updated information.

The Path to Bona Fide Residency

Bona fide residency refers to the condition under which an individual is considered a genuine resident of Puerto Rico for tax purposes. Achieving this status requires more than mere physical presence; it entails a holistic integration into the social, economic, and civic life of Puerto Rico.

The Three Key Tests

Achieving bona fide residency in Puerto Rico involves successfully meeting three critical tests. This bona fide residence test evaluates different aspects of an individual's ties and commitments to Puerto Rico, and satisfying these criteria is essential for accessing the island's full range of tax benefits.

  1. Presence Test

The presence test requires that you physically reside in Puerto Rico for at least 183 days during the tax year. This test ensures that individuals claiming residency genuinely spend a significant portion of their time on the island.

Practical Tips:

  • Keep a Detailed Log: Maintain a calendar or diary that records your travel dates and durations. This log can serve as evidence of your physical presence in Puerto Rico.
  • Understand the Counting Method: The 183 days include partial days, days you arrive and depart. Be meticulous in your count to ensure you meet the requirements.
  • Plan for Flexibility: Life events and emergencies happen. Aim to spend over 183 days in Puerto Rico to buffer against unexpected travel needs that might take you off the island.
  1. Tax Home Test

Your tax home is the general area of your primary place of business, employment, or post of duty, regardless of where you maintain your family home. This test verifies that your main economic activity is centered in Puerto Rico.

Practical Tips:

  • Establish Employment or Business in Puerto Rico: If you're employed, work with a Puerto Rican company or ensure your employer recognizes Puerto Rico as your primary place of work. For business owners, incorporate or register your business in Puerto Rico.
  • Update Official Documents: Change the address on official documents, including employment records, business registrations, and banking information, to reflect your Puerto Rican address.
  • Engage in Local Economic Activities: Participate in the Puerto Rican economy as much as possible by using local banks and investing in local businesses or real estate.
  1. Closer Connection Test

This test assesses whether you have more significant connections to Puerto Rico than any other country or U.S. state. It looks at the location of your permanent home, family, personal belongings, social and civic engagements.

Practical Tips:

  • Establish a Primary Residence: Purchase or lease a home in Puerto Rico and make it your primary living place. Decorate and furnish it in a manner that reflects long-term habitation.
  • Move Your Family: Have your immediate family reside with you in Puerto Rico, demonstrating your commitment to the island as your home.
  • Transfer Significant Belongings: Move personal belongings to Puerto Rico, especially those of sentimental value. This includes items like family heirlooms, collections, and the bulk of your wardrobe.
  • Engage Socially and Civically: Join local clubs, volunteer organizations, and become an active participant in your local community. Register to vote in Puerto Rico and exercise this civic duty.

Buying Luxury Real Estate as a Path to Residency

Acquiring luxury real estate in Puerto Rico represents a substantial commitment that can significantly aid in fulfilling the residency requirements for those aspiring to establish permanent residency on the island. This strategy not only demonstrates a tangible investment in the local economy but also serves as a clear indication of one's intent to reside in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

Proof of Residence

Luxury real estate purchases signal a strong commitment and long-term investment in living on the island. But purchasing a property entails certain documents that need to be complied with. Below are the essential documents you will need to help prove bona fide residence and commitment:




Property Deed

A legal document evidencing ownership of real estate in Puerto Rico, proving a substantial commitment to the community.


Utility Bills

Bills for services like electricity, water, internet, and telephone, proving continuous residence and daily engagement.

Bills in your name for the aforementioned services.

Tax Documents

Local income tax returns and property tax receipts, indicating financial integration and resident status.

Income tax returns, property tax receipts.

Identification Documents

Documents updated to reflect your Puerto Rican address, marking intent to establish life on the island.

Driver’s license, voter registration with a Puerto Rican address.

Bank Statements

Statements from local bank accounts, demonstrating economic activity and commitment to the financial system.

Statements from banks operating in Puerto Rico.

Insurance Policies

Policies linked to your Puerto Rican residence, highlighting the protection of your life and investments.

Homeowner's insurance, personal insurance policies.

Correspondence with Government Agencies

Official communications from local government bodies, serving as practical proofs of residency.

Letters or notices from Puerto Rican government agencies.

Social Integration Evidence

Evidence of active engagement and contributions to the community through various participations.

Membership cards, community service records, letters from local organizations.

Establishing a Primary Residence

Personalizing your primary residence in Puerto Rico shows dedication to making the island home, going beyond purchase to include community integration and economic contribution. As you plan to live in Puerto Rico, consider these exceptional luxury properties as your strategic step towards securing your residency in a tropical paradise.

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This $728,000, 1,500 sqft beachfront penthouse in Miramar Plaza offers a luxurious three-bedroom, two-bathroom living space with stunning ocean views and modern amenities, encapsulating urban luxury and convenience.

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This fully renovated, furnished 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment in the heart of Condado offers urban living or investment opportunities with proximity to amenities and attractions, featuring a modern kitchen, washer, and dryer.

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1352 CALLE LUCHETTI Unit: PH1 (1001)

This 1,730 sq ft penthouse in Condado offers 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, modern comforts, and easy access to amenities, plus building essentials like a generator and water cistern, all within a vibrant community.


Obtaining permanent residency in Puerto Rico presents distinct paths for U.S. citizens and non-citizens, each requiring specific steps and criteria to establish bona fide residency. Committing through property investment, social engagement, and tax compliance allows individuals to embrace Puerto Rico's beauty, community, and tax benefits.

At Christie's International Real Estate Puerto Rico, we are here to guide you through every step of this process, ensuring you find the perfect property that meets your needs and aspirations. Whether you are looking for luxury properties to buy, sell, or rent, let us help you make Puerto Rico your home. Contact us today to start your journey.


What is the process for bringing family members to live in Puerto Rico if I become a permanent resident?

For U.S. citizens moving to Puerto Rico, family members who are also U.S. citizens can relocate without needing any additional immigration process. However, non-citizens who obtain permanent residency in Puerto Rico can sponsor certain family members to join them through the family sponsorship immigration process. This includes filing a petition for family members, such as spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, to obtain their Green Cards. The process involves proving the familial relationship and the ability to financially support the family member(s) in Puerto Rico.

How does becoming a permanent resident of Puerto Rico affect my voting rights?

U.S. citizens who become permanent residents of Puerto Rico can vote in local elections but are not eligible to vote in U.S. presidential elections while residing in Puerto Rico. Bona fide residents must register to vote in Puerto Rico to vote in local elections. Non-citizens who are permanent residents (Green Card holders) do not have the right to vote in Puerto Rico or any U.S. elections, as voting rights are reserved for U.S. citizens. A bona fide resident needs to be aware of these distinctions to participate appropriately in civic duties.


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