Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua

Since my post, Lets Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua, was a big hit, I am going to have a monthly post on Let’s Get Real about…

This month’s post is Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua. It all started with a post on a Facebook forum for expats in Nicaragua.

Hey, how much money will I need to support myself for the first couple of months? When I arrive I am going to travel to a few places (i.e Leon, Granada) and choose the place I like best and then look for work as an english teacher there.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in the number of alarming posts, such as the one above. I say alarming because many foreigners looking for work in Nicaragua haven’t done their research.

So let’s get real about working in Nicaragua as a foreigner.

I. If you are looking for work in Nicaragua, you must have residency or a work visa to apply for a job. There are a few exceptions, such as a portable career, where you work online. But, for most physically based jobs in Nicaragua, you must abide by Nicaraguan laws.

Work Permit Form
Photocopy of the biodata and occupied pages of your passport or proof of when entering the country
Written legal representative of the company or organization addressed to the Directorate General of Immigration, where the work is started abroad that takes place in the company or organization and the time spent requested for commitment to take the livelihood of the worker request foreign during their stay, leaving the country the expiration of the permit and notify the Directorate General of Immigration termination of the employment relationship, who in turn report to the Ministry of Labour.
Notarized copy of the testimony of the Articles of Incorporation of the Company and accreditation of legal representative, spread over notary.
Individual employment contract certified by the Labor Ministry.
Evidence of compliance with Article 14 of the Labor Code issued by the Ministry of Labour
Payment of Fees for immigration services.

I know that there are many foreigners working and living as perpetual tourists in Nicaragua. I also understand that it is a huge hassle to apply for residency and work visas. Some foreigners may not be able to receive residency due to a number of circumstances. Illegal Immigrants and Perpetual Tourists in Nicaragua.

Is the peace of mind in seeking to work legally in Nicaragua worth the effort?  Sure, you may be denied a work visa. Sure, it may take months to apply legally for work.  However, the naked truth is that Nicaragua is starting to crack down on perpetual tourists who are living and working in Nicaragua.

II. Depending on the type of residency you have, you may not be permitted to work in Nicaragua. With Pensionado Visas, “According to Article 8 of the law, a foreign retiree “cannot work in any industrial or commercial activity or hold a job paid in local currency.” But the Nicaraguan consulate in the United States assures us that the law is open to liberal interpretation. If you want to open a small hotel or restaurant, such as, an enterprise that would benefit the community in some way, say by attracting tourists or creating jobs, then you’d merely have to present your plan to the Ministry of Economy and Industry and ask for an exception to the rule.”

“There is, in fact, one exception already on the books: If you own real estate in Nicaragua that is worth at least US$100,000 and are deemed by the Ministry of Economics and Industry to be making profitable investments in the country, then you are free to work and still receive the benefits of a foreign retiree.”

III. Research thoroughly before moving to Nicaragua. Carefully researching the visa and work permits is essential when seeking a job in Nicaragua, and you should do it early before applying for any position. It is also important to research the economic, political and cultural structure and stability of Nicaragua, as well as the effect your job may have on the local population and citizens of Nicaragua.

as long as you don’t expect to live on your salary there is no problem. But teaching payment is about $2-3 an hour. Getting a full-time job is difficult and really, believe me, you are not the only one. By the way, do you have a work permit? For 4 hours a week you might not need it, but for more sure you do. As in any country.

And remember. It’s the poorest country of the area. High unemployment rate . so going to find a job here as a tourist is a bit unethical now that Nicas are lately getting their TEFL as well. I know many who studied English and are now ready for teaching. But that all depends on if you personally have a problem with that or not.

I can’t stress enough, the need to research carefully. If you expect to work illegally in Nicaragua or any country abroad, you may encounter something like this:

Costa Rica deports 12 US students in Language School Dispute

or this: Mexico City Hordes of Expats are Struggling to Find Work

Irresponsible behavior, poor choices, and lack of research could lead to virtual panhandling, like this:
Help Our Family Survive Through Giving Birth Abroad

If you can’t survive in your home country, what makes you think that you will be able to survive abroad?

Below are several good websites for more information in looking for work abroad.

Five First Steps to Finding a Job Abroad

The 10 Best Countries for Working Abroad

Laws of Nicaragua for Migrant Workers  (in Spanish only)

42 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua

  1. I am retired and living in Nicaragua as a perpetual tourist. My wife is a born native Nica. I would love to import things here from the US and not interested in profit. However a theoretical store order of $120 resulted in sipping costs of $157 and Taxes and Fees $183. No way to make that worth while. I can go to the US and return with 120 pounds or so on a $350 round trip airline ticket. But that and ground travel expenses, meals and lodging I can’t even break even as it is bound to cost $600. In the end this all explains the high cost of manufactured items in stores as well as the nonavailability. I have a trip coming up to the US and planning on bringing back about a dozen items to give poor children for Christmas. I have a letter from clergy here that hopefully will exempt those items from taxes. I should mention I am disappointed no one has been interested in a computer. For $225 I can get a new HP laptop, set it up in the US so it can access programs and sites unavailable otherwise outside North America. But same old story I have gone through many times. They never have money now or later and I cannot afford to gift them. But again, I am not out to profit. My Tax liabilities to the US remain safe if I have no additional income , so plan on keeping it this way.

    • Thanks for your comments. I do understand how expensive it is to import items. Once you pay the shipping fees and customs fees, your money is gone. It makes sense as to the cost of items here and the difficulty in getting the latest computers and other electronics.
      I also bring many items back, mainly books for my library because I can’t find them in Nicaragua and it is too expensive to buy them abroad and have them shipped here.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua | Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua - Bed and Breakfast Farmstay El Portón Verde, ManaguaBed and Breakfast Farmstay El Portón Verde, Managua

  3. Great post and fantastic comments, kudos to all…sounds like “Let’s Get Real About Health Care in Nicaragua” is already halfway written. Ditto on the Metropolitano discount plan. Been saying for years to anyone who asks that it is not an insurance so do not count on it!
    As for my comments…First, I’d say take a look at how most Nicaraguans live and earn money and learn from that. Most regular folks have two or three jobs, maybe one formal full- or part-time and the rest informal. Just to make ends meet, most will need to have a few different gigs so I’ve tried to model that program with varying degrees of success. It’s quite difficult to really make money in Nicaragua in my experience so think of the whole adventure as a “lifestyle choice” and maybe you won’t mind (so much) the hassles and general challenges that you undoubtedly WILL encounter.
    Second comment is that I’ve seen more folks coming down with a sort of fly by the seat of your pants approach and honestly I only know one success story so it’s possible to accomplish but very rare.
    And finally, yes you can teach English and it is possible to earn under the table (I do not…) I teach at a school in Managua just a few hours a week to get another little bit of $ but mainly to get health insurance through INSS.

    Cheers, Mike @ Farmstay El Portón Verde, Managua

    • Mike, thanks for sharing my post. I’m working on a Let’s Get Real about Health Care, and you’re right, it is halfway completed. 🙂 I am having so much fun with the Let’s Get Real series. I’ve started writing Let’s Get Real about Construction, Being White, Volunteering, the word “Mañana”, Poverty, Garbage, and Driving. I think I could spend a lifetime writing this series. I’m open to more suggestions. lol

      Your comments are right on the mark. Foreigners seriously planning to work in Nicaragua definitely need to see how Nicaraguans make ends meet. It isn’t easy.

      I’m so grateful to be retired. I can spend my days volunteering and working in my little La Paloma library. 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    • I just had a great talk with a young man who started NICA YOGA years ago, the first yoga place in San Juan Del Sur , whose from California. He employed many Nicaraguans , loves Nicaragua , recently sold his biz to a new couple , and can’t wait to come back, which he plans on. H e just turned 44. He gave me lots of info,including some great lawyers he knows in Managua,one being a woman from Miami. He used his head , creativity , entrepreneurial spirit, and positive attitude , his parents visited frequently and loved it. He never said it was easy nor hard . When he arrived he didn’t know what he was going to do , but he looked around and saw what was missing then. Nicaragua is on the radar now more people with more money are on their way, hopefully all this will help the country little by little like it has in Costa Rica,and many other places worldwide.

  4. My company is currently working on assisting English teachers that graduate from my program in Leon, Nicaragua with obtaining a work visa. Also, there are several schools in Nicaragua that will assist English teachers with obtaining a work visa or residency. As most native English speakers only wish to stay in one country or another teaching English (Many other countries have thousands of English teachers working under the table annually, not just Nicaragua.) for 6 month’s or 1 year, and then move on. For the record, Nicaragua isn’t a black hole for native English speakers. Most of my graduates end up teaching English in other parts of the world where they can actually save money. For similar reading on the job market in Nicaragua, follow this link:

    Interested in teaching English in Nicaragua, or abroad, find more information here:


    • Jonathan, this is wonderful news. I was curious to know if the TEFL program in Nicaragua would assist English teachers in obtaining a work visa if they chose to stay in Nicaragua to teach. I understand that many English teachers work under the table annually all over the world. Yet, in researching problems that they encounter, especially with work permits, I wondered if they are told that it is illegal to work in most countries with a tourist visa. I know that Nicaragua is cracking down on foreigners trying to renew their tourist visas. I appreciate you responding to my question. I do have one suggestion for your website. Is it possible to explain that a work permit is needed to work legally in Nicaragua and that you would be happy to assist those interested in teaching English in Nicaragua obtain a work permit? That may help alleviate problems they may encounter when they cross the border to renew their tourist visas. Again, thank you for this information. It is exactly what I was looking for. I do have one more question. How difficult is it for your TEFL certified English teachers to get a work visa? I’m guessing it involves a lot of paperwork and shiny stamps. 🙂

  5. My take on people who get themselves to a foreign country they haven’t lived in to run a business that they haven’t researched to find out what the demand might be (do expats come to Nicaragua to get married in Granada) is that they’re generally impulsive at best. Nicaragua doesn’t give residency for people with on-line jobs because the track record there tends to be crap. It’s a nice place to retire.

    We’re getting lots of people who have plans to do tourism for a living — which works some places (ones with sufficient tourists) and doesn’t work others without a day job. A young friend who does computer set ups for the local hotels here observed that all the ones in our town are run by people who have other sources of money besides the hotels (Nicaraguans own all the hotels where I am except for one hostel which is also supported by work done elsewhere).

    When people get themselves stuck with children in a foreign country, the only sensible thing to do is go back to the US and then get Social Service help. People who are too proud to do that really aren’t thinking clearly.

    A small pension goes further here for people willing to live relatively modestly (no a/c, no car, no servants), but it leaves people vulnerable to emergencies unless they have $5K to $10K in the bank and sufficient available credit on a credit card to get back to the US. It cost me around $5K to set up my apartment, maybe a bit less, and someone willing to do with plastic furniture and foam mattresses could do it for less.

    People do throw themselves off the cliff all the time thinking that having fall back plans will tempt them to not fully commit to the new place. The standard advice is to visit before moving here, and then to rent for a year before buying. Some people break the standard advice and do well; but every year I learn from watching the reasons for actually following the standard advice, some of them I hadn’t thought about before, like costs of medicines here vs having Medicare in the US.

    The other biggie is liquidity of houses — if you pay gringo or Miami Nicaraguan prices, they’re not very liquid since the number of gringos who come here isn’t yet as high as the hype. If you live here a while, you see how long for sale signs stay up on houses (I rented half a house that was for sale when I lived there — it’s been for sale now for five years). People in Granada have had houses on the market for years. One expat who lives in Granada said he thought he would fluff and flip, but has had to stay in the house.

    Third thing is living in a place where so many people are poor. Four thing is getting one’s Spanish up to the point where you can have normal conversations with people and have some friends who aren’t either other English-speakers or bilingual. You can live in San Juan del Sur or Granada without speaking Spanish — otherwise, not so much.

    • Great comments, Rebecca. Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your advise is particularly relevant with all the new hype about moving to Nicaragua presented in magazine articles. As a long time resident of Nicaragua, you understand how things work, or don’t work in Nicaragua.

      You said, “A small pension goes further here, but leaves people vulnerable to emergencies.” So true! When we visited Ecuador, I was surprised to see a number of homeless U.S. veterans sleeping on the streets of a coastal town. I was told by a resident that these men moved to Ecuador because it was cheap. They drink their small pensions away, then they are destitute. They have no savings, nothing. So, the community tries to help them by giving them food, but it is becoming a huge problem.

      Another problem, which I should write a post about, is health care in Nicaragua. We signed up for the discount plan at Vivian Pellas, but it really didn’t meet our needs. There were many procedures that were not included in the discount. If we needed emergency surgery, and the procedures were not covered under our discount plan, our credit card would be charged BEFORE any procedure took place. Well, that will definitely present a problem for those who have a low credit limit on their credit cards.

      So, I searched for health insurance in Nicaragua. When I went to the INISER office in Granada, I was asked how old I was. When I told the insurance clerk, she smiled and said, “You are too old for health insurance in Nicaragua.” Apparently, anyone older than 60 cannot receive health insurance, regardless of having residency. Instead, as I was leaving, she handed me a brochure for death benefits and told me that I could sign up for death insurance and my funeral expenses would be paid. lol

      My point is…research carefully, have a cushion of savings for emergencies, and always expect the unexpected in Nicaragua. Like you said, it is a nice place to retire, but if you are looking for work to support yourself, you are probably better off staying where you are.

      • GREAT INFO..LOVE IT!!!!!
        its saving me soooo much time and I can get right to the core ,, VERY VERY helpful..THANK U FOR YOUR TIME AND KNOWLEDGE!!!!
        alhto i don’t have to work , I love creating and staying super busy ,,,to me ,,,this is fun!
        I have tons of energy at 61 and look like I’m maybe 50 ,,as most people say ,,,hahaha,,,and no face or neck lifts yet ,,,hehehehe
        anyhow I will take all your advice and certainly dig into it.
        Light ,

    • love the advice ,,,and I’m doing all u advise . I’m looking for a house now to rent in granada ,,,a 2-2,,if u hear of anything ,,and will be there in early june,,seeing a few ,,,id rather not go thru a rental agent as they tack on and on,,,so i will do a little search ,,,first .
      im renting for a year ,,,,I’m a photographer who shoots fashion and weddings ,,,and plan to shoot weddings ,, destination weddings in costa rica ,,,and maybe granada…who knows ..im also going to open a shoppe ,,,and i have this shoppe online as well.
      I’m already getting all my papers lined up to get my residency, have rented my condo here in florida ,,,and i speak a bit of spanish ,,as my was- band was argentine .
      tho when i get there ,,,,in sept i will immerse my self and take classes on line too.

      thanks for your insight ,,,very helpful!!!!
      light , heidi

    • Thanks, so much. I suspect I put some fear into the perpetual tourists already living and working here. It wasn’t my intention, only to spread the word that if you expect to work legally in a developing country, then there is a lot of work to do to prepare BEFORE moving and applying for a job.

  6. It can be pretty complicated to set up a business in numerous foreign countries. We’re fortunate ,here in Ecuador, much easier to get your resident visas and cedulas. There’s still a lot of paperwork and info you need to know. Some expats work from home, jobs still linked to their home country. Most important is checking out everything before you take a trip to your possible future home, come for a visit, return home, more research, then make a decision. Please do not rely on all the “international” reports that are out flooding the web. :

    • So true, John and Mary. I think the best jobs to have if one is considering working abroad are portable jobs online. I have a friend who is a freelance web designer and she travels the world house sitting. So much easier than trying to find a low paying job in a developing country with a tourist visa.

    • okk,,,i just posted a comment ,,but ,,,where is it?? did it from my phone ,,so perhaps it didn’t go through ,,,,anyway ,,once again….!!!

      I’ve travelled many a paths ,,,all around the world since i was 19 yrs old ,
      I’m now 61 and going strong .My love of travel and new adventures always lead me to where my next ,,,”,learning experience” will come from ,,,nothings forever so I continually look to “”grow on.”””
      What I’ve learned is everything and everywhere is as beautiful as it is ugly.. and not to expect anything.
      Life is a journey,with many many lessons.
      My path and learning experiences are different from yours and my brother …
      No need to judge the path of others ,,,each has their own journey to complete, whats beauty or ugly to you ,may be gorgeous and lovely to me .
      Educating yourself is the intelligent way to go of course , reading and deciding for oneself what your next path will be is …..very personal.
      I’m a woman with a strong intuition and I listen to the God within who always leads me.
      I’m being led now to Nicaragua ….a new adventure ,,,and I look forward to my own new lessons and growth.

  7. Great post and filled with accurate as well as timely information. We’ve visited many of the cities throughout Mexico, Central and South America that various publications report as being ideal destinations where one can live cheaply on a budget for ___(fill in the blank!) The question that we often ask ourselves is, “Yeah, we can live cheaply here, but do we WANT to?” We loved our time in Nicaragua but one person’s dream destination could rapidly become someone else’s nightmare. Preparation and research are key! Anita

  8. I’m glad you posted this. People do need to be informed when moving to a foreign country. I’ve been told that you may as well forget about working if you’re from the US or any other country other than Nicaragua. For retirement no problem, or if you have a freelance job. Most people don’t do their research beforehand thinking it to be different than it is.


    • Sunni, I agree. Some foreigners get themselves into dire straits without preparing financially for a move abroad. My advise is to know the laws of the country in which one wants to work, and never take a job from a local who needs the work a lot more than we do.

  9. hi
    funny … I’m already gathering all my papers ,,,and my moms,,,,,( inc .an attorney , a spanish speaking attorney, ) so we can become residents ,prior to moving there and do this all from the US ..in advance.
    sooo, receiving your info ,,,as I’m looking up what an apostille is ,,,,…right now…was more than a coincidence!!!!!!! if u know what i mean!!!
    thanks so much for putting this info out there.
    im hoping to open a cool little shoppe along with my….. wedding destination photography ,,,, ,,,in Granada.
    happy I’m not in a rush ,,,,and i will live in granada a year to educate myself first and foremost!!!
    light ,

    • I think this is a great idea, there are so many people with websites that sugar coat everything trying to drum up business for their tour service, real estate or what have you. And so many people talk so highly of Granada, which is hot like an oven, San Juan del Sur full of tourists, drunk expats, Nicaraguan thiefs and hustlers. Life ain’t easy in Nicaragua, what do you think the drop out rate for expats is?

      • wow,,sounds just like miami ,,,only smaller ,,,,do they have shootings everyday there too???
        we have about 3-7 shootings a day now in miami ,,,and about 3-5 in the sarasota bradenton areas south beach where i lived for 18 years…. it has super polluted beaches ,,tons of street crime ,,wayy expensive restaurants and bumper to bumper traffic admits hip hop conventions ,,,sounds just like the grossness of nicaragua ,,,,sort of!!! and theres people from all around the world pouring in,,,they love it ,,,sounds a bit like ometepe and grananda ,,miami was 105 the other week ,,in april!

        • whoops ,,,Granada,,,,
          ps ..just had a few friends return from granada ,,,back to a new cool area in miami ,,they loved Granada, and they’ve been all over the world ,,,go figure!

    • You can’t become residents before moving here — and if you’ve been told that by a lawyer, I know another person who was fed the same line to get his business. You can gather your paperwork before leaving the US (highly recommended), but you apply for residency here and you and your neighbors are interviewed by Migracion. When I came in 2010, I wasn’t interviewed here, but looking back, I was interviewed by a Nicaraguan consular official in DC (a friendly conversation that went into where I wanted to live and why and some other details). From late 2010 on, the application process includes the in-country interviews. I know of no exceptions since 2010.

      • your so right ! I’ve done tons of research and then it turns out the lady who is doing my annual breast exam,,is nicaraguan ,,hahahahahaa,,now that was funny,,in miami !!!!
        but she was soooooooo helpful!!
        I’m gathering all my papers here……. that a lawyer in managua contacted me about after i read about him,,,and contacted him first ,,

        he never asked for a dime and guided me with sending numerous articles and the low down on all what i need to get together ..which was very nice.

        what hasn’t been cool are the realtor sharks in granada , laughable and rip offs ,,,don’t worry i told them so ….!!!!!

        thankfully I’m having lunch with a friend whose bringing someone she’s known here for years,,,,a realtor in granada ,,,who opened her office there 10 years ago ,,,another yeahhhhhh,,,!!!!!

        I’m sure to really get the lowdown next week ,,,but brother ,,,the emails with the realtors rising their prices in every email was hysterical…

        just like in south beach,,, ( florida) SAME SHIT!!!!

        • who cares what the DROPOUTS RATES OF EXPATS ARE ,,,good for them ,,they found out they hate it ,,,so what ,,,
          who wants to stay in one olE country anyway!!!!!

  10. OH my goodness. I just read the blurb from the family who needs help to give birth to their chid in Ecuador. I wasn’t familiar with that fundraising site. What a challenging situation they have put themselves into! Hopefully you can make others aware for Nica!

    • That’s a very disturbing fundraiser, right? I can’t imagine how people get themselves into such a mess. And what bothers me the most are their sweet babies. If I were going to donate to them, I’d give them money for a one way ticket back to the states.

      • Yes, I found it very uncomfortable reading. They seem quite lost and haven’t found their way yet… or close to it… at all. Not the type you usually find (at least I thought) living as expats. Maybe I am really wrong though.

        • Any financial appeals from people I don’t know and who have a US passport I dismiss as a con. Too many of these stories pop up all over the place.

          Every major expat country has its expat beggars — Costa Rica has more than we do. Ecuador, which has even more expats than even Costa Rica at this point, would have even more.

          As problematic as the US safety net for the poor is, it’s better than what expats in poor foreign countries can expect. And it’s as likely these stories are complete hustles as it is that they’re true.

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.