Moving to Puerto Rico

Are you  moving to Puerto Rico? This page has all the basic information you need to answer any questions you may have before the big move to PR. Click the links for more detailed information on each subject. Making the decision to move to Puerto Rico takes a lot of planning and preparation. From the basics to more complicated tasks, this list will give you what you need to know to get started.

Scroll down or use these links to jump to particular sections: 

Making the Decision
What to Bring
Shipping your Belongings
Shipping your Car
Vehicle Registration
Vehicle Insurance
Getting a Driver’s License
Moving your Pets
Cost of Living
Housing Prices
Choosing Where to Live
Relocation Concierge
Finding a Job
Schools and Colleges
Money and Banks
Taxes
Utilities
Telephone and cell phones
Cable and Internet
Communications
Health Insurance
Doctors and Medical Facilities
Medical Records and Prescriptions
Postal Service, Mail and Shipping
 

In-depth Articles about Moving to Puerto Rico

10 of the Safest Cities in PR
23 of the Best Private Schools
30 Things you Need to Know Before Renting a Home
5 Real Estate Investments you Don’t Want to Miss
Cost of Moving to Puerto Rico
Dealing with Bugs, Creepy Crawlies and More
Dealing with Culture Shock
Do I Need to Speak Spanish?
Finding a Job
Finding a Nanny or Childcare
Finding Health Insurance
Flying to Puerto Rico
Housing Costs
How to Ship a Car to PR
How to Set up Water and Sewer Services
Is Puerto Rico Safe?
Opening a Business Bank Account
Raising a Family in PR
Setting up a Home Office
Setting up Internet and Cable
Shipping Your Pets
Stores that Ship to PR
The Best Places to Live in PR
The Pros and Cons of Living in PR
The Puerto Rico Economy
Time Zone in PR
Why People are Moving to Puerto Rico from the U.S.
Yes, The is a Freshmart in Caguas
 

Making the Decision

This choice is determined mostly by your personal situation. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the island by visiting first. Stay for as long as you can and make an effort to step OUTSIDE the resort to have real everyday experiences. Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise, but once you move here, day-to-day living can be very different than what you find on vacation. Rent a car and visit different areas of the island. Visit a grocery store, eat at local restaurants or buy some street food from the side of the road. Meet with a realtor to see homes in your price range. If you don’t speak Spanish, practice using a few phrases. The best experience is one made with the right expectations!

What to Bring

You can buy or ship just about anything you may need in Puerto Rico. However, some things are important to bring with you when you make your move.

Firstly, make sure you bring digital or printed documents of all of your family medical records and your and pet’s medical records. Many doctors here still rely on paper systems and everything is easier if you can present this information in a paper format.

Bring prescriptions with you and refills. It may take a while until you find a doctor and get an appointment and you don’t want to stress out about needed medications. If you have prescriptions in the system at Walgreens, CVS or similar big-name pharmacies, you will be able to fill them easily in Puerto Rico.

Keep your boarding passes from your flight into Puerto Rico. These may come in handy when you apply for medical insurance as some companies require this documentation.

If you have changed your name recently, make sure your passport, driver’s license, ID, social security card, birth certificate and any other identifying documents all have the SAME EXACT NAME. When applying for a Puerto Rico driver’s license, buying a car, applying for tax benefits or any other government document, you may run into problems if your identifications don’t match perfectly.

Lastly, make sure you pack for warm weather! Its flip flops year-round on this island, so pack accordingly.

Shipping your Belongings

There are numerous shipping companies who ship to Puerto Rico and many options. Full service moving companies are the most expensive. These companies show up at your home, professionally pack your goods, wrap your furniture and load it onto a truck. Your belongings will be driven to port, placed on pallets, wrapped, weighed, and then loaded into a shipping container. Expect to pay $2,000 and up for this service, depending on the amount you are shipping and your distance from port. Check your local listings for movers who will transport your belongings to the closest port and ship them.

Moving Companies

Other options include a container drop-off. This is more affordable. The container is dropped off at your home and you load it yourself. You can chose a 20-40 ft. container, which is enough for a small to medium sized home. Pick it up and ship it for you. When it arrives in Puerto Rico, it is dropped off again for you to unload.

www.tropical.com

Shipping your Car

When shipping a car to Puerto Rico, there are several factors to consider. Shipping a car can be a hassle, expensive, and subject to an arbitrary excise tax before you will be allowed to pick it up when it arrives in Puerto Rico. Is it worth the cost? Shipping can be several thousand dollars, so depending on the value of your car, it may be more economical to sell.

If you are still making payments on your car, check with the bank to see if they will allow you to ship it. Many banks won’t allow cars to be shipped to Puerto Rico. In addition, check with your car insurance company. Most likely, you will need to get a new car insurance company once you arrive on the island, but you want to make sure your car is insured during transportation.

Buying a car in Puerto Rico is more expensive than buying a car in the U.S., but is often a choice people make. Go over the costs, do some research and see what makes sense for you.

Note: you will find that most dealerships in Puerto Rico do not advertise car prices online. You may need to call in order to comparison shop.

Shipping a car to Puerto Rico takes approximately 7 to 14 days from the time it leaves port. Check with a local shipping company for shipping schedules and prices.

Shipping Companies

Excise Tax: Puerto Rico is notorious for quoting differing excise tax prices AFTER your car arrives in port. To obtain a “quote” on the amount of tax you may have to pay, contact the Office of Excise Taxes in Puerto Rico at (787) 721-6237 or (787) 721-0338. You can also visit the official Vehicles Excise Tax Website for a quote. Be prepared with the make, model, year and other information about your car.

License Plates

Once you have your car, the next thing you will need to do it get a new license plate. Go to one of the DTOP (Departamento de Transportación y Obras Publicas) locations near you to get one. The cost is $35 annually for no fault insurance and an additional $65 annually for registration. Licenses are non-transferable.

DTOP Website

DTOP Locations Finder

Contact DTOP: (800) 981-3021 or (787) 729-2929

Vehicle Registration

To register your car, you must present the vehicle’s current registration, title, and your out-of-state license plates at a local DTOP office. If you are transferring registration and title from a car (does not apply to buying from car dealerships), both the seller and the buyer MUST be present at the DTOP office.

Vehicle Insurance

Vehicle insurance is not required by Puerto Rico law, although you can purchase insurance if you choose.

Voter Registration

To establish residency, you will need to apply for your voter’s registration in Puerto Rico in person. Take your original birth certificate issued by your state of origin, your identifications and proof or residency (lease agreement) to this office in Hato Rey: 

Comisión Estatal de Elecciones

550 Ave Arterial B
San Juan, 00918

Office next to main building that reads:  Junta de Inscripción Isla
 
Next to Coliseo José Miguel Agrelot (Coliseum of Puerto Rico, Hato Rey.
 
787-777-8682 press 0
 
Coordinates for smartphone:
 
18.4277° N, 66.0614° W

Getting a Driver’s License

You must apply for a Puerto Rico driver’s license within 30 days of establishing residency in Puerto Rico. Getting a Puerto Rico license (if you already have one) is fairly easy and only requires a little patience.

Tip: If you want to streamline this process, and require a new residence driver’s license, you can hire a concierge service to apply for the license for you. All you will need to do is provide them the required documentation and show up to take the photograph (no exam necessary). The license will be mailed to you.

If you plan to apply in person, bring all required documents to a DTOP office. Make sure all forms of identification have the same name. All forms will be in Spanish.

Applying for a Learner’s Permit Certificate:

The learner’s certificate allows you to practice driving when accompanied by a licensed adult with a minimum age of 21. You must be 16 to apply. If you are younger than 18, a parent or legal guardian must present birth certificate and complete a notarized Parental affidavit certificate (form DTOP-260). Study for the written test with the Driver’s Manual.

  • Completed Puerto Rico Driver’s License Application
  • Proof of Social Security Number (Social Security card, W-2 form, SSA-1099, US Military card or copy of tax return)
  • Proof of residence (rental agreement, utility bill)
  • Birth certificate, passport or official ID
  • Three 2×2 headshot photos (you can get these at Walgreens or CVS)
  • Internal Revenue Seal of $10.00
  • Pass on the written exam

New Driver’s License

  • Learners Permit Certificate
  • Pass on the driving exam
  • Three 2×2″ photographs (you can get these at Walgreens or CVS)
  • Internal Revenue Seal of $10.00 ($5.00 for exam retakes)

Driver’s License Renewal

  • Completed Driver’s License Application with medical certificate
  • Two 2×2″ photographs (you can get these at Walgreens or CVS)
  • Internal Revenue Seal of $10.00 ($20.00 for expired license)
  • Pass on written exam (only required if your license has been expired more than 2 years and 30 days)

New Resident Driver’s License

New residents must obtain a valid Puerto Rico driver’s license within 30 days of establishing residency and may register to vote after 30 days. If you are a U.S. Citizen and you have a valid out-of-state license you must provide the following:

  • In-person eye exam
  • Pass on the written exam (if you are over 25 and without outstanding violations, the written exam can be waived)
  • Two 2×2″ photographs (you can get these at Walgreens or CVS)
  • Internal Revenue Seal of $10.00
  • S. Driver’s License (will be confiscated)

Duplicate Driver’s License

  • Affidavit on the loss of the license, indicating that has not been occupied by the Police or suspended by some court of Justice
  • Two 2×2″ photographs (you can get these at Walgreens or CVS)
  • Internal Revenue Seal of $5.00
  • Identification with photo

How to get a driver’s record

You can request a driving record by mail. Requests usually take 2 to 3 business days and are mailed out via first class US Mail.

Request a driver’s record by providing the following information:

  • Full name as it appears on your driver’s license
  • Social Security number
  • License number
  • Reason for the request
  • Address to which the record should be mailed
  • Daytime telephone number
  • Photocopy of a valid photo identification, preferably your Puerto Rico driver’s license
  • Money order in the amount of $1.50 made out to: Secretario de Hacienda.

Mail to:

Secretario de Hacienda
DivisiApartado 41243
San Juan, PR 00940-1240

For more information please visit: DTOP

Moving your Pets

Most airlines allow small pets in-cabin. Larger pets are allowed as checked baggage on some airlines (check with individual carriers), however, there are flying restrictions based on the outside temperature. United Airlines is the only full service airline that offers year-round large pet shipping in a climate controlled environment.

Additional, but more expensive options, include private pet transports that specialize only in animal transport. See the article: Moving Your Pets to Puerto Rico for more detailed information.

Note: Pit bulls and pit bull mixed breeds are not allowed in Puerto Rico

Cost of Living

On average, the cost of living in Puerto Rico is 13% higher than in the United States (as of Dec 2014). Grocery prices and utility prices are the most expensive, with grocery items costing 22.7% more and utilities costing 85% more than in the U.S.

Compared to some major U.S. cities, however, living in Puerto Rico can be less expensive. PR is 26% less expensive than Los Angeles, California and 23% less expensive than San Jose, California. Puerto Rico is significantly less expensive than other cities like New York, Philadelphia, Denver, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Houston, Miami and Hartford, CT.

Expect to pay MORE for eggs, milk, wine, imported beer, cigarettes, restaurants, imported fruits and vegetables, cars, gas, electricity, internet, clothing and shoes.

Expect to pay LESS for housing insurance, car insurance, property taxes, rent, gym memberships, public transportation, meat, local produce, local beer, rice and coffee.

Housing Prices

Housing prices are comparable to many U.S. cities, but taxes and insurance can be significantly less.

Median house price

  • Puerto Rico:       $148,000
  • New York:           $369,400
  • Los Angeles:       $516,700
  • Miami:                  $190,300
  • Houston:             $154,700
  • Dallas:                   $143,900
  • Chicago:               $178,500

The median rent price in Puerto Rico is: $1,400

Source: Zillow April 2015

Choosing Where to Live

Some of the most popular cities in Puerto Rico include Old San Juan, Fajardo, Palmas Del Mar, Condado, Dorado, Isla Verde, Rincon, Lares, Viequez and of course, San Juan. Finding the best place to live in Puerto Rico is often determined by your place of work. If you are retired, or work from home, your options are more flexible. See the Best Places to Live  and 2015’s Safest Cities for more details.

Finding a Home

Finding a home can be a challenge. Realtors in Puerto Rico don’t use their central MLS system, and many places that are available are not listed online. It’s best to get recommendations for good realtors in the city you want to live. If you aren’t being shown the properties you wish to see, find another realtor who has access to that property. Often (especially when renting), realtors will not show a property if they don’t want to split the commission with another realtor. For more information, read this checklist: Things you should know before renting a home in Puerto Rico.

You can find property online through national house listings and classifieds.

Titles, Deeds and Land Records

Land records are available through the Registros de la Propiedad. There are 29 offices that serve specific municipalities, neighborhoods or sectors. To obtain information from these records it is usually necessary to know the name of the purchaser, the approximate date of purchase and the city in which the land was then located. To obtain certified copies write to or call:

Registro de la Propiedad
Oficina de la Directora Administrativa
Departamento de Justicia, Piso 3
Calle Olimpo, Esq. Axtmayer
Pda. 11
Miramar, San Juan, PR 00907

  • (787) 723-8960
  • (787)723-7560
  • Fax (787)725-8925

Relocation Concierge

If you want to streamline your moving process, hiring a relocation concierge service is a great time – and stress – saver. There are several companies offering these services and they will handle just about any task for you. They can arranging a shipper, find the best restaurants, get your driver’s license, connect you to accountants, doctors and car rental companies. They are also very knowledgeable about meeting and filing Act 20/22 requirements.

Finding a Job in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s economy is still recovering from the recession, with many leaving the island to find jobs and better salaries. Do your homework before moving to Puerto Rico if you will need to find a job. Your salary may be very different from what you are earning in the United States.

Bring all necessary documentation with you such as your resume and references.

Job hunting resources:

Some employers require a Certificate of Good Behavior and/or Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, issued by the Puerto Rico Police Department.

Obtaining a Certificate of Good Behavior and/or Certificate of No Criminal Conviction:

  1. Complete the Certificate of No Criminal Conviction application (PDF in Spanish only).
  2. Include the completed document in a letter, along with a postal money order in the amount of $1.50 made out to: Secretario de Hacienda.
  3. Mail the letter to:

Superintendente Auxiliar
Servicios al Ciudadano
Policia de Puerto Rico
P.O. Box 70166
San Juan, PR 00936-8166 

For more information call the Secretario de Hacienda (787) 781-0227.

Schools and Colleges

Puerto Rico has a 94% literacy rate and some of the highest college attendance rates in the world. 40% of the island’s budget is spent on education. There are over 44 universities, 1530 public schools and 570 private schools on the island.

The primary language is Spanish in most institutions, but there are many bilingual and a few primary English-speaking schools to choose from.

  • The school term starts in August through mid-December and January through late May.
  • Puerto Rico is the #25 largest school system in the United States.
  • The student/teacher ratio of 13:1 is less than the 14:1 national average.

Read more about the best private schools in Puerto Rico.

Money and Banks

Puerto Rico’s currency is the U.S. dollar, but making transactions and banking here is a little different than in the U.S. You will find that many more transactions are done in cash, with bills larger than $20 causing some hassle.

Checks are widely used, and automatic payment systems seem to work only some of the time. If you plan on sending a lot of wire transfers through a local bank, get all the requirements before opening an account. Many banks need you to go to the branch in person or have wait times and fees associated with wire transfers.

It’s easy to set up a checking account using your ID and other documentation. Business accounts usually require a lot more. See more details about opening accounts here.

Puerto Rico banks include:

Banco Popular – The largest PR Bank – Tourist zone branch in Condado: 787-725-4189

First BanCorp (First Bank) Dorado Branch – 787-278-1111

Oriental Bank – 787-620-0000

US Banks

Citibank- Condado Branch – 787-721-6416

International Banks

Banco Santander Puerto Rico – 787-281-2000

Scotiabank –  787-766-4999

Taxes

Puerto Rico has a Sales and Use Tax that shows up as two-three separate charges on your receipts. 5.5% goes to the state government and municipalities can charge an additional 1.5%. An additional 1% (medical and prescriptions are exempt) can be imposed by the governor and goes to the central government’s general fund. Half of the state tax portion goes directly to the Urgent Interest Fund Corporation to pay off the public debt of Puerto Rico.

All shipments arriving in Puerto Rico are subject to a local 6.6% excise tax calculated from the commercial invoice value and payable on entry into Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has a separate tax system modeled after the U.S. system but there are many differences. Puerto Rican residents are required to pay most U.S. Federal taxes, though most residents do not pay federal personal income tax. Instead, Puerto Rico imposes as separate income tax. The cutoff point for income tax is lower than that of the U.S. because the per-capita income in Puerto Rico is much lower than averages on the mainland.

Employers calculate payroll taxes in much the same way as in the U.S. (Medicare/Social Security), but instead of Federal taxes payments, money goes to Hacienda Puerto Rico.

Residents pay into social security and are eligible for benefits when they retire. Retirees are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the island only receives a small fraction of Medicaid compared to U.S. States.

For more information about filing taxes in Puerto Rico, obtaining tax forms or employer tax obligations, contact the Bureau of Income Tax (Departmento de Hacienda) or visit their website. When filing taxes in Puerto Rico or meeting Act 20 & Act 22 requirements, it is recommended to use a local CPA who is knowledgeable about Puerto Rico tax law.

Departmento de Hacienda
P.O. Box 565
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902-6265.
Contact by phone (787) 721-2020, extension 3611.

 Tax Act 20, Act 22 Requirements

If you are planning a move to Puerto Rico to take advantage of Act 20 or Act 22 tax benefits, the first step is to speak with a qualified lawyer and/or accountant to determine your eligibility.

Act 20

To apply, you will need to submit the appropriate applications and fees, and show bona fide proof of residency.

  1. Be physically present in Puerto Rico at least 183 days of the year
  2. Tax home test: Conduct your main business activities throughout the year in Puerto Rico
  3. Closer connection test: Show that you have more significant contact to Puerto Rico than the U.S. This is complex and include moving your permanent home, moving your family, shipping your personal belongings, selling/buying or shipping your car, your daily banking, your driver’s license, voting registration and more.

Act 22

All of the above, plus organizing a legal entity (usually a LLC) in PR that complies with certain eligible activities and a minimum employment of 3 full-time employees.

Utilities

Setting up utilities can be one of the biggest hassles in your move to PR. Patience is recommended and plan for extra time to set everything up (a full day in some cases). If you don’t speak Spanish, you may find this task especially hard, and many companies will simply hang up the phone. Keep trying and you will eventually get through.

Electricity

Puerto Rico is United Standards 110 and 120 volts AC with the same two-prong outlets utilized in the U.S.

All electric service to the island is provided by PREPA — the Puerto Rico Power Authority, also known as Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica. The residential electricity prices in PR are between 26 and 29 cents per kWh with business rates 4 to 5 cents higher. This is 2-3 times the cost of electricity in the United States.

Once you have an account with PREPA that account moves with you wherever you may live in Puerto Rico. Contact them by phone or online to register an account.

San Juan metro area: (787) 289-3434
Outside the metro area: 1-800-981-2434

Water and Sewage

Water and sewage services are provided by PRASA — the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority or Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. Water quality complies with EPA standards and subject to the same standards as in the U.S. and considered safe to drink. A private company, Professional Services Group, manages and operates PRASA’s system. Nearly half of the water supply is provided by reservoirs located throughout the island.

Setting up service is fairly easy and you can usually find an English-speaking representative. For more information contact Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Customer Service at: (787) 620-2482.

Natural Gas

Natural gas stoves are popular in Puerto Rico and delivered by the cylinder. Ask your landlord or realtor for your local dealer.

Garbage and Waste Management

Puerto Rico has over 32 landfills and waste-burning facilities and there is recycling, though recycling pickup is not available in many areas. There is one garbage disposal company in Puerto Rico, ADS — Autoridad de Desperdicios Solidos.

Main office: (787) 765-7575

Find the nearest office.

Telephone and cell phones

You will find very good cell phone service and coverage in Puerto Rico. In fact, Puerto Rico was recently chosen by Google to launch a modular cell phone due to its high percentage of internet users via mobile devices (75%). National cell phone companies include familiar names such as: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and many others. Claro is a local company providing cell phone and internet services. You can find kiosks in just about any mall or grocery store.

Signal strength is usually very good, and comparable to service in the U.S. Expect to find some dead areas if you are in more mountainous regions.

Landline service can be provided along with your cable service and is usually part of the package.

Puerto Rico area codes are 787 and 939. Information is available if you dial 411 and emergency service is 911.

Cable & Internet Providers

Much like in the United States, cable and internet providers are few and service is severely lacking. Depending on your location, you may only have one company to choose from.

Expect long waits in connecting your service. Depending on where you live, they can be very fast or sometimes take weeks. Setting an appointment is an all-day event, usually with a window of 5-6 hours. If they don’t show on the appointment date, they may show up the next day or the day after that.

Liberty is the largest provider followed by Claro (DSL), Choice Cable and AeroNet.

Liberty has the fastest internet connections and largest selection of cable packages in Puerto Rico with speeds between 10 – 20 Mbps. Their customer service has much to be desired.

Communications (Newspapers, Publications, Radio and TV)

Local media, including newspapers, radio and news stations are easily found in Puerto Rico. The majority of them are in Spanish.

Daily Newspapers:

TV Stations:

Health Insurance

Most U.S. health insurance companies do not offer coverage in Puerto Rico. If you are moving here, you will most likely need to get a local provider. Puerto Rico provides universal healthcare access to 1.7 million people through its $2.3 billion Mi Salud program, of which 55% is funded through Medicaid.

Health insurance costs on the island can be significantly less with a single medical plan including medical, RX, dental and vision costing less than $200 per month. For more information read this Finding Health Insurance article.

Four of the main health insurance companies in Puerto Rico:

Triple-S Salud

Humana (Medicaid only)

MCS (Medical Card System)

Mapfre

Doctors and Medical Facilities

The quality of medical care can be very good. There are excellent doctors and medical facilities, but many aspects are different than in the U.S. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a doctor because information is lacking online, there can be long waits for appointments and some emergency rooms are very confusing.

The best urgent care and emergency rooms:

El Presby in Condado (Walk-in and urgent care)

Centro Medico Emergency Care. They have the best MD’s and services on the island, but it is a public hospital and very confusing to navigate and crowded (and cold!).

Healthcare Links:

Administración de Seguros de Salud – P.R. government health care administration

MMAPA Medicaid and Medicare Advantage Products and Association of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Medicare Coalition for Fairness

Medical Records and Prescriptions

Bring prescriptions with you and refills. It may take a while until you find a doctor and get an appointment and you don’t want to stress out about needed medications. If you have prescriptions in the system at Walgreens, CVS or similar big-name pharmacies, you will be able to fill them easily in Puerto Rico.

Postal Service, Mail and Shipping

Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. Postal System (USPS) and has the same mail rates (34¢ for a postcard, 49¢ for a first-class letter) and service as provided on the U.S. mainland. Post offices are located in every city and offer Express Mail next-day service to the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico.

In addition, express services are offered by FedEx, UPS, Emery, RPS, and DHL.

Many companies ship to Puerto Rico, but many also do not — even though they offer International shipping. Puerto Rico is “lost” in a gray area being a territory of the U.S. and some companies don’t invest in setting up shipping logistics. For a list of online stores that ship to the island, go here

 

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