We always talk about how Nicaragua is a place to make your home, but the practicality of this type of move can come into question. We can tell you statistic after statistic and reason after reason as to why this move would be viable, but sometimes hearing it from someone’s personal experience is the best way to truly understand just how simple it can be. We were able to meet up with Patrick Hiebert, the now COO of ECI Development, and talk about his experience of moving to Nicaragua and gaining residency. Though being from Canada and spending a lot of time there, Patrick lived in the United States as well making it so that hopefully his insights can be helpful to those in both countries. To hear the whole recording of our conversation, click the link below, or for a summarized written version you can keep reading.
Had you ever visited Nicaragua before?
Patrick’s Nicaragua story began back around 2004 when his family was planning a vacation. Originally, they planned to go to Costa Rica as it was known as the Central American travel destination, but a friend of a friend who had just bought a place in Nicaragua recommended they try there instead. He told Patrick about how nice the people are there and how the country was less Americanized than the neighboring Costa Rica. That was enough to sway him and shortly after him and his family found themselves vacationing there.
During that first visit Patrick fell in love with what Nicaragua was and even spent 18 hours of one of the days driving from the far south of the country to the far north looking at potential properties to call his own. His family began visiting the country regularly and it became a place they went back to again and again, month after month.
Patrick's children enjoying horseback riding in Nicaragua
Why choose Gran Pacifica?
When these first visits were happening, Patrick was not involved with Gran Pacifica professionally, rather he was just looking for the perfect spot for himself and his family to spend time. Patrick wanted to be able to be by the ocean as he loved sailing and being near the water, but at the same time he hoped to be close enough to a big city that he could enjoy movies, restaurants, and the likes on occasion. San Juan Del Sur and Granada were two popular places, but he knew that if he chose one of those locations he would have to give up one of the attributes he saw important; this is where Gran Pacifica came into the picture.
Gran Pacifica was the perfect location. It had oceanfront property on one of the most beautiful beaches he had ever seen, while at the same time it was just close enough to Managua that he didn’t have to feel like he would not be able to enjoy days or nights in the city. To top it off the community could provide him and his family with the luxuries of running water, water pressure, hot and cold water, golfing surfing, horseback riding, and so many other advantages that wouldn’t be available at another location. It was all he could ask for and more.
How does one’s family react to this sort of decision?
Since his family had already spent so much time in Nicaragua and had fallen in love with the country themselves, there was not too much protest to the decision and not much convincing had to happen. They were coming from Canada and in particular Vancouver Island, which is known for having a perpetual rainy season, so the idea of Nicaragua’s climate was inviting to both the kids and Patrick’s wife at the time. They would still be able to experience some storm watching during the rainy season, but other than that they were more than prepared for sunshine and warmth.
It was a no brainer to bring the family down with him. The people of the country were the friendliest you could meet, and with it being the safest country in Central America he knew that he could feel confident bringing kids along.
He still planned to spend time in Canada, but he wanted to be able to make a triangle of homes in beautiful places. Canada would be the home of choice July through September, and then as things got colder in Canada he wanted to be able to migrate down somewhere on the Caribbean for a few months, and then he hoped to spend the rest of the year on the Pacific in a place like Nicaragua.
The vacations always included activities that involved bonding with the local Nicaraguans
Did you worry about your kids’ education?
At the beginning of it all, Patrick’s family only went for short amounts of time (1-3 months), so teachers were able to assign the 3 children schoolwork to be done during their time away. When Patrick was young, he experienced a similar upbringing as his parents enjoyed spending winters in Phoenix, Arizona to escape winters in Manitoba, Canada. His teachers would assign him work to do during that time, but he found that he was able to finish it quickly and even got ahead in his studies.
Patrick wanted his kids to be able to experience the world similarly to how he did, and he commented on how he always kept in mind prioritizing street smarts over book learning. By having his kids spend time in another country they were able to finish their daily school in 45 minutes and then from there spend time learning another language, different currencies, and a whole different culture.
This way of learning made for the kids having more experiential learning and Patrick mused on how he believed it made for a more well-rounded way to raise children.
How does the healthcare measure up?
Where Patrick was coming from, Canada, he was lucky enough to benefit from a Universal Health Care System that is paid through taxes, meaning that there was no immediate hit to your bank account when a medical emergency occurred. Luckily, once Patrick looked into and experienced Central American medical services for himself, he realized that money was not going to be an issue in Nicaragua. Most of Central America has better healthcare than many realize, and it is incredibly inexpensive when compared to somewhere like the United States.
Patrick got immersed into Nicaragua’s healthcare system early on as during his 1st trip he unfortunately had kidney stones. It was late on a Saturday night that he started experiencing the pain, and the next morning a doctor that a friend of his knew met Patrick at the clinic. He gave him the works including an ultrasound and blood tests, and from there was able to conclude it was in fact kidney stones he had. The experience was quick an easy, including no lineup or wait times, and it even included a doctor who walked him across the road to the pharmacy to ensure he picked up the right medication. This whole process only ended up costing him $60.
Patrick has looked into getting health insurance since and has heard of wonderful options that include a cost that is 10X lower than what he had payed in the United States for insurance. To make it even better it is provided through a Mayo Clinic sister hospital, the Vivian Pellas Hospital, so the service provided is top notch and makes for there not being any worries about healthcare in Nicaragua.
Patrick's youngest exploring the Nicaraguan landscapes
At what point in the process did you look into residency?
The type of residency that Patrick has is an investor’s residency and he was able to obtain it by buying property in Nicaragua. When he first began looking at real estate in Nicaragua, he felt like a kid in a candy shop. The area in Canada he was coming from was similar to the Bay Area of San Francisco when it came to real estate prices, so when he saw the beautiful properties he could buy for such reasonable prices, he went a little crazy. At one point along the line he decided he might as well put it towards gaining residency in Nicaragua.
Patrick began with stating how he remains a Canadian citizen and plans on keeping it that way as there are many perks to travelling with a Canadian passport, but he was interested in moving his residency elsewhere. For Canadians, your income tax follows your residency, so by giving up his Canadian one for the Nicaraguan one he was able to not pay Canadian taxes, which has financially been a huge benefit for him.
The process was seamless for Patrick. He had to do an interview and provide some documentation of course, but from there was given a residency card that was good for 5 years after which he could become a citizen if he so pleased. As brought up earlier though there is no value for Patrick there, but the option is open for those who would benefit from doing so.
Did you bring down anything like cars or furniture?
When the final move occurred, Patrick ended up bringing very little from Canada with him. He mused about how earlier that day him and his son had been talking about the concept of minimalism and how Patrick’s path of life brought him to that sort of lifestyle in the end. When he was younger, Patrick sold a software company he had developed and ended up doing alright financially. He bought the standard sport cars and big house, but he soon realized that that was not who he was and started downsizing from there. He moved into a smaller house, then to an apartment, and eventually lived on a boat.
When he first moved to Nicaragua, he had a storage bin in Canada, but after two years he grabbed what he felt he needed from it and got rid of the rest. He brought up that as a resident you can bring down furniture and a car tax free and import duty free, but personally for him he was interested in a new start.
He never saw a reason to bring down furniture from North America when instead he could get beautiful handmade custom furniture for a fraction of the price. He used an example of commissioning a local Nicaraguan to make him a 4-post California king bed and in the end, he ended up paying only $400 for it; a price that would be unheard of in North America.
A herd of cattle seen on the side of the road
Is it possible to bring down a pet?
One thing that people may worry about is bringing a pet with them to Nicaragua and whether they would be able to do that. Though Patrick never had to bring down a pet himself, he said that he knows people who have gone through the process of bringing pets down and as well adopting animals in Nicaragua and going back forth with them, none of whom have experienced much difficulty in the whole process. The individual goes to the vet, gets a certificate of health for the animal, and then they and their pet are good to go.
What is the starkest difference between Canada, the United States, and Nicaragua?
With only a short pause Patrick affirmatively said that the biggest difference between the North American countries and Nicaragua was the bureaucracy. In general Patrick has found that the biggest allure to these countries in Central America is the freedom of living one can experience. Bureaucratic law is not imposed on people, unlike is seen in Canada and the United States. Patrick acknowledged that he understands bureaucracy and why it can be important, but he enjoys that in Nicaragua there are no seemingly unnecessary laws. He is not alone in this thinking and knows many who identify with this themselves and love Nicaragua for this reason.
A typical Nicaragua sunset experienced by Patrick's family
Do you ever wish you had chosen a different country?
At the end of it all, Patrick loves all Central American countries in their own way, but he found Nicaragua to be the perfect mix of and exactly what he was looking for in life. The perfect triangle of homes naturally came to him. Canada, his home and native land. Nicaragua, perfect for a sunny lifestyle on the Pacific, and Belize for a Caribbean lifestyle (which is where he currently has found himself quarantining). Unconsciously his life has gravitated towards what he has always wanted, and Nicaragua is a big part of that and something that he’ll never regret.
ECI Development delivers affordable luxury residence and resort communities in Central America, providing our clients with various premier lifestyle options from the Caribbean to the Pacific. ECI delivers inspired residences for adventurous souls.
Coupled with over 20 years of inherent corporate social responsibility in the communities where we work, ECI Development is building a sustainable business that is going to be around for the next 100+ years.