Residency

Residency and Living in Costa Rica

We help you with all of the steps to obtain your legal residency in Costa Rica

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Obtaining Residency in Costa Rica

Having legal residency in Costa Rica is like living in the place of your dreams. Costa Rica is one of the world's favorite vacation spots after France and Spain. The beauty of the place enchants the visitors who come here and many decide to stay here for their lifetime and retire here. Permanent residency is quite easy and the living cost is significantly lower than Europe and the USA. The legal advice of a good law firm such as the Meléndez and Bonilla Law Firm helps you in establishing your own residency and life here.

Our law firm provides you with an attorney and sound advice which will save you a lot of money as well as your precious time. For people who are retired, the good news is that if you have a retirement income of one thousand dollars per month, or more, then immigration to Costa Rica is very easy.

Types of Residency

PENSION BASED RETIREMENT - PENSIONADO

This category applies to any person who is retired and is receiving pension benefits or anyone receiving a lifetime annuity. You must show proof of a monthly income of at least $1,000 USD.

A pension can include local, state, provincial, or federal government pensions from almost all countries, U.S.A. Social Security Administration, Canadian Old Age Pension System, Railroad Retirement benefits, private company pension plans, defined benefit plans, 401K plans, school district pension, and IRA and Keogh distributions, lifetime annuities, all qualify. The pension must be payable for the lifetime of the retiree.

A married couple needs to show proof of only one monthly pension for both husband, wife, and children up to the age of twenty-five. The pension holder can be either spouse.

As a temporary resident you can apply for permanent residency after three years. Once your residency is approved you agree to live in Costa Rica for at least one day per year.

The Pensionado cannot work as an employee of a Costa Rica company but can own his or her own business in Costa Rica and receive income from that business.

INCOME BASED RESIDENCY - RENTISTA

This category applies to individuals who are not retired, do not need to work while living in Costa Rica, and are receiving a guaranteed, unearned income of $2,500 USD per month from investments, savings, annuities, or other sources, and the non-earned income is guaranteed to be received for at least the next two years. The method usually used is a notarized letter from a bank or financial institution stating that the applicant has at least $60,000 USD in an account, such as a CD, and that the bank or financial institution agrees to transfer to Costa Rica $2,500 per month for the next two years. Other sources of unearned income include income from annuities, savings, investment income, rental property income, or dividends and interest. It is not a requirement that the bank account be in Costa Rican bank but it is usually easier to obtain the required bank letter when the account is in a Costa Rican bank.

A married couple needs to show proof of only one monthly income for both husband, wife, and children up to the age of twenty-five. The legal resident can be either spouse.

As a temporary resident you can apply for permanent residency after three years. Once your residency is approved you agree to live in Costa Rica for at least one day per year.

INVESTMENT RESIDENCY - INVERSIONISTA

This program applies to individuals who make a investment in Costa Rica of at least $200,000 USD.  The investment can be made in any type of business or real estate.

The investment can include a home in Costa Rica for personal use and also the purchase of land for future development, for preservation, including ecological, reforestation, or environmental preservation purposes. The investment can also be made in any type of business, including free zone, manufacturing, or retail, hotel, Bed and Breakfast, restaurant, tourism industry, tours, adventure-type parks, nature tours, boat tours, commercial real estate and non-commercial real estate. The applicant must prove that the amount already invested has a registered value of at least $200,000 USD.

A married couple needs to show proof of only one investment for both husband, wife, and children up to the age of twenty-five. The investor can be either spouse.

As a temporary resident you can apply for permanent residency after three years. Once your residency is approved you agree to live in Costa Rica for at least one day per year.

FAMILY RESIDENCY - VINCULA

This category applies to individuals who are married to or related to a Costa Rican citizen. The applicant must show that he or she has a first degree relationship, either by birth or by marriage with a Costa Rican citizen. The relationship includes spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, and unmarried brothers and sisters. It does not include other family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

A married couple needs to show proof of only one monthly income for both husband, wife, and children up to the age of eighteen, or twenty-five if they are full time students. The legal resident can be either spouse.

As a temporary resident you can apply for permanent residency after three years. Once your residency is approved you agree to live in Costa Rica for at least one day per year.

FOREIGN WORKERS

Under this category, a company doing business in Costa Rica (whether it is a foreign or domestic company) can bring foreign workers that are not available in Costa Rica.

OTHER TYPES

These categories are rarely used but there are specialized types of residency that include students, sports players, religious figures, temporary workers, politicians, diplomats, executive or directors of companies that have a minimum number of local workers in Costa Rica, and refugees.

PERMANENT RESIDENCY

Permanent residency can be granted to those residents that had Retirement, Foreign Income, Investment, or Family Residency for at least three years. Permanent residents can legally work as an employee of a Costa Rica company or their own business, and have every right available to Costa Rica citizens except for the right to vote. 

General Requirements

The following list outlines the general requirements for any application for residency.

  1. Birth Certificate. You need a new original copy of your birth certificate. This can usually be ordered online in most countries. In the USA it is the Vital Records Office in your county or state. In Canada, it is the Office of the Registrar General or the Vital Statistics Agency. In the UK, it is the General Register Office or the Division of Vital Records.
  2. Police Background Check. This document can be issued by the police where you have lived for the last three years. It can also be issued by a national police authority. For USA citizens it is the FBI, for Canadian Citizens it is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for UK citizens it is the Association of Chief Police Officers. Other countries have their own national police forces.
  3. Income Verification. Depending upon the category you are applying for, you must show proof of the required income or investment. If you are applying under the retirement category and your source of income is a government pension then you obtain a letter from your government certifying the income. For United States Citizens receiving Social Security you can obtain this letter from the United States Embassy Federal Benefits Office located in San José. Otherwise, you need a statement from your government, company, or broker proving your income. For the foreign income category then you obtain a letter or statement to prove your income. For the investment category you must prove the amount of the investment in Costa Rica.
  4. Marriage Certificate. A marriage certificate, if needed for dependents or family relationship, from the Marriage Registry must be provided. This can usually be ordered online in most countries. If you were married in the United States, you can request an official copy from the office of vital records in the state where your marriage took place. On their website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifies the name and address of each vital records office, as well as the current fee. In Canada, you can request it from the Vital Statistics Office of each province. In the UK, it is the General Register Office or the Division of Vital Records. Costa Rica recognizes same gender marriages and the partner can be included as a dependent.
  5. Application Form. We provide and complete this form for our clients.
  6. Cover Letter. The cover letter contains basic information about you. We complete the cover letter for our clients.
  7. Fingerprints. They are done at the Police Department in San José which is the only location in the country where they are done. We help you fill out the corresponding form and go with you to the Police Department..
  8. Certified Copy of the passport. We complete the certification of your passport copy.
  9. Consular Registration. You are required to register with the Consulate from your country. The registration for the USA is done online using the STEP registration.
  10. Power of Attorney. We will provide a Limited Power of Attorney for you to sign for us to act on your behalf before the Immigration Department.
  11. Six passport size photographs.
  12. Costa Rican Social Security. Once your residency is approved you must join the Costa Rican Social Security system, known as the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, or just the CAJA. This entitles you to free medical care in Costa Rica.
  13. Government Fees.You are required to pay $255 USD in application fees to the Immigration Department to file your application. Once your application is approved you are required to pay an additional $433 USD in government fees of which $300 USD is a refundable deposit.

 Important notes about the documents

  • All documents must be less than six months old when they are presented to the immigration department. This is based on the issue date of the document. The original birth certificate from when you were born is not valid for immigration purposes in Costa Rica.
  • All documents that are not in the Spanish language must have an official translation into Spanish. We have this done for you. The costs for the translations will vary depending on the original document and the original language.
  • All documents from abroad must be authenticated for use in Costa Rica. Documents from most countries require an Apostille since Costa Rica is a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents. This is done by the Secretary of State. Information on the Apostille Convention is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostille_Convention.
  • The countries that are not party to the Apostille Convention require the document to be legalized by the Costa Rican Consul in the originating country. This includes Canada and China and some other countries. Information on the Legalization of documents is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalization_(international_law).
  • Police background checks must be from the countries where you lived for the past three years.

Processing Time

The application process for residency has three basic steps, the obtaining of your documents, the Immigration Department analysis and decision of your application, and obtaining your residency identification card.

Obtaining your documents can be done in person via online and usually takes one or two months. The Immigration Department takes about nine to twelve months to approve your application. Registering with the CAJA and obtaining your DIMEX card takes one to two weeks.

Once your application is filed with the Immigration Department you will receive a receipt with the application number. The immigration law allows you to remain in Costa Rica while your application is pending. You are not required to leave the country every ninety days to renew your visa. Your drivers license is only valid for ninety days so if you want to use your foreign driver license during the waiting period you will need to leave the country every three months to renew your visa.

Family Dependents

All of the above categories for residency allow you to include your family members as dependents. Dependents include your spouse and any children under the age of 25. If you have older children that are disabled then you can also include them in your application.

What to do next

Enjoy your residency in Costa Rica. The country has attracted a very diverse group of people from many countries around the world. A high standard of living, beaches and mountains to enjoy, cultural activities, great weather, and the quality the Costa Rican people have made it a very popular retirement location..