Benefits of Residency and Citizenship – Comprehensive Guide!
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the benefits of Costa Rica residency. Costa Rica is a popular destination for expats worldwide, thanks to its stunning natural beauty, high standard of living, and friendly locals. This article will cover all aspects of Costa Rica residency, including the cost of living, healthcare, climate, safety, and security, and the residency process. Our aim is to provide you with valuable information that can help you make an informed decision about relocating to Costa Rica.
Benefits of Residency
Why should I bother to get a residency? We get this question a lot from people who come to Costa Rica. Well, this isn’t a complete list by any means, but here’s a shortlist of Benefits of residency in Costa Rica:
- You can get a Costa Rica driver’s license
With the new traffic law (Ley de Tránsito), you must show proof of legal residence to get a Costa Rica driver’s license based on your existing one from your home country. Your foreign license is only valid in Costa Rica when you show your passport with a valid entry stamp.
- You will get your Social Security
Once your Residency is approved, you will be registered with the Social Security and Public Health Care System (CCSS or Caja), which covers pre-existing conditions.
- Less hassle opening a local bank account.
Banks in Costa Rica discourage or phasing out personal bank accounts for those who do not have legal residence. While obtaining a Costa Rican bank account is still possible, albeit challenging to achieve, it will likely be flagged as high risk. You will have to deal with different requirements, such as updating your information often or facing account closure. In addition, you will not be able to send or receive interbank (SINPE) transfers without a legal residence.
- No more need to carry your passport
Having to carry your passport everywhere is a hassle, as you risk losing it or having it stolen. It’s challenging to carry out banking transactions without a passport (even changing US dollars to colones), and often a notarized copy will not help. Residency means you get a resident ID card (called a DIMEX) you can carry in your wallet. You can then store your passport in a safe place.
- No worries about boarding a plane headed to Costa Rica.
Many airlines require you to show proof of onward travel to board the plane to Costa Rica. It is also true with Immigration once you enter the country. Having your residency card on hand eliminates all of these hassles.
- Resident discounts
As a Costa Rican resident, you will receive discounts from tourism enterprises (for example, local flights), tourist sites and national parks, and local attractions.
- Stop leaving Costa Rica every 90 days!
As a perpetual tourist, you are at the mercy of the person behind the desk with your passport in their hand every time you enter Costa Rica. They can stamp you from 0 up to 90 days. You can do little to nothing about it if they refuse to allow you back in. If you’re given 10 days instead of 90, you’ll have to repeat the visa run in 10 days. It’s a complete lottery. Some people have been making visa runs for decades and have never had a problem acquiring 90 days at a time. Others are rejected or are only permitted 90 days from the first time they apply. It’s impossible to predict how things will turn out.
Click here to see what residency category is best for you.
Benefits of Citizenship
Many expats and immigrants take the final step of their Immigration to Costa Rican and become naturalized citizens. We often get questions about citizenship, mainly what are the benefits of citizenship? Is the process complicated? Will I lose my citizenship? Let’s review these questions and see if naturalization is right for you.
Being a Costa Rican citizen grants you the Right of Abode, which means you can live and work in the country without limits. You would believe that having permanent residency grants you this privilege. Still, it can be withdrawn for various reasons, including being convicted of a crime or failing to renew your resident status. Costa Rican citizenship cannot be revoked (obtained under pretenses).
Remember, “permanent residence” is not actually permanent. You still need to renew your residence status every few years. Moreover, you must pay a renewal fee and show your continued enrollment in CCSS (Caja – social security). It only means you have the permanent right to renew your residence status as long as you follow the rules.
Other benefits of citizenship include:
- Voting rights
As a citizen, you have the right to vote in presidential elections (whether you live in Costa Rica or not), legislative elections, and municipal elections.
- National ID card.
The Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) provides Costa Rican citizens with a free ID card (Cédula de Identidad) valid for ten years. Replacing it if lost or stolen is considerably more straightforward and effortless compared to a foreign resident card (DIMEX).
- Costa Rican passport
As a citizen, you may apply for a Costa Rican passport, rated 30th in the Henley Passport Index, and provides visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to 149 countries and territories, including those needing a US visa. Costa Ricans can also travel to additional South American countries without paying the high reciprocal visa-on-arrival costs that Americans and Canadians must pay. In addition, a Costa Rican passport may allow you to travel to places that your own country’s passport does not. For example, you may go to Cuba without limitations using your Costa Rican passport).
- CCSS (Caja) enrollment
While all inhabitants (citizens and non-citizens) must enroll in CCSS, not doing so does not risk your citizenship. In contrast, international residents must demonstrate ongoing enrollment in CCSS to renew their status.
- You can leave and return without restrictions.
As a foreign resident, if you plan to leave Costa Rica for an extended time, you need to apply for suspension of your resident status with Immigration and then resume your resident status when you return. Citizens can leave for many years and return.
- Get your deposit back from Immigration.
Once you become a citizen, you can cancel your residency with Immigration and thus be eligible for a return of the Guarantee Deposit you made.
Citizens CAN NOT be easily deported.
Citizens have the RIGHT to vote.
Citizens are eligible to apply for government jobs
While technically, according to law, all residents (citizens or non-citizens) have the same rights, you’ll find that services and platforms are much more geared towards citizens than non-citizens.
- Citizenship by Residence
• 7 years living in Costa Rica as a resident with a cédula (5 years if you are a citizen of a Central American country, a citizen of certain Latin American countries, or a citizen of Spain by birth);
• 2 character witness declarations;
• Proof of financial means of living, such as an income certification from a CPA;
• Completion of citizenship tests – Spanish and social studies (applicants aged 65 and over are exempt from this requirement).
- Citizenship by Marriage to Costa Rican citizen
• 2 years living in Costa Rica, married to a Costa Rican citizen;
• Exempts you from the proof of financial means and completion of citizenship tests.
- You must prove you have lived in Costa Rica for the accumulated time through the record of immigration entries and exits (TSE will do this as part of the process);
- Birth certificate from home country, Apostilled or Legalized ( in most cases, you can omit this requirement if it is in your immigration file);
- A Criminal Record Check from the home country, Apostilled or Legalized, issued within the last 3 months.
IMPORTANT: All naturalization applications are processed by the TSE’s Options and Naturalizations Department, not Immigration.
Costa Rica is a fantastic place to call home, with many benefits that make it an attractive destination for expats. Costa Rica has a lot to offer, from its low cost of living to its excellent healthcare system, beautiful climate, and safe and secure environment. We hope that our guide has provided you with valuable information that can help you make an informed decision about relocating to this beautiful country. Please contact us if you have any questions or want to learn more about Costa Rica residency. We’re always here to help.
-Co-written by Johanna Alvarez (Immigration expert) and Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I Lose my Citizenship from my Home Country?
We often get this question from US and Canadian citizens not accustomed to the modern immigration world. We have answered this question in detail in the article Dual Citizenship in Costa Rica.
The short answer for US, Canadian, and many other citizens is no; you do not lose your citizenship simply by naturalizing as a citizen of Costa Rica. However, one thing to realize is that as a Costa Rican citizen, you will be treated as solely Costa Rican in the eyes of the Costa Rican authorities.
Is there Political Stability and Safety in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a democratic country that abolished its army in 1948 and has been peaceful ever since. It has a stable political system, an independent judiciary, and low levels of corruption. The crime rate in Costa Rica is relatively low compared to other Latin American countries, and the government takes public safety seriously.
Is there a High Quality of Life?
Costa Rica is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, thanks to its emphasis on family values, environmental protection, and work-life balance. The country has a well-developed healthcare system, excellent education opportunities, and a wide range of recreational activities. Whether you prefer surfing, hiking, birdwatching, or just relaxing on the beach, Costa Rica has something for everyone.
What are the Costs of Living?
While the cost of living in Costa Rica may vary depending on the location and lifestyle, it is generally lower than in North America or Europe. Essential goods and services, such as food, transportation, and utilities, are affordable, and property prices are relatively reasonable. By becoming a resident, you can also take advantage of local discounts and exemptions on taxes, import duties, and healthcare.
Are the Investment and Business Opportunities?
Costa Rica is a hub for international trade, tourism, and renewable energy. The country has a strategic location between North and South America, a favorable business climate, and a skilled workforce. By investing in Costa Rica or starting a business, you can tap into its potential for growth and innovation. The government offers various incentives and support programs for entrepreneurs and investors, such as tax breaks, grants, and partnerships. If you are looking for profitable investments in Costa Rica, click HERE.
How long does it take to get residency in Costa Rica?
The processing time for residency in Costa Rica can vary depending on the program, your personal situation, and the workload of the immigration authorities. It can take from several months to over a year to complete the process. Working with a professional advisor can help speed up the process and avoid delays.
Do I need to speak Spanish to get residency in Costa Rica?
While Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, it’s not a requirement for residency. However, knowing Spanish can help you integrate into the local culture, communicate with officials and locals, and navigate daily life. Some residency programs may require a minimum Spanish proficiency level, so improving your language skills is advisable.
Take our 30-second assessment to get started on residency! – Here!
Select all options that apply to you
Pensionado (Pension/Disability) Category
Rentista (Fixed Income) Category
Inversionista (Investor) Category
Family ties with a Costa Rican Resident/Citizen Category
My residency company let me down
I am not sure.
Repeat to confirm
Country Of Birth
Country of Residence
How many people under your application (spouse, children under 25)
Phone Number with Country Code (optional)
How to become a resident in Costa Rica