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Benefits of Residency

Why should I bother to get residency? This question we get a lot from people who come down 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 need to 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 are discouraging or phasing out personal bank accounts for those who do not have legal residence. While it’s still possible to have a Costa Rican bank account, it will 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 any 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 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. There’s nothing you can do 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 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 get questions about citizenship a lot, mainly what are the benefits of citizenship? Is the process complicated? Will I lose my citizenship? Let’s go through these questions and see if naturalization is right for you.

Being a Costa Rican citizen grants you the Right of Abode, which means you have the freedom to 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 have to 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. The process for replacing it if lost or stolen is considerably more straightforward and more effortless than changing a foreign resident card (DIMEX).
  • Costa Rican passport
    As a citizen, you may apply for a Costa Rican passport, which is 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 Process:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Citizenship Requirements:

  • 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 home country, Apostilled or Legalized, issued within the last 3 months.


All naturalization applications are processed by the Options and Naturalizations Department at the TSE, not by Immigration.

Will I Lose My Citizenship from my Home Country?

This question we get a lot, mainly from US and Canadian citizens who are 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, and 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 Costa Rican authorities.


Click HERE to See if You Qualify!


How to become a resident in Costa Rica before the next Ice Age!


To get your Residency in CR, click HERE.
Need a loan? – Click HERE.
Want to invest? – Click HERE.
Looking for Real Estate? – Click HERE.
Ready for a Relocation Tour? – Click HERE.

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