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Changes to the Immigration Process in Costa Rica

In November there were changes to the immigration process in Costa Rica, the immigration department of Costa Rica (known as DGME – Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, or often just as Immigration) put into place some updates to the residency application process. These changes are intended to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary paperwork.

Why Did Immigration Make These Changes?

According to their resolution (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here (in Spanish), starting on page 138), the system has been strained by a significant increase in the number of residency applications. Prospective residents have not received responses to their applications in a timely manner. Immigration has been subjected to constant court rulings for unconstitutional requirements and never-ending appeals, putting even more strain on its resources.

As a result of this situation, Immigration has been looking for ways to streamline the application process. As a result, they’ve decided to review the requirements and remove those that don’t have a significant legal impact on the residency application, as well as tweak others to make the process more flexible for the applicant.

The changes include:

  • Proof of legal presence in the country. Immigration will no longer ask for proof of legal presence in the country, but rather check their own records for such information.
  • Criminal background checks. In countries with multiple legal jurisdiction levels (such as the USA, Canada or Mexico) applicants will need to provide the criminal federal background check document, duly apostilled or legalized depending on the country. If the federal record shows arrests or pending legal processes, the applicant should also provide a certification from the local jurisdiction in question, in order to show the end result of that process.
  • Birth certificates. These documents no longer need to be less than 6 months old, as long as they are in good condition, display the required information, and are apostilled or legalized depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Passport. Copies of every page of the passport are no longer required — only the photo page with the personal details, the page with the entry visa (if it were necessary), and the page with the entry stamp.
  • For residency categories that require proof of economic solvency, the requirements have been reduced to only one (1) documentary item depending on the residency category.

The following items are NOT needed anymore to apply:

  • Proof of fingerprint registration with Costa Rica police. This requirement has been moved to after the application has been approved.
  • Consular registration
  • Application form
  • Guarantee letter from employer to Immigration. A job offer or contract will suffice instead.
  • Certified copy of the constitution of the company in categories that have required it.
  • Any requirements that can be verified online. This includes items such as acts registered in the Civil Registry (such as births and marriages), current status with the Caja (CCSS) for those directly insured, and copies of any identification of Costa Rican citizens or residents, which Immigration can acquire on its own.

While this is a good sign that Immigration is acknowledging some of the onerous requirements that can make residency applications difficult, these changes by no means make it an easy process.

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