Why should I use Costa Rica Immigration Experts?
Costa Rica Immigration Experts has the experience, over 15 years, of helping people obtain residency within Costa Rica.
We have the knowledge and contacts to properly and professionally process your residency application.
We are familiar with the intricacies of the residency application process, the supporting documents required by law and we will correspond on your behalf any concerns on the part of Consular and Immigration officials reviewing your application.
What are the benefits of getting residency?
Aside from legalizing your status in the country, residency provides you with a whole host of benefits when driving, banking, traveling, and visiting tourist destinations. Click here for a short list of the benefits!
Residency Requirements FAQs
What documents do I need to apply for residency?
Document requirements vary depending on the category of residency you are applying for. Click here for a list of general residency requirements which apply to most applications.
Can I invest in real estate if I apply for the investment category?
Yes, this category allows for investment in real estate, however, the government will only accept the purchase prices recorded in the deed. You will need to provide certification from the recorder of deeds, the tax authority and the municipality indicating the purchase price of the property.
What if I married a Costa Rican outside of Costa Rica? What documentation do I need?
In order to apply for residency as the spouse of a Costa Rican citizen, the marriage must be registered in Costa Rica. If the marriage was celebrated outside of Costa Rica, you’ll need to do one of the following:
- The marriage certificate will need to be Apostilled, or authneticated and legalized by the Costa Rican consulate (depending on the country of origin), then officially translated to Spanish (in Costa Rica), and finally submitted to the Civil Registry in Costa Rica. This must be done by the Costa Rican citizen spouse.
- -OR- The marriage certificate can be brought to the corresponding Costa Rican consulate to be registered. Both spouses should be present to make the marriage declaration and provide their identifications (valid Costa Rican identity card for the Costa Rican citizen spouse, and valid passport of the foreign spouse).
Both processes can take some time, and local registration of the marriage must be done prior to applying for residency as spouse of a Costa Rican citizen.
You can apply directly for Costa Rican citizenship if you have been married to a Costa Rican citizen for over 2 years, and you have been living in Costa Rica for the past 2 years.
Can Costa Rica Immigration Experts obtain the paperwork I need from my home country or do I have to go back to get them?
This is the one step that is easier to do while you are in your home country. Costa Rica Immigration Experts can guide you through what you will need to do depending on your home country and region.
How long is my birth certificate and police letter valid for?
Key documents such as your marriage certificate, police letter and income letter are valid for only six (6) months from the date the document is issued (not when it gets Apostilled, or legalized etc). Birth certificates can be older, but it may be impossible to get them Apostilled or legalized in your home country if they’re too old.
All foreign documents must either be Apostilled, or legalized by the Costa Rican Consulate in your country. What does that mean?
Costa Rican government agencies do not accept official documents issued abroad without the proper legalization procedure. Think of it as “exporting” the document to Costa Rica.
If your home country is party to the Apostille Convention (such as the USA and most of Europe, but not Canada), you can have your foreign document (such as birth certificate or police check) apostilled by the competent local authority.
If your home country is not party to the Apostille Convention, then you will need the document legalized by the Costa Rican consulate in that country. At Costa Rica Immigration Experts we can guide you through this process.
Residency Process FAQs
Do I need to be in Costa Rica to start the residency process?
No. you do not. However, you need to follow our checklist and get everything apostilled and translated into Spanish in order to submit to immigration.
What is an “apoderado?”
An apoderado is a person who meets certain legal requirements established by the government of Costa Rica and to whom you grant a limited power of attorney to act on your behalf and to represent you for the sole purpose of processing your application for residency. Costa Rica Immigration Experts uses a very narrow and specific limited power of attorney which is used to communicate and correspond about your residency with Migración in Costa Rica.
Am I still required to leave the country every 90 days to renew my visa, while my paperwork is being processed by immigration?
Once the application is filed, you will have a receipt (Certificado tramite migratorio) from Costa Rica immigration, allowing you to stay in the country while the application is being processed. Therefore, you will not be required to leave the country every 90 days to renew the visitor visa.
How long does it take for the immigration process to complete?
As with any governmental bureaucracy, it can take as little as 90 days or up to a year, depending on your category.
What is the Guarantee Deposit for?
The Guarantee Deposit is a safety measure in the unlikely event that you are deported back to home country by the Costa Rican government.
This deposit can be returned if you obtain Costa Rican citizenship, or once you no longer have Costa Rican residence.
How long is residency valid for?
Generally a permanent resident card is issued for 3 to 5 years, and is renewable. Temporary resident cards are issued for a period of up to 2 years and you need to prove continued eligibility to the conditions of the residency category in order to renew.
How long can I be out of Costa Rica before I lose my temporary residency?
Foreigners with temporary residence who are absent from Costa Rica for more than two consecutive years will lose their temporary residency status, unless there are grounds for exception duly noted by health reasons or study.
If and when I do get residency, can I bring my parents to Costa Rica as well? Are they considered to be dependents?
Once you have residence in Costa Rica, your parents can apply for a special category as long as they can prove that they are economically dependent on you and that you can support them (signed affidavit, income certification).
Is it true that I can’t get a Costa Rica driver’s license until I have a Costa Rica Cedula? Why does immigration care about my driver’s license?
Yes that is true, but not because of immigration regulations. The transit department has their own rules. If you are visiting Costa Rica, you may drive on the driver’s license issued by your home country so long as your visa has not expired. After your visa has expired, the license is no longer valid, which means that you need to re-enter Costa Rica in order for the driver’s license to be valid again.
What's the difference between a "Cédula" and a "DIMEX?"
A “cédula” is a generic name for an identity document, used throughout Spanish America, including Costa Rica, where Costa Rican citizens are issued identity cards (“cédula de identidad”).
Foreigners with residency used to be issued identity cards with a similar term (“cédula de residencia”), but now they are issued cards that are called DIMEX (“Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros” — or Migratory Identity Document for Foreigners).
As a result, “cédula” and “DIMEX” are used interchangeably when it comes to foreign residents.
Permanent Residency FAQs
When can I apply for permanent residency?
Generally you are eligible for permanent residency if:
- You have a first-degree family tie to a Costa Rican citizen, such as a parent or a child; or
- You have had temporary residency for more than 3 years uninterrupted.
Note: Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residency.
What benefits do I get as a permanent resident? Can I vote or obtain a Costa Rica passport?
Being a permanent resident allows you to live in Costa Rica without any conditions. You can work in Costa Rica, and stay for as little or as much time as you want. Renewal is given on demand. You do not receive the rights of citizenship such as voting, Costa Rican passport, or right of abode (which means you can still be subject to deportation as a foreign resident). Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residency to maintain the right to stay.
Is it better to deposit our pension funds into a Costa Rica Bank so that we have proof for when it’s time to renew our residency?
Yea, it is better to deposit the funds into a Costa Rican bank in order to more easily show that you are complying with the pensionado residence regulations. Since it can take some time to get a physical check to Costa Rica each month, and deposit into a local bank (which can take like 15 days to clear), one way of doing this would be to deposit the check (or direct deposit) in a US bank, use a local ATM, then make a cash deposit into the Costa Rica bank — and maintain bank statements. Click here for more information.
Will I still have access to my money if I deposit the $60,000 into the bank for the Rentista category?
Persons applying for residence are required to withdraw $2,500 per month, but you will need to have another $60,000 in the bank when it comes time to renew your rentista residence. This deposit of $60,000 is the rentista’s money and is paid out to you at the rate of $2,500 per month for 24 months. This temporary residency is for two years after which it must be renewed (deposit another $60,000) or you will have to leave Costa Rica. After three years you have the right to “upgrade” to permanent residence. This means that you will have to do at least ONE renewal after two years.
NOTE: Rentista residents should convert to permanent residency after three years to avoid a third large deposit of $60,000.
Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica before I get my cédula?
Foreigners that are in the process of getting their residency done can use the receipt (Certificado tramite migratorio) that they receive from immigration while the application is being processed to open a bank account in Costa Rica.
However, new regulations are making it very difficult for foreigners awaiting their residence card to use banking services. Even though the banks are obligated to provide service, you’ll find them to be generally uncooperative. Thankfully at Costa Rica Immigration Experts we work with banks and agents who can help you navigate the process of opening a bank account while your residency is pending. Click here for more information.
Do I need Costa Rica medical insurance?
You will need to sign up for Caja (which covers local public health care) when your residency application is approved. In addition, there are private health insurance options from INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros) which provide world-quality health care from private hospitals, clinics, and doctors.
What is Caja?
Caja stands for Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. This is Costa Rica’s universal health care system that everyone pays into via monthly contributions. These contributions also also fund the national pension system as well.
How do I register with Caja?
We, Costa Rica Immigration Experts, can help you register with Caja.
Do I have to contribute to Caja even if I don't use it?
Yes, CAJA IS MANDATORY.
How much is Caja going to cost?
First take note that you won’t need to sign up until after your residency application is approved. But you’ll need to sign up once you have the approval paperwork and before picking up your cédula (resident card).
If you have passive income you can sign up for Seguro Voluntario which will cost approximately 9% of your stated monthly income, whether you make your income in Costa Rica or elsewhere. For example a pensioner with a $1,000/month income can expect to pay around $90/month for Caja.
What are the hospitals like in Costa Rica?
Public hospitals are generally up to date and advanced especially in urban areas. Outside the Central Valley the quality varies immensely. Private hospitals such as Clinica Biblica, Clinica Catolica and CIMA San Jose are world-class. Click here for more information.
What Insurance can I get while my residency is being processed?
We, Costa Rica Immigration Experts, can help you with all of your insurance needs.
When should I renew my residency?
You can renew your residency within 3 months of the expiration date. We suggest you do so as early as you can to avoid having an expired residency card while undergoing the renewal process.
What paperwork will I need to show immigration when I renew my cédula?
This procedure is fairly simple and requires you to pay the renewal fees, show that you’re active with Caja CCSS (and that you have been since the beginning of your residency period), and your passport.
In the case of temporary residence (such as pensionado or rentista) you have to show that you still meet the residence conditions.
For example, in the case of pensionado, you will need to show paperwork from the competent authority indicating that you still have a pension. That being said it is prudent to deposit the pension in a local bank to have rock-solid financial proof. The spirit of the law is that the money should be brought into Costa Rica.
After 3 years of temporary residence, you can apply for permanent residency.
I have lived in CR for the past 10 years now. Can I become a naturalized citizen based on the length of time I have lived here?
“Citizenship by Residence” means you have to have 7 years as an official resident. So that would mean from the day you received your resident card from Migración.
I have a Costa Rican parent. Does that make me a citizen?
Any person born abroad to a Costa Rican parents can opt for Costa Rican citizenship before the age of 25. The first step is to register your birth abroad either with the Costa Rican consulate corresponding to your place of birth, or bring a birth certificate, Apostilled or legalized depending on the country, to the Civil Registry in Costa Rica. In the case of minors this can be done by the Costa Rican parent.
Do I need a visa to enter Costa Rica?
This depends on your country of citizenship. Citizens of the first category (US, Canada, most European countries, and others) can enter visa-free for 90 days. Citizens of other countries may require a consular visa either before arrival, or apply for one on arrival if Costa Rica has no representation in their home country.
What happens if I overstay my visa in Costa Rica?
Effective August 1st. 2014, those who overstay any type of visa, including tourist visas, must pay a fine of $100 for each month or portion they remained in the country after the expiration of their visa.
In addition, those who overstay their visas can be barred from reentering the country for a period equal to three times the length of time they overstayed. For instance, a person who overstays a tourist visa by three months can be barred from reentering the country for a period of nine months, and must pay a fine of $300.
NOTE: Fines must be paid 48 hours in advance of departing the country at any Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) branch.
Can a foreigner go to any immigration office and renew their visa for another 90 days, or is it better to leave and re-enter the country?
US, Canadian and most Western European tourists who receive a 90-day tourist visa DO NOT qualify to extend their tourist visas unless there are specific underlying special conditions. That method of extension is available ONLY to tourists who enter Costa Rica on a visa for less than 90 days. For example, if immigration gives you a 30-day visa rather a 90-day visa, then you can go to immigration and ask to extend to the full 90-day term.
What is a perpetual tourist?
A perpetual tourist is someone who lives in Costa Rica, yet enters as a tourist and simply re-enters every 90 days to renew his or her entry stamp. Costa Rica discourages perpetual tourism, and it is getting harder and harder to maintain this option especially for long periods.
How long can I be a perpetual tourist?
There are no clear guidelines as to how many times you can leave and re-enter Costa Rica, however, Customs may not take kindly to seeing so many exit and entry stamps in your passport!
Costa Rica FAQs
What are the taxes like in Costa Rica?
One of the attractive aspects of Costa Rica is that income earned abroad remains untaxed from an income tax perspective (territorial taxation principle). Property taxes are very low, except when your property qualifies for an additional luxury surtax (at approximately US$200,000 in appraised value). Sales tax is 13% and is typically included in the price of goods.
Where Costa Rica’s taxes are highest is where it comes to imports. Most imported items are far more expensive than in North America, especially processed and packaged foods, electronics, and motor vehicles.
Is the cost of living in Costa Rica less than the United States?
A retired couple can live more cheaply in Costa Rica than in the United States. The reduced cost of medical coverage alone will save you a fortune (once you are in the CAJA). Obviously, your choice of lifestyle and location preferences will be a factor in your cost of living (the impact on your wallet).
Can I bring my pets to Costa Rica?
Yes, generally speaking, you can bring your pets to Costa Rica, with the proper international certificates. There are no quarantine requirements.
Can I bring my car to Costa Rica?
Yes you can. Our recommendation however would be to source a quality vehicle which already has been imported with the proper license plate and registration. Also, the makes and models of vehicles that are popular where you live may not be common at all in Costa Rica, and you may find your vehicle difficult to get parts and maintenance for. Note that import tax for a vehicle can be in the 50-100% range, but if you do sell your car after importing it, you’ll find that it sells for much, much higher than it would in a country like the USA.
Can I open a business in Costa Rica?
Yes you can. As long as you are not on the payroll, you are allowed to register a company and act as an officer of said company.
Can I pay domestic help "under the table"?
It may seem like a good money-saving idea at the time… However, if they are injured on the job, quit or get fired that is when problems will arise from the CAJA. These are problems you do not want to have!
How much should I tip?
In Costa Rica, most restaurants add a 10% gratuity to cost of your meals.
Most nationals are satisfied with that 10% gratuity and do not leave additional tips. Only, and only, if you feel that the service or experience was beyond your wildest expectations should you give an additional tip.
Can I use a driver's license from my home country in Costa Rica?
Since you can only legally stay in Costa Rica for 3 months as a tourist, the validity of your foreign driver’s license is associated to that same 3-month limitation.
You will need to leave Costa Rica and then re-enter to renew your tourist visa and re-validate your drivers license.
If you already have a residency application in process (pending), unfortunately, you are still required to renew your driver’s license validity in the same manner as previously mentioned.
What is crime like in Costa Rica?
Just like any other country, Costa Rica has crime. The rate of crime varies depending on location. Areas with poverty have a much higher crime rate.
Be a smart traveler, DO NOT flash your money around, be aware of your surroundings, keep your high-value possessions out-of-sight (such as a laptop, jewelry, expensive cameras, etc..) and definitely take a taxi after dark.
Does Costa Rica have high-speed Internet access?
Yes, it does. There are many populated areas where you can access the internet via high-speed access points.
You can often find free Wi-Fi access in popular spots throughout the country, including International Airports and Shopping Malls. Most hotels also provide Wi-Fi Access as well as popular restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Subway, Bagelman’s, Denny’s, etc.