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Every day we receive many questions regarding residency requirements, necessary documents, renewals, and residency process in Costa Rica. Here you can find the most frequently asked Questions and our Answers to them (FAQ).

This is a must see video. 

General Questions

Residency Requirements Questions

Residency Process Questions

Permanent Residency Questions

Banking Questions

Caja Questions

Renewal Questions

Citizenship Questions

Visa Questions

Costa Rica Questions

COVID-19 Questions

Terminology

General

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Why should I use CRIE?

Costa Rica Immigration Experts (CRIE) has over 20 years of experience assisting people in obtaining residency in Costa Rica.
We have the knowledge and contacts necessary to process your residence application properly and professionally.
We understand the complexities of the residence application procedure, as well as the legal requirements for supporting documents. Moreover, we will contact on your behalf with any issues raised by Consular and Immigration officials reviewing your application.

 

What are the benefits of getting residency?

Apart from legalizing your status in the country, residency provides you with a whole host of benefits. For example, when it comes to driving, banking, traveling, and visiting tourist destinations. Click here for a short list of the benefits!

 

Is CRIE a law firm?

Costa Rica Immigration Experts (CRIE) works with independent attorneys and notaries. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.

 

Is CRIE affiliated with Costa Rica Immigration?

Costa Rica Immigration Experts (CRIE) is NOT immigration, nor is it affiliated with Costa Rica’s immigration department (DGME). CRIE is not a government agency nor does it represent a government agency in any way.

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Residency Requirements

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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 Investor category?

Yes, you can invest in real estate under this category.  You will need to show proof to Immigration of Costa Rica that you actually paid at least $200, 000 USD for your property ( home, business, vehicle, etc.) in Costa Rica and that it is listed in the Government Registry.

 

What documents do I need if I am married to a Costa Rican?

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:
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You need to apostille your marriage certificate or authenticate it and legalize in the Costa Rican consulate (depending on the country of origin). Then, officially translate it  into Spanish (in Costa Rica only). Finally, submit it to the Civil Registry in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican citizen spouse has to do it.
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You can register your marriage certificate by bringing it to the appropriate Costa Rican consulate. To make the marriage declaration and show their identifications, both couples must be present. It’s important to have a valid Costa Rican identity card for the Costa Rican citizen spouse, and valid passport of the foreign spouse.
Both processes can take time, and the marriage must be registered locally before applying for residency as the spouse of a Costa Rican citizen.
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If you have been married to a Costa Rican citizen for more than 2 years and have lived in Costa Rica for the last 2 years, you can apply for Costa Rican citizenship directly.
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Can CRIE get my documents from my home country of do I need to go back home 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 Record valid for?

Key documents, such as your marriage certificate, police letter and income letter are valid for only 6 months from the date the document is issued (not when it gets Apostilled, or Legalized etc.)  By the way, birth certificates can be older, but it may be impossible to Apostille or legalize them in your home country if they’re too old.

Note: in some countries, your Birth Certificate may be valid for life and never expire, but for Costa Rica you will need to request a new Birth Certificate, so that the date is issue would be no more than 6 months.

 

 

All foreign documents must be either Apostilled or Legalized by the Costa Rican Consulate in your country. What does it 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 to legalize the document in the Costa Rican consulate in that country. At Costa Rica Immigration Experts we can guide you through this process.
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Residency Process

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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 apostille your documents before you come to Cost a Rica in order to submit to immigration.

 

What is an “Apoderado”?

An Apoderado is a person who meets certain legal requirements of the Costa Rican government and to whom you grant a limited power of attorney to act on your behalf. He represents 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 for communication and correspondence regarding 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 we file the application, you will have a receipt (Certificado Tramite Migratorio) from Costa Rica immigration, allowing you to stay in the country legally while the application is being processed. Therefore, you will not need 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.

 

Is my residency guaranteed once my application is submitted?

At CRIE, we do our best to prepare and file your immigration application using our knowledge and experience of the requirements and the process.

Under no circumstances can we possibly guarantee that Costa Rican immigration authorities will approve your residency application.

Please keep in mind that CRIE is not a government agency, nor does it represent a government agency in any way.

Please note:  If your home country’s criminal record contains incidents, Costa Rican Immigration reserves the right to reject your application due to criminal history. That is completely outside of the control of CRIE.

 

What is the Guarantee Deposit for?

The Guarantee Deposit is a precautionary step in case the Costa Rican government deports you back to your home country. By the way, this deposit is refundable if you gain Costa Rican citizenship or if you no longer reside in Costa Rica.
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How long is residency valid for?

Generally a permanent resident card is issued for 3 to 5 years, and is renewable. The issuance of the temporary resident cards is for a period of up to 2 years. 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 having temporary residency who leave Costa Rica for more than 2 years will lose their temporary resident status, unless there are medical or educational reasons for an exemption.

 

When I get my 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 my Costa Rica driver’s license until I have a Costa Rica cedula (ID)? Why does Immigration care about my driver’s license?

That is correct, but not due to immigration regulations. The transportation system has its own set of rules. If your visa hasn’t expired and you’re visiting Costa Rica, you can drive using your home country’s driver’s license. After your visa has expired, your driver’s license will no longer be valid. In this case you will need to re-enter Costa Rica to make it valid again.

 

What is the difference between a “Cedula” and a “DIMEX”?

A “cédula” is a general term for an identification document that is used across Spanish America, including Costa Rica, where citizens have identity cards (“cédula de identidad”).
Foreigners with residence receive DIMEX cards (“Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros” — or Migratory Identity Document for Foreigners).
As a result, when it comes to foreign residents, the terms “cédula” and “DIMEX” are interchangeable.
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Does Costa Rica notify my country of origin when my residency is approved?

No, Costa Rica Immigration does not inform your country of origin that your residency application has been accepted.

 

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Does Costa Rica notify my country of origin of my marriage in Costa Rica?

No. Costa Rica Immigration does not notify your country of origin of your marriage in Costa Rica.

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Permanent Residency

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When can I apply for permanent residency?

In general, you are eligible for permanent residency if you meet the following criteria:

If you have a first-degree familial connection to a Costa Rican citizen, such as a parent or a child; or if you have held continuous temporary residency in Costa Rica for more than 3 years.
In addition, permanent residents must also renew their residency on a regular basis.

 

What benefits do I get as a permanent resident? Can I vote or obtain a Costa Rican passport?

You can live in Costa Rica without any restrictions if you are a permanent resident. For example, you can work and remain in Costa Rica for as little or as long as you like. Renewal is available upon request. To clarify, you don’t get citizenship privileges like voting, a Costa Rican passport, or the right of adobe (which means you can still be subject to deportation as a foreign resident).  Moreover, permanent residents must also renew their residency on a regular basis in order to keep their right to stay.

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Banking

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Is it better to deposit our pension funds into a Costa Rican bank so that we have proof for when it’s time to renew our residency?

Yes, 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. Then you use a local ATM, and after that 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 USD into the bank for the Rentista category?

Persons applying for residence can withdraw $2,500 USD per month, but you will need to have another $60,000 USD in the bank when it comes time to renew your rentista residence. This deposit of $60,000 USD is the rentista’s money and is paid out to you at the rate of $2,500 USD per month for 24 months. This temporary residency is for 2 years after which you must renew it (deposit another $60,000 USD) or you will have to leave Costa Rica. After 3 years you have the right to “upgrade” to permanent residence. This means that you will have to do at least ONE renewal after 2 years.

NOTE: Rentista residents should convert to permanent residency after 3 years to avoid a third large deposit of $60,000 USD.

 

Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica before I get my cedula?

Foreigners who are in the process of obtaining residence can open a bank account in Costa Rica using the receipt (Certificado Tramite Migratorio) that they get from Immigration while their application is being processed.
New rules, on the other hand, make it extremely difficult for foreigners who are awaiting their residency card to use financial services. Despite the fact that banks have to offer service, you will discover that they are typically unhelpful. Fortunately, Costa Rica Immigration Experts works with banks and agents that can assist you in creating a bank account while your residence application is ongoing.
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Caja

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Do I need Costa Rica medical insurance?

You will need to sign up for Caja (which covers local public health care) when you get your residency application approval. 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. In addition these contributions fund the national pension system as well.

 

 

How do I register with Caja?

We, Costa Rica Immigration Experts, can assist you with Caja registration.

 

 

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?

It depends on many factors, and you won’t know ‘for sure’ until you get to the Caja office with your documents in hand. The CCSS website, on the other hand, provides a Costa Rican social security costs calculator. It will estimate the monthly premium you will have to pay. If you do not work in Costa Rica, the calculation of your social security costs will depend on the amount of income you indicated on your residence application. As a matter of fact, foreigners above the age of 55 are exempt from paying into the pension system, which is the IVM entry on the calculator.

 

 

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. For instance, 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.

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Renewal

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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 documents will I need for Immigration when I renew my cedula?

This procedure is fairly simple and requires you to pay the renewal fees. You need to 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 flow into Costa Rica.

After 3 years of temporary residence, you can apply for permanent residency.

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Citizenship

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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 Immigration.

 

 

I have a Costa Rican parent. Does that make me a citizen?

Anyone born outside of Costa Rica to a Costa Rican parent can apply for Costa Rican citizenship before reaching the age of 25. The first step is to register your birth abroad. You can do it either with the Costa Rican consulate closest to your birthplace or by bringing a birth certificate to the Civil Registry in Costa Rica. Then you must Apostille or Legalize it depending on the country. The Costa Rican parent should do it in the case of minors.

 

 

Can I become a citizen without being a resident?

Yes (with some clarification).
It is possible to obtain citizenship by being a resident, by being married to a Costa Rican, or by residing physically in the country for at least 20 years.
A requirement for citizenship is that you must live in the country for 7 years with a Cédula (5 years for some Central American and Latin countries).
It is possible that a person could keep renewing their temporary residency for the required amount of time and apply for citizenship.
At this time, no legal residency is required to apply for citizenship by marriage. It is possible to marry a Costa Rican and stay here without legal status for the required 2 years. (we DO NOT recommend this, keep your status legal).

 

 

How long does it take to apostille the required documents using your service?

It can take between 30 days to process the documents.

 

 

Do I have to take a citizenship test? Is it only in Spanish?

Anyone under the age of 65 must take a citizenship test, which is only available in Spanish.

 

 

I’m 65 years old. Do I still have to take the citizenship test?

No. You are EXEMPT from taking the test if you are 65 years old or older.

 

 

How proficient do you have to be in the Spanish language in Costa Rica?

We recommend a “Basic” level of Spanish. You don’t need to be “Fluent” in Spanish, as most “Ticos” learn a little bit of English in school and enjoy practicing with foreigners.

 

 

How proficient do you have to be in the Spanish language for the citizenship test?

We recommend an intermediate comprehension, written and oral. B1/B2 level.

 

 

Can my application for the citizenship be rejected? What could be the reasons?

Yes. The reasons may be providing false information, Criminal background Check results or a Failed Citizenship Test.

 

 

How long does it take to obtain my citizenship once my application is submitted?

It might take 2 – 3 months.

 

 

What is the monthly income requirement for citizenship applicants?

The monthly income requirement is $500 USD monthly.

 

 

Do I need to file taxes in Costa Rica for income earned outside the country?

Citizenship does not require the filing of your income generated from outside the country.

 

 

Can I apply for citizenship using documents older than 6 months?

No. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) requires documents to be less than 3 months old from the date of issue.

 

 

Do I lose my citizenship once I’m a Costa Rican citizen?

This depends entirely on the citizenship laws of the country of origin.
For example, USA and Canada citizens DO NOT lose their origin country citizenship once they become Costa Rican citizens. But, this is NOT the case for Norway or Japan.

 

 

Why do I need to submit my criminal background check and birth certificate again for citizenship?

The Department of Immigration (DGME) and The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) are 2 separate government agencies that do not communicate with each other. They have different requirements and perform different due-diligence steps when approving applicants.

 

 

Will I need to change my name once I get citizenship?

Once you have citizenship, you will need to add your mother’s maiden name to your complete name.
For example, if a woman’s full name is Mary Jane Smith and her mother’s maiden name is Parker, her citizenship name will be Mary Jane Smith Parker.

In other words, if a man’s full name is John Charles Smith and his mother’s maiden name is Tailor, his citizenship name will be John Charles Smith Tailor.

 

 

Does Costa Rica allow dual citizenship?

Costa Rica recognizes dual citizenship. To become a Costa Rican citizen, you do not have to renounce your prior citizenship.
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Visa

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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 before arrival. Also you can 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 USD 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 3 times the length of time they overstayed. For instance, a person who overstays a tourist visa by 3 months can be barred from reentering the country for a period of nine months, and must pay a fine of $300 USD.
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NOTE: You must pay your fine 48 hours before 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!

 

 

Can I extend my tourist visa?

Yes. But, only if you have not been granted a 90-day stay upon your current arrival. The number of days that they can give you, will be those remaining to complete the 90 days.
Example: if they gave you 85 days upon admission, you will only be granted the remaining 5 days to complete the 90 days Important that you meet all the corresponding immigration and health requirements.
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Costa Rica

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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 $200,000 USD in appraised value). The price of goods typically include the sales tax of 13%.
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 in the USA?

Yes. 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 certainly can. Our suggestion is to choose a good car that has previously been imported and has the necessary license plate and registration. Furthermore, the brands and models of automobiles that are popular in your home country may be uncommon in Costa Rica, making parts and maintenance for your vehicle difficult to come by. Note that a vehicle’s import tax can range from 50 to 100%, yet if you sell your automobile after importing it, you’ll discover that it sells for considerably more than it would in the United States.

 

 

Can I open a business in Costa Rica?

Yes, you certainly can. You can register a business and function as an officer of such firm as long as you are not on the payroll.

 

 

Can I pay domestic pay “under the table”?

At the moment, it may appear to be a smart money-saving plan… However, if they get injury on the job, resign, or dismissed, the CAJA will become an issue. These are the kinds of issues you don’t want to deal with!

 

 

How much should I tip?

In Costa Rica, most restaurants add a 10% gratuity to cost of your meals.
Most nationals are happy with that 10% gratuity and do not leave additional tips. Only if you feel that the service or experience went above and beyond, should you give an additional tip.

 

 

Can I use my 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 the 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, unfortunately, you still need 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.) Definitely take a taxi after dark.

Find more information about crime here – Costa Rica 2020 Crime & Safety Report

 

 

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.
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COVID-19

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Is it possible to extend COVID Travel Insurance and to extend a Tourist visa while in Costa Rica?

Yes,  it is possible to extend COVID-19 travel insurance and tourist visa while in Costa Rica.
If you have not been granted a 90-day stay upon your current arrival. The number of days to be granted will be those remaining to complete the 90 days.
Example: if you were granted 85 days upon admission, you will only be granted the remaining 5 days to complete the 90 days. Important, that you meet all the corresponding immigration and health requirements.
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Terminology

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What is “Pensionado”?

“Pensionado” = pensioner. This residency category is for a person, who retired from employment and has a life-long pension at the minimum of $1000 US or its equivalent.

 

 

What is “Rentista”?

“Rentista” = rentier. This residency category is for a person, who has $60,000 US in a Costa Rican bank or has $2,500 US passive income.

 

 

What is “Inversionista”?

“Inversionista” = investor. This residency category is for a person who has a property of $200,000 US in Costa Rica.

 

 

What is “DGME”?

DGME = Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería = General Directorate of Immigration.

 

 

What is “Caja” or “CCSS”?

“Caja” is short for “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social” = CCSS = A Social Security and Health Care Program in Costa Rica.

 

 

What is “DIMEX”?

DIMEX = Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros = ID card for foreingers in Costa Rica.

 

 

What is “TSE”?

TSE = Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones = Supreme Court of Elections, which deals with the Citizenship in Costa Rica.
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