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How to become a resident in Costa Rica


So, now that you have been to Costa Rica a few times and have fallen in love with this tropical paradise, you have decided to make the move to Costa Rica full-time. That means going through the dreaded “residency” process everyone complains about!

Choosing the right expert

The residency process for Costa Rica is not as complicated as it is in many other places in the Western Hemisphere. Try getting a residency status in the USA if you are from Costa Rica – good luck! To speed up the process, find someone who specializes in residency and residency only. Yes, any attorney can help you apply for residency, but few are experts in the field (if the lawyer is an immigration expert, it will say so on the business card).

Now, let’s think about that. An immigration expert would have gone through the process hundreds of times a year for many years. They would get to know the immigration administrators very well as they are used to seeing them on a daily basis. Would this not be a great plus to have on your side? Processing many applications a week, your immigration expert would have the paperwork down to a science, saving countless hours of wasted time.

The other important thing is the amount of hand-holding that the process demands. Do you really want to try to find the building to get your fingerprints done in downtown San Jose by yourself and try to explain to the police that you need fingerprints for your residence when the officer does not even speak English? Find an immigration expert who will actively take you from door to door for your requirements personally instead of sending you here and there on your own. You will become frustrated and annoyed just trying to locate the offices you need to go to.

How to get your residency status

Let’s move on to choosing which type of residency you would like to have. There are some  basic main categories:

1. Temporary Residence – Pensionado;
2. Temporary Residence – Rentista;
3. Temporary Residence – Investor;
4. Temporary Residence – Spouse of a Costa Rican Citizen;
5. Permanent Residence;
6. Citizenship by Residence;
7. Citizenship by Marriage to Costa Rican Citizen.

Note: 1 (Pensionado), 2 (Rentista), and 3 (Investor) are the most common with expats.


There are some basic requirements that need to be met, which your immigration expert will help you with. Once these are fulfilled, the process moves along, sometimes relatively quickly. Delays are generally caused by applicants not providing all the documentation required in a timely manner. This is the key when applying for residency. If not, here’s what happens – you turn in half of the documents, and the filing begins. But remember that your documents cannot be any older than 6 months. So by the time you complete the second half of your required documents, the first set of documents are already expired, and the process has to start all over again.


Find the right Costa Rican Immigration Experts to help you along and not jack-of-all-trades lawyers who say they can do it. You can tell by their business cards and website if they are immigration experts or not. Choose your category with their help and guidance, and finally, ask them which documents are needed from your home country before you come to Costa Rica. That way, your immigration expert can have a look to see that your documents are in order before you book your flight.

Fill out the form below to determine your residency category. Or click here!

  • First Step
  • Final Step

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

Personal Information

Full Name

Your Email

Country Of Birth

Country of Residence

How many people under your application (spouse, children under 25)

Phone Number with Country Code (optional)

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I am intersted in getting temporary residency in Costa Rica.
    Please advise with a timeline and fees.

    Thank you.

  2. I want to add to my last email.
    I want to apply for temporary residency as a pensioner.
    I receive $1000/month from a retirement plan.

    1. Hi Julie! Thank you for your comments and your email to us, we’ll have an expert reply to you by the end of today. In the meantime please review the Residency Categories page for information and costs regarding the pensioner category, as well as the FAQs and Government Fees page for more information and to timeline and government costs.

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