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Costa Rica Visa & Residency > Costa Rica Immigration FAQ > Do I need to hire an attorney to apply for residency?

Do I need to hire an attorney to apply for residency?

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on: Feb 05, 2020

Do I need to hire an attorney to apply for residency?

One member asked, "I am wanting to move to CR to retire in the next year. I have a limited income and would like to know if it is necessary to use an agency or attorney to apply for residency? I checked into one agency and the cost was $2800.00 per person. Is the application process to difficult to do for ones self? or is there any less expensive options?"

"Most of the cost you stated are government fees, which you will have to pay regardless. It is absolutely worth paying a representative to act on your behalf," responded one expat.

"I've just gone through the process on my own behalf because my lawyer wanted to charge too much and he kept making mistakes. I did everything myself for a lot less money. The big expenditure is paying the initial fee which if you're applying outside of Costa Rica is only about $50 but if you're applying inside Costa Rica it's $200, I think is what I paid. It's time consuming either way. There's no fast way. But it's just a question of submitting some documents i.e. birth certificate properly certified, background check properly certified (apostille), proof that your income is at $1000/month, etc. You'll have to resign yourself to making a few trips to the immigration offices and wait in line for an hour or two. There are seats to sit in and since you are 65 or over you have a legal right to go to the head of the line without waiting. It's exactly what your lawyer would have to do but you'd have to pay him at least $1000. If you do it yourself it's a lot cheaper. If you don't speak Spanish you'd probably need a translator to go with you however. Just paying a Tico 10,000colones ($20) would be a reasonable rate. Or you could pay someone $40 and just have them do it for you for the day. You don't need a lawyer," said another.

"I got my residency without a lawyer and had no problem. Spanish language skills would definitely help you understand and work through the bureaucracy. The CR Migracion website has instructions to get you started. Be patient and good luck," added another.

"I need to jump in with my thoughts or even questions. We do have our residency, and I got the documents together that were needed, and I did all of them correctly. Takes being detailed and thorough. But we did use a lawyer, and he did a good job and stuck fully to his quote. But without him, if I had to do it today and did not know Spanish, nor the area, I would today have a problem finding Immigration and where to get fingerprints. But there were umpteen buildings there, and trying to find the right line to get in and remembering which building. And then it was noisy, and even though at that point in time the lawyer was not with us, they would holler the instructions and it was a miracle we could even understand our name as mis-pronounced it so much barely could recognize. Years ago, I read that you could hire a runner that would guide you through to process there. Even though I speak Spanish well, to me, I wouldn't be able to find the fingerprint building or right line at Immigration. That is the problem I would have. I also read once, that if you don't have a lawyer or a 'runner' or whatever he was called, they kind of play their ignoring games or head games that they can at times do, and make it take a whole lot longer and difficult," wrote another expat.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Updated On: Feb 05, 2020

First Published: Feb 05, 2020

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