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Expat Exchange - Guide to Obtaining Residency in Costa Rica
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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica


Guide to Obtaining Residency in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: Looking for guidance on obtaining residency in Costa Rica? Discover the steps involved and read advice from expats, nomads, and others already in Costa Rica.

Obtaining a residency visa in Costa Rica is not always easy, but our Guide to Residency in Costa Rica gives newcomers an overview of the steps involved and advice from others who have already navigated the process.

  • Gather the necessary documents for residency application:
    • Valid passport
    • Proof of financial solvency
    • Proof of health insurance
    • Criminal background check
    • Proof of address in Costa Rica
  • Visit the Costa Rican consulate in your home country to apply for a residency visa.
  • Once you have your visa, enter Costa Rica and register with the Immigration Department.
  • Apply for a Tax Number at the Costa Rican Tax Administration.
  • Visit the Costa Rican Social Security Office to register for health insurance.
  • Visit the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security to obtain a criminal background check.
  • Visit the Costa Rican Immigration Department to apply for residency status.
  • Wait for the Immigration Department to process your application.
  • Once your application is approved, you will receive your residency card.

Immigration Help Costa Rica

Costa Rica Legal Residency is an articulately bi-lingual boutique firm with 15 + years of successful experience and exclusive focus on Costa Rica Temporary and Permanent Residency, Renewals, Digital Nomad, and Citizenship. Located minutes from the Department of Immigration.

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Immigration Help Costa Rica

Costa Rica Legal Residency is an articulately bi-lingual boutique firm with 15 + years of successful experience and exclusive focus on Costa Rica Temporary and Permanent Residency, Renewals, Digital Nomad, and Citizenship. Located minutes from the Department of Immigration.

Learn MoreConnect

Click connect to have our partner contact you via e-mail and/or phone.

What tips do expats have about residency and visas in Costa Rica?

"I have a 90 day tourist visa. I travel around Central America a lot, so my visa is constantly renewed, very easy. Just make sure that when you come you can show the airline proof that you are leaving within 90 days," said one expat living in San Jose.

"In Costa Rica, upon entering the country you will be given a 90 day tourist VISA using your Passport. At the end of 90 days, you will be required to leave the country (most just visit Panama or Nicaragua for a few hours) in order to renew your tourist VISA. Generally 90 days are given and it is always important to check your passport for the number of days you were granted by immigration. If you choose to be a resident, you will need to qualify under one of five different categories. As an approved resident, you will not be required to leave the country every 90 days. Five of the categories to qualify for residency is as follows: Family relationship to a Costa Rica, pensioner, small investor, investor, or company work visa," wrote a member in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"We had our attorney help us with our residency. It is a bit of a tedious process," commented one expat who made the move to Escazu.

"Currently I am not a permanent resident of my host country. All I needed was my passport to come here. And to leave for a short time every ninety days. Residency is easiest with the help of a local residency attorney. It's not difficult but at this time I don't want to be a permanent resident," remarked one expat living in San Isidro de Heredia.

"I needed health insurance, and will be providing certified FBI Background check as well as certified document showing my monthly income from pension. The health insurance was not cheap. The background check was not hard, but since I was moving, I had to have it returned to a friends house in Las Vegas and my friend will bring it back to Costa Rica with her. The visa here is 90 days so I have to plan to leave, either to US, or to do a border run to Panama or other neighboring country," wrote one member in Grecia.

"Visa is good for 3 months so if you plan on trying I would recommend opening a bank account and beginning the residency process early on. An attorney is helpful and I recommend Max Viquez Garcia. He is very helpful honest, fair and bilingual. I travelled to Panama City, Bocas del Toro Panama and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to renew my visa and really enjoyed those trips," remarked one expat who made the move to Santa Ana.

"[In order to work] You are required to have a work visa -which is hard to obtain as the government would choose a CR citizen rather than a foreigner get a job-and a potential empl0yer must apply on your behalf, be married to a CR citizen, have a child be born in the country. to a CR citizen. a Permanent Resident or work online. Until you have gained Permanent Residency you are not permitted to physically work in CR. This process could take between 4-5 years, from your initial application," explained one expat living in Costa Rica.

"If you plan to stay in Costa Rica for a while, you will need to obtain a residency permit or visa. Residency permits are typically granted for periods of three to six months, after which you may apply for an extension. The type of visa you will need depends on your country of origin and the purpose of your stay. Some of the main visa types available in Costa Rica include tourist visas, investor visas, family reunification visas, student visas, and work visas," said one expat in Costa Rica.

Immigration Help Costa Rica

Costa Rica Legal Residency is an articulately bi-lingual boutique firm with 15 + years of successful experience and exclusive focus on Costa Rica Temporary and Permanent Residency, Renewals, Digital Nomad, and Citizenship. Located minutes from the Department of Immigration.

Learn MoreConnect

Click connect to have our partner contact you via e-mail and/or phone.

Immigration Help Costa Rica

Costa Rica Legal Residency is an articulately bi-lingual boutique firm with 15 + years of successful experience and exclusive focus on Costa Rica Temporary and Permanent Residency, Renewals, Digital Nomad, and Citizenship. Located minutes from the Department of Immigration.

Learn MoreConnect

Click connect to have our partner contact you via e-mail and/or phone.

"Upon entrance, tourists and visitors are generally granted a 90 day VISA. To enter Costa Rica, you must have a valid Passport. Residency is categorized into different areas of qualification. These options are Retiree (Pensionado), Legal Resident (Rentista), Business/Investor (Inversionista), Marriage/Relation (Vinculo). If you wish to become a resident, the requirements are different for each category and immigration attorney's are often used to assist you should you choose to hire one. If you plan to live in Costa Rica full time, residency is highly recommended as residents are not restricted to a 90 day VISA," commented one expat living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica.

"Tourist visas for the US and I believe most of Europe etc. are 90 days no real questions asked. They can also be renewed by a 3-day stay out of the country. As a result, many expats are "perpetual tourists" who just take short trips to Nicaragua or Panama every three months. This probably isn't good, and "perpetual tourists" can and sometimes are prevented from re-entering, but it works for tens of thousands of foreigners over many years. There are three ways to obtain legal residency (in addition to through marriage). One way is to come in as a pensioner. This only requires showing a minimum of $1000 a month income for life, as well as of course dealing with a lot of paperwork and paying fees. Those who can't or prefer not to show the $1000 a month income for life can obtain residency as either rentistas or investors. Rentista residency now requires showing $2500 a month income for a shorter period of time as well as the same fees and paperwork. . I'm not sure how to obtain residency as an investor, and I believe it depends upon the kind of investment, but some people seem to get it by just buying a house valued at either $200,000 or $250,000. Of course, people need a clean criminal record too, but otherwise it's either $1000 a month guaranteed for life or a fair amount of money in a lump sum for either rentista or investor residency," mentioned one expat living in Costa Rica.

"Visitors from certain countries including the US, Canada, Australia, and most countries in Europe, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica and can stay for up to 90 days. To stay longer than 90 days, visitors must apply for a Temporary Resident Visa, which can be valid for up to two years and can be renewed. To apply for a Temporary Resident Visa, applicants must provide a valid passport, proof of financial solvency, a medical certificate, and a copy of their criminal record. To obtain residency in Costa Rica, applicants must provide an application form and supporting documents such as property titles, financial information, and a copy of their visa as well as a medical certificate and a valid passport. As part of the residency application process, applicants are also expected to take a brief Spanish language test. Once all documents have been reviewed and approved, applicants receive an identification card and a cedula, the document that grants them residency in the country," said an expat in Costa Rica.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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