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Pensionado visa - Costa Rica

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Bexx7799
3/7/2015 10:59 EST

Hi there - I'm planning to spend time in Costa Rica over the next few years. My understanding - given that I am retired - is that applying for a pensionado visa may be the best approach.

I'm getting conflicting information from the various websites I'm researching so wanted to check out a few things.

1. I gather I can't work for another company while I am there but I can work for myself. Is that correct?

2. I start the visa application process in my country of origin (Canada) and then complete the process when I am in Costa RIca? What documentation do I have at to show at the border so they know I am in process of applying? A letter from my lawyer? Is it possible to complete the entire process prior to arriving in Costa Rica? (the fingerprints may be tricky to get - never needed them!! :))

3. I've read the document requirements for the visa application. I gather the process takes quite some time - about how long - 4 months? 9 months? over a year?

4. I'm not planning on purchasing I just want to rent for a few years so I can move around easily (will probably never purchase). I keep hearing that I can rent a suitable apt for around 2 - 300$ but can't seem to locate anything at that price online. Is that best done when I get there? Are there any sites that aren't just vacation rentals etc?

I'm sure I will have more questions but this is where I'm starting - thx for any help folks can offer

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Kohl
3/7/2015 11:55 EST

Suggest you read the info on http://www.costaricalaw.com/Immigration-and-Residency/residency-general-information-and-summary.html
You can work 'online' or open your own business but not perform 'physical work'.
http://www.costaricalaw.com/Working-in-Costa-Rica/
You must now apply in Costa Rica. and the Residency process is taking, more or less one full year from your initial application at a cost of approx US$2000
You will only have a tourist visa until in possession of a 'comprobante' that essentially says that your application is 'being considered', but that won't help you at the border crossings and if you want to keep driving you need to exit to renew your drivers license.
I don't think you will find a decent furnished place to live $200-300 anymore. More like $600 US dollars depending on location, unless accepting VERY basic facilities, in a very rural area.
I think you are reading old information or at least outdated.

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nellis304
3/7/2015 12:03 EST

"Pensionado" is a temporary residency status. ARCR.net provides details about the types of residency and their requirements. I would suggest finding a place when you get to CR, unless you have a friend there who knows what you want and can look at places. Stay in a hotel or guesthouse for a few weeks while you search. Realtors seem to jack up the prices and I'm not sure I trust craigslist. Good luck!

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shermanwc
3/7/2015 12:38 EST

You shouldn't need to show any of the documents related to your residency application when entering Costa Rica. You need your passport and proof of travel out of CR within 90 days.

You can only do the fingerprints in San Jose, CR and that is now typically done near the end of the residency process. Are you planning on using a lawyer to assist with your residency application? If not, you will need to do a lot of research and need to speak some Spanish. You can bring your apostilled documents when to come to CR, to start the process.

Our residency process took 8 months (2013-2014), some take longer, a few less. You should get a "comprobante" within a few weeks after you apply. Then you only need to leave the country every 90 days if you plan to drive using your foreign driver's license.

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sporto505
3/9/2015 09:50 EST

Hi. i moved to San Jose two months ago. First, do not rent any place until you get down here and see it. I would suggest you move to the west side of San Jose, as the older parts of the city, including San Pedro, have poor sewage and therefore, one cannot flush TP. ( honestly).

The amount you hope to pay in rent available in small towns close to an hour's drive from San Jose. For a one bedroom apt in San Jose your closer to $425 for standard Tico apartment. If you want an apartment that you would get in America, your looking at $600-1,000 for a one or two bedroom apt. Most new construction apts, are in towns to the west of San Jose.
Most of San Jose does not have hot water in their houses. They use a devise called "suicide showers" by gringos. they work, but produce warm water, not really hot water.
ARCR is a great organization. Join it and call/write legal@arcr.net. they will start your residency process and set you up with a lawyer at their offices who will help you thru. Legal is $1,000. the other costs are fees that add up to about another $1000 by the time you are all done. Unless you are fluent in Spanish I would not recommend trying to complete the process yourself.

Most apts are going to want a years lease. try for a 3-6 month lease to start. it takes a while to realize the drawbacks to any particular place you end up;; my own school of hard knocks for the last two mnths. :0) gk

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sporto505
3/9/2015 09:50 EST

Hi. i moved to San Jose two months ago. First, do not rent any place until you get down here and see it. I would suggest you move to the west side of San Jose, as the older parts of the city, including San Pedro, have poor sewage and therefore, one cannot flush TP. ( honestly).

The amount you hope to pay in rent available in small towns close to an hour's drive from San Jose. For a one bedroom apt in San Jose your closer to $425 for standard Tico apartment. If you want an apartment that you would get in America, your looking at $600-1,000 for a one or two bedroom apt. Most new construction apts, are in towns to the west of San Jose.
Most of San Jose does not have hot water in their houses. They use a devise called "suicide showers" by gringos. they work, but produce warm water, not really hot water.
ARCR is a great organization. Join it and call/write legal@arcr.net. they will start your residency process and set you up with a lawyer at their offices who will help you thru. Legal is $1,000. the other costs are fees that add up to about another $1000 by the time you are all done. Unless you are fluent in Spanish I would not recommend trying to complete the process yourself.

Most apts are going to want a years lease. try for a 3-6 month lease to start. it takes a while to realize the drawbacks to any particular place you end up;; my own school of hard knocks for the last two mnths. :0) gk

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Kohl
3/9/2015 10:19 EST

Suggest you read the article today on amcostarica 9/3/2015, regarding Canadian pensioners.

http://www.amcostarica.com/morenews.htm.

Unfortunately, many don't realize what the impact is, on their pensions when leaving Canada or that the additional supplement is NOT paid to 'non-residents'

http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/international/taxes.shtml
http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/oas/gis/

BTW, it is common that one is told 'not to flush TP' in most areas of the country, in part due to the size of the pipes being too small...

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naturechild
3/9/2015 12:00 EST

Canadians must also take into consideration the dollar exchange from their dollars to US dollars where they are presently losing just over 20%.
A few months ago friends of mine, was unable to apply for residency as pensionados with his Canadian pension (OAP) as with the conversion, it wasn't enough for him to qualify. Right now, the minimum Canadian pension acceptable is $1260.

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Bexx7799
3/9/2015 14:39 EST

So it sounds like I start the process in Canada and finish in CR with fingerprints and then wait. Can I receive the comprobante in Canada before I leave ? Do I need a CR drivers license if I am a pensionado ? So with a comprobante I do not need to leave every 90 days.

I have read the residency document requirements so I understand re: apostilled documents , translation by the embassy etc.

My initial thot was to start in brasilito. I don't want to live in a city and I want to live on the coast somewhere. I don't want to purchase, just rent.

I am getting legal and tax advice re: Cdn residency requirements. I do not want to give up Cdn residency although I understand the time constraints re: provincial health care. I gather I can access the CR health care system as a pensionado - yes? ( for a few based on income).

I will be able to meet the financial pension requirements without a problem. Im not necessarily planning on working but just wanted to know what the options were if I choose to. Sounds like I can havey own business and work for myself without a problem?

Thanks for your help everyone. Any other advice ?

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Kohl
3/9/2015 15:32 EST

No, as mentioned previously you have to start the residency proceeding, here, in Costa Rica.

Living at the beach is more expensive which will result in higher electricity and food costs...and I highly doubt you will find decent accommodation at the prices you mentioned there. It could cost that just for your electrical bill, if you use A/C.

You can't 'work' unless it is 'on line' until you are a permanent NOT temporary resident...but you can open a business and hire locals to work in it.

You do need CR drivers license IF you want to drive here, so you must leave to renew your Canadian license within the 90 days, even when you have the 'comprobante' until you have a cedula and the time in your passport has expired.
You are not covered by CAJA the healthcare system, until you have a cedula, which could take one year ...more or less.

You do not give up Canadian citizenship, but apply to become a 'non-resident of Canada for tax purposes', so I would advise you to check them out. to see what this means to your finances.

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naturechild
3/9/2015 16:14 EST

Your healthcare fees will depend on both your guaranteed for life pension amount and your age, over/or under 55.

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Bexx7799
3/9/2015 19:04 EST

I'm sorry I'm just not getting the drivers license thing - why would I renew my Cdn licence when it hasn't expired? I get a CR license - is THAT what I am renewing?

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Kohl
3/9/2015 20:18 EST

Sorry I should have wrote 'renew/reset' your passport and therefor your home drivers license.
You can only drive here, when still a tourist if you your tourist visa is still valid, and which is given for a max of 90 days, so you must leave to update your tourist visa.

You can't apply for a CR license until you have gained residency and have a cedula, then you must wait until the time that is written in your passport has expired.
If you don't wish to continue to drive, you are not required to leave to renew your visa, once you have been given the 'comprobante'

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Bexx7799
3/9/2015 21:57 EST

So let's pretend I have my comprobante - I'm still technically on a tourist visa? But with my comprobante I don't have to leave the country every 90 days but I DO need to leave the country every 90 days if I want to drive because I need a tourist visa in order to continue to use my Cdn drivers license....???? FYI - I just went on the ARCR site and it definitively states that I MUST start my pensionado visa application in my country of origin...

Good think I'm not planning on returning to CR until this fall - sounds like it's gonna take a while to learn my dance steps.... :))

It doesn't matter to me either way - just wanna do whatever is required whenever it is required....

FYI (2) Cdn residency - I actually want to remain a Cdn resident - I'm sensing the goal for some is to avoid this -better tax position? That's not my concern so I'm content to pay Cdn. taxes on my pensionn. I will be maintaining Cdn. property as well so my understanding at the moment is that the combination of maintaining Cdn property. receipt of a Cdn pension, maintaining Cdn. investments accounts, bank accounts and credit cards and drivers license will be sufficient to maintain status as Cdn. resident for tax purposes. I just want a pensionado visa to avoid having to leave the country several times a year if I don't feel like it!:) And I'd be happy to spend at least 4 months/year in CR - more if I want to, not more if I don't.

I will have my own health care but would access the CR health care if that is available. Again - some info seems to say I can't until I am a permanent resident, some info seems to say I can once I have a pensionado visa.... so still exploring that topic :).

The one thing I'm not feeling very negotiable about is living on the coast - I've been around the country a fair amount and the coast is what appeals to me - so if it costs more to live there - so be it (shrug).

Really appreciating the info though - thx folks!1

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Kohl
3/10/2015 09:58 EST

You supposition regarding the 'comprobante' is correct.

While it may be acceptable to CR immigration, I can only suggest that it is advisable to apply here, as you will need a lawyer to finish the application and a CR lawyer may be loath to finish what another lawyer has started.
However I did read this http://www.costaricalaw.com/Immigration-and-Residency/residency-general-information-and-summary.html:

“In the past the Department of Immigration required that applications be filed in your country of origin through the Costa Rican Consular Office in your country of origin. Under the current law the Department of Immigration will accept applications filed directly in Costa Rica with the Department of Immigration. However, if you file in Costa Rica as opposed to outside of Costa Rica then, in addition to the $50 application fee you will be charged an additional US$200 fee for a change of status fee”.

You are not required to stay out of the country for 72 hrs., just long enough for lunch, unless you wish to bring in items, duty free.

Once you have received notification of your ‘final resolution’, you are required to be fingerprinted, have additional photos taken, be checked through Interpol, then it is mandatory to go sign up and pay your first premium with CAJA the healthcare system, in the location you have decided to live in.
You are then required to take a paid receipt back to Immigration, and you should receive your cedula via the mail within a week or so.
Additional CAJA information although the premiums are now ‘out of date’ and you can no longer apply to be a group member through ARCR.
http://www.usexpatcostarica.com/arcr-rate-hike-for-caja-plan/

The premiums mentioned for Pensionados are for those receiving the minimum US$1000 pension, so the fees will increase from there. Most expats choose to use private doctors and facilities.

Where ever you choose to live, you will pay tax on your Canadian Pension.

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Bexx7799
3/10/2015 11:21 EST

Thanks for the clarification - that really helps. What about the drivers license?

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Bexx7799
3/10/2015 11:30 EST

So I go to Panama (or wherever) for lunch and then I can renew my CR drivers license for another 90 days.....

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Kohl
3/10/2015 11:32 EST

Good info here: http://www.costaricalaw.com/Driving-in-Costa-Rica/driving-in-costa-rica-with-a-foreign-drivers-license.html

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sporto505
6/1/2015 09:17 EST

Kohl: you refer to receiving one's cedula in the mail. this appears to be an issue in CR. I had both of my children mail me an envelope as a test to see if I received it here in Santa Ana. That was almost a month ago. Yet, I did receive Citi bank mail to a prior tenant in my condo. It was slipped underneath my door. What is your experience with receiving mail here in the San Jose area?? Any suggestions to improve one's chances of getting mail? thanks.

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shermanwc
6/1/2015 09:21 EST

sporto505, did you go to your local post office to ask if they had mail for you for your test letters? Our cedulas were mailed to the post office for our area, and we picked it up there the week after it was approved. Just tell them your name and where you live when you go to the window.

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Kohl
6/1/2015 11:31 EST

Since you have to sign for cedula, it is more likely to arrive...although, if you are over 65 you can wait for it to be made while at immigration, so only for an additional half hour.
We do not live near San Jose, but in a rural area , althoughmail often sits in the PO when staff say 'it hasn't arrived..'

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