If you make the decision to move to Costa Rica long-term, there is major advantages to apply for temporary residency. However, this process can be tedious and time consuming so its important to plan ahead once you make your decision.There are three types of temporary residencies you can apply for in Costa Rica:
Pensionado is the most common status chosen among expats who decide to move to Costa Rica long-term. In order to receive this residency status, you must be receiving at least $1,000 pension or retirement money every month per couple. This money must be from Social Security or government issued.
In order to keep your Pensionado residency you do not have to be in Costa Rica for a certain amount of time per year. However, if you stay out of the country for two consecutive years you will lose your residency status and you must return to Costa Rica in order to renew it.
While you can own a business in Costa Rica or telecommute under this residency status, you cannot work for anyone or any company in Costa Rica. If you do, you will lose your Pensionado status. Also, you will need to renew your residency every two years.
If you receive regular income from investments, at least $2,500 per month for at least two years, Rentista might be your best option for obtaining residency in Costa Rica. You can either provide proof of this income by a guaranteed banking institution or deposit $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank. This monthly income will apply to you, your spouse and children under the age of 25.
To receive the Inversionista status, you must invest in a business or property in Costa Rica for at least $200,000. Unlike Pensionado, you must remain in Costa Rica for half of the year to keep your residency. Once you are approved, this residency will apply to your spouse and any children under the age of 25.
Do you need a lawyer?
If you go through the residency process on your own, its important to know that speaking Spanish is vital. Many of the government officials you will work with will not speak English so it is recommended to hire a reputable lawyer. While they will help translate documents, the lawyer will also ensure you have all of the right documents and will direct you to the right offices to deliver your paperwork. And an added bonus is some lawyers may even have a special connection with immigration to ensure you have little to no wait. Most lawyers will cost between $600 and $2,000 per person while doing it on your own costs roughly $300 per person.
No matter which residency you apply for or if you hire a lawyer or not, obtaining your residency is a lengthy process. The immigration offices are crowded and understaffed and there are always long wait times. So get there early and bring with you a lot of patience!
Before you depart for Costa Rica, its important to gather all of our required documents for receiving your residency. Visit Costa Rica’a Migration website to make sure you have all necessary documents to apply for residency. What you will need to bring are the following:
Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your birth certificate and that of your dependents. The certificate must have an apostille which is a special stamp that certifies your document is valid and is usually from your home state’s State Department.
Marriage Certificate: If you are married and your spouse will also be applying for residency, you must have your marriage certificate with an apostille.
Proof of Income: If your income is from your Social Security or government pension, then you will need to have a letter from the government certifying the income. This can be obtained from the United States Embassy. If the income is from a bank of financial institution, then it must issue you a letter to prove the source of money and it needs to be apostilled.
Police Record: You will need to receive your police record from where you last resided and it needs to be apostilled.
Finger Prints: Your proof of finger printing will be done in Costa Rica at the Ministry of Public Security and will be checked with Interpol.
Passport photographs: You will need to bring two passport photographs.
Photocopy of passport: To complete your application, you will have to bring a complete copy of your passport. Every page will need to be copied and be legible.
Translation of documents: All documents are required to be translated into Spanish which you can get handled by a lawyer.
Background check: You will need to fill out each applicant’s background information on this form.
Proof of registration with your local embassy: You must have your local embassy in Costa Rica provide you with a letter of certificate indicating you have registered with them (i). Most embassies have an online form you can fill out and print to bring to your application.
Once you have applied for residency you will be given a receipt which is your proof that you have a pending residency application. Immigration states that you should know in 90 days if your residency is approved, but many expats have said theirs took 6 months, up to over a year. If you have any questions or concerns over your application, you can call the immigration hotline in Costa Rica: 900-1234-567.
Although this process can be tiresome, its well worth your time to be able to have a temporary residency in one of the most beautiful and happiest countries in the world, Costa Rica!
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(i) Costa Rica Law
(ii) International Living