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Don’t leave your brain on the plane!

When coming to Costa Rica for the first time, you will undoubtedly be in absolute awe of its natural beauty, wonderful people, relaxing atmosphere and the incredible opportunities abound!

However, we hear the horror stories all the time. One client told me “I came down and bought 4 properties all on our first trip! Now, we can’t even find the lot’s we purchased. They sold two of their lot’s at half price on their second trip, but had a hard time finding the other lot’s. (true story)

When coming to CR, don’t leave your brain on the plane, you must approach everything with a positive, but cautious attitude. Just as you would back home! They have laws, restrictions, permits etc just like any other modern society. Do not be fooled by the famous saying “oh it’s Costa Rica…you can do what you want down here”. Once you have made your mind up that CR is to be your new home, seek out information on the following; Immigration rules and procedures, banking facilities, investigate car purchases and the “Marchamo”. (Annual car tax) Immigration may seem a bit complicated but if you find the right people than they do most of the work for you. Remember, most lawyers are not immigration experts! They are general lawyers and don’t specialize in immigration. Find a firm that specializes in immigration. Depending on the category you choose (pensionado, rentista, permanent, Investor, company representative, and citizenship) the prices can start as low as $1500.00 for a straightforward residency application. Additional complexities may incur additional fees. As an expat, you are probably somewhat capitalized from liquidating your assets back home. Expect little help from your local  bank as you are probably not a citizen or resident yet..You can still open a bank account but will find it difficult to move money around without your DIMEX (residency).  There are other options available for you such as private equity loans. The interest rates may be seem high but are relative to the local bank rates. Good loans should be around 12% and commercial loans around 14%. Many of the lenders are just retired folk looking for a monthly income from their investment.

Cars have come down in price over the last few years, but you will find them more expensive than back home, especially if you are from the U.S. although there is a good selection of vehicles to choose from, my advise is to find one that has parts readily available. Those include Nissan, Hyundai, Suzuki and Toyota. Many dealers have to order parts from the Factory and it can take a long time. (I waited 2 months for a water pump for my Chevy Trailblazer LTD) Real Estate purchases can be challenging if you do not have a good understanding of the process. It is not complicated, just different. There is no “Full Disclosure” mandated by the Government so it is a buyer beware! Have a look at the “Plano” and ask your lawyer to check it out for any liens, lawsuits etc at the registry. It is quick and inexpensive. Never buy a property from your own lawyer! His job is to protect you and could have a conflict of interest, especially if he is selling you his brothers property!  Finding a dependable and faithful lawyer can be achieved, but mostly by references from other Expats. Preferably, more than one referral.   If you have chosen to open a business, speak with other people that have done it. They are a wealth of information. Always do your due diligence on any company. Please remember that we are guests in this beautiful country and respect the laws that are in place. Pura Vida! and remember, Don’t leave your brain on the plane!

written by Steven Stewart from Gap Investments
co-written by Johanna Alvarez from Costa Rica Immigration Experts. CRIE

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