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Residency FAQs

What are the benefits of getting residency?

Aside from legalizing your status in the country, residency provides you with a whole host of benefits when driving, banking, traveling, and visiting tourist destinations. Click here for a short list of the benefits!

Am I still required to leave the country every 90 days to renew my visa, while my paperwork is being processed by immigration?

Once the application is filed, you will have a receipt (Certificado tramite migratorio) from Costa Rica immigration, allowing you to stay in the country while the application is being processed. Therefore, you will not be required to leave the country every 90 days to renew the visitor visa.

What is a perpetual tourist?

A perpetual tourist is someone who lives in Costa Rica, yet enters as a tourist and simply re-enters every 90 days to renew his or her entry stamp. Costa Rica discourages perpetual tourism, and it is getting harder and harder to maintain this option especially for long periods.

What documents do I need to apply for residency?

Document requirements vary depending on the category of residency you are applying for. Click here for a list of general residency requirements which apply to most applications.

Am I required to have an attorney in Costa Rica to process my application?

No. You are not required to have an attorney in Costa Rica to process your application. You can apply completely on your own, or through a designated representative — commonly known as an “apoderado” — to act on your behalf, as your representative with Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Migración, for short). At Costa Rica Immigration Experts we act as your apoderado as part of our services.

What is an “apoderado?”

An apoderado is a person who meets certain legal requirements established by the government of Costa Rica and to whom you grant a limited power of attorney to act on your behalf and to represent you for the sole purpose of processing your application for residency. Costa Rica Immigration Experts uses a very narrow and specific limited power of attorney which is used to communicate and correspond about your residency with Migración in Costa Rica.

Can Costa Rica Immigration Experts obtain the paperwork I need from my home country or do I have to go back to get them?

This is the one step that is easier to do while you are in your home country. Costa Rica Immigration Experts can guide you through what you will need to do depending on your home country and region.

How long is my birth certificate and police letter valid for?

Your key documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate, police letter and income letter are valid for only six (6) months from the date the document is issued (not when it gets apostilled, or legalized etc). It’s best to give yourself plenty of time and not push it.

All foreign documents must either be Apostilled or authenticated by the Costa Rican Consulate in your country. What does that mean?

Costa Rican government agencies cannot accept official documents issued abroad without the proper legalization procedure. Think of it as “exporting” the document to Costa Rica.

If your home country is party to the Apostille Convention (such as the USA and most of Europe, but not Canada), you can have your foreign document (such as birth certificate or police check) apostilled by the competent local authority.

If your home country is not party to the Apostille Convention then you will need the document authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate in that country. At Costa Rica Immigration Experts we can guide you through this process.

Can I have my fingerprints taken in my own country?

No. All applicants over the age of 13 must be fingerprinted in Costa Rica by the Costa Rican police. We will accompany you to have your fingerprints done.

How long is residency valid for?

Generally a permanent resident card is issued for 3 to 5 years, and is renewable. Temporary resident cards are issued for a period of up to 2 years and you need to prove continued eligibility to the conditions of the residency category in order to renew.

How long can I be out of Costa Rica before I lose my temporary residency?

Foreigners with temporary residence who are absent from Costa Rica for more than two consecutive years will lose their temporary residency status, unless there are grounds for exception duly noted by health reasons or study.

If and when I do get residency, can I bring my parents to Costa Rica as well? Are they considered to be dependents?

Once you have residence in Costa Rica, your parents can apply for a special category as long as they can prove that they are economically dependent on you and that you can support them (signed affidavit, income certification).

Is it true that I can’t get a Costa Rica driver’s license until I have a Costa Rica Cedula? Why does immigration care about my driver’s license?

Yes that is true, but not because of immigration regulations. The transit department has their own rules. If you are visiting Costa Rica, you may drive on the driver’s license issued by your home country so long as your visa has not expired. After your visa has expired, the license is no longer valid, which means that you need to re-enter Costa Rica in order for the driver’s license to be valid again.

Can I invest in a real estate if I apply for the investment category?

Yes, this category allows for investment in real estate, however, the government will only accept the purchase prices recorded in the deed. You will need to provide certification from the recorder of deeds, the tax authority and the municipality indicating the purchase price of the property.

Permanent Residency FAQs

When can I apply for permanent residency?

Generally you are eligible for permanent residency if:

  • You have a first-degree family tie to a Costa Rican citizen, such as a parent or a child; or
  • You have had temporary residency for more than 3 years uninterrupted.

Note: Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residency.

What benefits do I get as a permanent resident? Can I vote or obtain a Costa Rica passport?

Being a permanent resident allows you to live in Costa Rica without any conditions. You can work in Costa Rica, and stay for as little or as much time as you want. Renewal is given on demand. You do not receive the rights of citizenship such as voting, Costa Rican passport, or right of abode (which means you can still be subject to deportation as a foreign resident). Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residency to maintain the right to stay.

Banking FAQs

Is it better to deposit our pension funds into a Costa Rica Bank so that we have proof for when it’s time to renew our residency?

Yea, it is better to deposit the funds into a Costa Rican bank in order to more easily show that you are complying with the pensionado residence regulations. Since it can take some time to get a physical check to Costa Rica each month, and deposit into a local bank (which can take like 15 days to clear), one way of doing this would be to deposit the check (or direct deposit) in a US bank, use a local ATM, then make a cash deposit into the Costa Rica bank — and maintain bank statements. Click here for more information.

Will I still have access to my money if I deposit the $60,000 into the bank for the Rentista category?

Persons applying for residence are required to withdraw $2,500 per month, but you will need to have another $60,000 in the bank when it comes time to renew your rentista residence. This deposit of $60,000 is the rentista’s money and is paid out to you  at the rate of $2,500 per month for 24 months. This temporary residency is for two years after which it must be renewed (deposit another $60,000) or you will have to leave Costa Rica. After three years you have the right to “upgrade” to permanent residence. This means that you will have to do at least ONE renewal after two years.

NOTE: Rentista residents should convert to permanent residency after three years to avoid a third large deposit of $60,000.

Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica before I get my cédula?

Foreigners that are in the process of getting their residency done can use the receipt (Certificado tramite migratorio) that they receive from immigration while the application is being processed to open a bank account in Costa Rica.

However, new regulations are making it very difficult for foreigners awaiting their residence card to use banking services. Even though the banks are obligated to provide service, you’ll find them to be generally uncooperative. Thankfully at Costa Rica Immigration Experts we work with banks and agents who can help you navigate the process of opening a bank account while your residency is pending. Click here for more information.

Caja FAQs

Do I need Costa Rica medical insurance?

You will need to sign up for Caja (which covers local public health care) when your residency application is approved. In addition, there are private health insurance options from INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros) which provide world-quality health care from private hospitals, clinics, and doctors.

How much is Caja going to cost?

First take note that you won’t need to sign up to Caja (local public health insurance and social security) until after your residency application is approved. But you’ll need to sign up once you have the approval paperwork and before picking up your cédula (resident card).

If you have passive income you can sign up for Seguro Voluntario which will cost approximately 9% of your stated monthly income, whether you make your income in Costa Rica or elsewhere. For example a pensioner with a $1,000/month income can expect to pay around $90/month for Caja.

What are the hospitals like in Costa Rica?

Public hospitals are generally up to date and advanced especially in urban areas. Outside the Central Valley the quality varies immensely. Private hospitals such as Clinica Biblica, Clinica Catolica and CIMA San Jose are world-class. Click here for more information.

Renewal FAQs

What paperwork will I need to show immigration when I renew my cédula?

This procedure is fairly simple and requires you to pay the renewal fees, show that you’re active with Caja CCSS (and that you have been since the beginning of your residency period), and your passport.

In the case of temporary residence (such as pensionado or rentista) you have to show that you still meet the residence conditions.

For example, in the case of pensionado, you will need to show paperwork from the competent authority indicating that you still have a pension. That being said it is prudent to deposit the pension in a local bank to have rock-solid financial proof. The spirit of the law is that the money should be brought into Costa Rica.

After 3 years of temporary residence, you can apply for permanent residency.
Please note that you can start the renewal process up to 3 months in advance of your cédula expiring and that you should start early in case of delays.

Citizenship FAQs

I have lived in CR for the past 10 years now. Can I become a naturalized citizen based on the length of time I have lived here?

“Citizenship by Residence” means you have to have 7 years as an official resident. So that would mean from the day you received your resident card from Migración.

Visa FAQs

Can a foreigner go to any immigration office and renew their visa for another 90 days, or is it better to leave and re-enter the country?

US, Canadian and most Western European tourists who receive a 90-day tourist visa DO NOT qualify to extend their tourist visas unless there are specific underlying special conditions. That method of extension is available ONLY to tourists who enter Costa Rica on a visa for less than 90 days. For example, if immigration gives you a 30-day visa rather a 90-day visa, then you can go to immigration and ask to extend to the full 90-day term.

What happens if I overstay my visa in Costa Rica?

Effective August 1st. 2014, those who overstay any type of visa, including tourist visas, must pay a fine of $100 for each month or portion they remained in the country after the expiration of their visa.

In addition, those who overstay their visas can be barred from reentering the country for a period equal to three times the length of time they overstayed. For instance, a person who overstays a tourist visa by three months can be barred from reentering the country for a period of nine months, and must pay a fine of $300.

NOTE: Fines must be paid 48 hours in advance of departing the country at any Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) branch.

Do I need a visa to enter Costa Rica?

This depends on your country of citizenship. Citizens of the first category (US, Canada, most European countries, and others) can enter visa-free for 90 days. Citizens of other countries may require a consular visa either before arrival, or apply for one on arrival if Costa Rica has no representation in their home country.

Costa Rica FAQs

Can I bring my pets to Costa Rica?

Yes, generally speaking, you can bring your pets to Costa Rica, with the proper international certificates. There are no quarantine requirements.

What are the taxes like in Costa Rica?

One of the attractive aspects of Costa Rica is that income earned abroad remains untaxed from an income tax perspective (territorial taxation principle). Property taxes are very low, except when your property qualifies for an additional luxury surtax (at approximately US$200,000 in appraised value). Sales tax is 13% and is typically included in the price of goods.

Where Costa Rica’s taxes are highest is where it comes to imports. Most imported items are far more expensive than in North America, especially processed and packaged foods, electronics, and motor vehicles.

Can I bring my car to Costa Rica?

Yes you can. Our recommendation however would be to source a quality vehicle which already has been imported with the proper license plate and registration. Also, the makes and models of vehicles that are popular where you live may not be common at all in Costa Rica, and you may find your vehicle difficult to get parts and maintenance for. Note that import tax for a vehicle can be in the 50-100% range, but if you do sell your car after importing it, you’ll find that it sells for much, much higher than it would in a country like the USA.

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