Residency in Costa Rica: Become Established in Paradise

Establishing residency in Costa Rica has many benefits to anyone planning to relocate here full or part time; however, it is not an end-all-be-all.

The national flag of Costa Rica.

Up until recently, it was required that a residency application be filled out in the home country of the applicant. However, now all necessary forms can be submitted to local Consular Offices for review for an additional $200 on top of the standard $50 application fee. Regardless of where the application is submitted, authentication of documents is mandatory. This can be completed through local Consular Offices or the Costa Rican Embassy.

It is important to stay up-to-date on information regarding residency in Costa Rica. Due to the constant influx of visitors (and thus the increasing workload for the immigration offices), the Department of Immigration occasionally increases their scrutiny during the screening of applications. The government has been known to favor applicants who can exhibit economic contributions to the community, through employment, investment, or other means.

It is possible to live extended periods down here without establishing residency in Costa Rica. With simply a passport, one can stay in the country for 90 days; those who opt to stay here under this provision must leave the country for 72 hours before coming back for their next 90-day stay. Some people take an easy bus ride to Nicaragua or Panama, depending on which is closer, or catch a flight back to their home country. There are some nuances to this rule, however. People from Group 1 countries – i.e. America, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and other large developed areas – are granted 90 days, but smaller countries in Groups 2-4 have a maximum of 30 days per entry to Costa Rica and face additional administrative demands.

Retirees face some additional stipulations under the law. All retired expatriates in Costa Rica must be able to demonstrate a source of steady income. Through the pension program, it is required that retirees have a $1,000 monthly income minimum from retirement benefits. The second option is investment and income based.  This requires a retiree to have a minimum of $2,500 incoming monthly through investments or another form of fixed income. Both the pension and investment based residencies require applications, semi-regular proof of deposits from Costa Rican bank issued letters, and small monthly contributions to the Costa Rican Social Security and Medical System. However, for any retirees that use Costa Rica as a winter getaway or part time home, residency in Costa Rica is not mandatory.