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Residency Eligibility

Last Updated: Mar 06, 2012

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If you plan to permanently relocate to Costa Rica, you should also plan to become a legal resident. There are several paths to legal residency, which are outlined below. We recommend that you consult a lawyer before beginning the process since Costa Rican residency requires a lot of paperwork and knowledge of Spanish legalese. For details on the application process, see Applying for Residency.

Permanent Residency

This is the most flexible form of Costa Rican residency. As of March 2010, spouses of Costa Rican citizens do not qualify for permanent residency. They must apply for temporary residency.

Application Requirements: First-degree relationship to a Costa Rican citizen.

  • Parents of minor Costa Rican citizens
  • Children of Costa Rican citizens: May only apply through age 25
  • Parents or sibling caretakers of disabled Costa Rican citizens
  • Minor siblings of Costa Rican citizens
  • Additionally, expats who have had legal temporary residency (see below) for at least three years may apply for permanent residency.
  • Currency Exchange Requirement: There are no monthly currency exchange requirements.
  • Caja (Public Health Insurance) Requirement: Permanent residents are required to affiliate with the public health system (CCSS). This may be through your employer or as a voluntary member or an independent worker.
  • Dependents: Costa Rican permanent residents may claim spouses and first-degree family members (for example, minor children).
  • Work Status: You are legal to work in Costa Rica. You may also own a company and receive income.
  • Minimum Residency Requirement: As a permanent resident, you must visit Costa Rica at least once per year for a minimum of 72 hours.
  • Length of Validity: Permanent residents are required to renew their residency every year.

      Pensionado (Retiree) Temporary Residency

      This residency is reserved for individuals with a fixed lifetime income.

      Application Requirements: You must prove a monthly income of $1000 or more from a pension or retirement fund. To do so, you must:

      File with Immigration an official document, legalized by the Direccion General that shows you will receive a lifetime monthly pension, generated outside of Costa Rica, for an amount of at least USD$1,000 or its equivalent in Costa Rican colones. Contact Immigration for more details.

      • Exchange Requirement: To cover living expenses, pensionados must withdraw and convert $1,000 into Costa Rican colones every month.
      • Caja (Public Health Insurance) Requirement: Pensionados are required to affiliate with the public health system (CCSS) as either a voluntary member or an independent worker.
      • Dependents: You may claim a spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
      • Work Status: As a pensionado, you do not have the legal right to work. However, you can own a company and collect income.
      • Minimum Residency Requirement: You must spend at least four months annually in Costa Rica.
      • Length of Validity: Pensionado status is valid for five years. You may either apply for permanent residency after the first three years (see above), or you may re-apply for Pensionado temporary residency after the five-year term expires. You must renew your identification card every year.

        Rentista (Annuity Holder) Temporary Residency

        This residency is a popular option since it requires only a bank deposit.

        Application Requirements: You must deposit a lump payment of $150,000 into a Costa Rican bank account or prove that you will receive an annuity payment of at least $2,500 per month over the course of five years. To do so, you must:

        • Present to Immigration an official document, legalized by the Direccion General that proves you will receive a permanent and stable monthly payment of at least $2,500, generated outside of Costa Rica or by the banks of the Sistema Bancario Nacional.
        • Demonstrate that during a period of at least five years, this annuity payment cannot be deducted from a deposit made in any bank outside of Costa Rica or the Sistema Bancario Nacional, unless it generates this amount in monthly interest.
        • Exchange Requirement: To cover living expenses, rentistas are required to withdraw and convert $2,500 into Costa Rican colones every month.
        • Caja (Public Health Insurance) Requirement: Rentistas are required to affiliate with the public health system (CCSS) as either a voluntary member or an independent worker.
        • Dependents: You may claim a spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
        • Work Status: Rentistas do not have the legal right to work as employees. They are allowed to own a company and collect income.
        • Minimum Residency Requirement: You must reside in Costa Rica for at least four months each year.
        • Length of Validity: Rentista status is valid for five years. You may either apply for permanent residency after the first three years (see above), or you may re-apply for Rentista temporary residency after the five-year term expires. You must renew your identification card every year.

            Inversionista (Investors) Temporary Residency

            Inversionistas, or investors, are required to invest more funds up-front, but are allowed to work in Costa Rica.

            Application Requirements: You must invest $50,000- $200,000 in a government-approved industry: tourism and product export generally require a $50,000 investment. As of 2011, a minimum $200,000 investment can be in real estate (primary home or land). In the case of a real estate investment, the applicant must present a certificate of title issued by the National Registry of the property that will be the basis for the application. The regulations require the applicant, once approved, to register the investment with the Department of Revenue. Since this is a new addition, and laws frequently change, you are advised to contact Immigration and a lawyer before pursuing Inversionista status through a real estate purchase.

            To do this, you must:

            • Present to Immigration proof of an investment project valued at more than $200,000, or the amount dictated by the Costa Rican government for specific investments.
            • This project must be an investment that contributes to the country’s economic and/or social development; all investments that are for personal gain, such as real estate, are excluded.
            • The document must describe in detail the project location as well as a timeline of current activities and the project’s critical path.
            • Certification issued by a Certified Public Accountant that demonstrates your economic solvency and states that the company or project’s financial goals are within the parameters of the activity to which it is devoted.
            • Reliable proof that the project is fully financed.
            • Exchange Requirement: There are no monthly currency exchange requirements.
            • Caja (Public Health Insurance) Requirement: Inversionista residents are required to affiliate with the public health system (CCSS). This may be as a voluntary member or an independent worker.
            • Dependents: You cannot claim a spouse or dependent children.
            • Work Status: You are allowed to work for and receive income from your investment project. You may not work as an employee for another company.
            • Minimum Residency Requirement: You must reside in Costa Rica for at least six months per year.
            • Length of Validity: Inversionista status must be renewed every year. You may apply for permanent residency after the first three years (see above).

                Representante

                This residency is reserved for company directors, so very few people qualify.

                Application Requirements: You must be the director of an international company that has a Costa Rican branch or office. The company must meet certain requirements, including the employment of a certain percentage of Costa Ricans and the certification of financial statements by a Costa Rican accountant.

                • Exchange Requirement: There are no monthly currency exchange requirements.
                • Caja (Public Health Insurance) Requirement: Representante residents are required to affiliate with the public health system (CCSS). This may be as a voluntary member or an independent worker.
                • Dependents: You may not claim a spouse or dependent children.
                • Work Status: You are legally allowed to work for and receive income from the company you represent.
                • Length of Validity: Representante status must be renewed every year. You may apply for permanent residency after the first three years (see above).
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