How to Obtain Residency in Costa Rica

costa rica volcano

Why seek to obtain residency in Costa Rica?

  • An absolutely gorgeous country with mountains, beaches, national parks and great weather.
  • Geographic location – same timezone as North America. It’s fantastic for remote workers.
  • No taxes on worldwide income. Residents get taxed on Costa Rican sourced income only.
  • Many international schools.
  • Affordable healthcare.
  • Good infrastructure.
  • Political neutrality and no military.

A great thing about residency in Costa Rica is that you can sponsor dependents of one generation above and one generation below – both your dependent parents and children.

In essence, both sets of grandparents, your spouse, and children can all qualify.

My lawyer Mariela will be happy to assist you to obtain residency in Costa Rica

real estate lawyer Costa Rica

She’s a graduate of the Universidad Libre de Derecho, speaks English fluently, and is supported by a large team at her law firm. I interviewed her on the residency process in Costa Rica.

You can get in touch with her using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

What are the Residency options in Costa Rica?

  1. Residency through the Investor Visa
  2. Pensioner visa
  3. Rentista Visa
  4. Company formation
  5. Marriage

1. Residency by Investment in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers an interesting residency option for anyone willing to invest $150,000 into the local economy.

You have two options to obtain this type of residency in Costa Rica:

1. Invest $150,000 in Costa Rican real estate

2. Invest $150,000 in a term deposit in a Costa Rican bank

You’ll need the following documentation to obtain your residency in Costa Rica: 

  • Proof of investment according to Immigration’s specifications
  • Criminal Background Check
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate (if applicable);
  • Application Form and Cover Letter (To be done by Mariela)
  • Fingerprints
  • Consular Registration
  • Social security registration

2. How to obtain the Rentista and Pensioner Visa in Costa Rica

To obtain a Pensioner visa, you must prove a minimum of $1000 of fixed monthly income. This must come from social security, a private pension fund, or a life insurance product. Thet will NOT accept dividends, royalties or rental income. In essence, they want to see an annuity.

To obtain a Rentista / Passive income visa, you must demonstrate at least $2500 of monthly passive investment income such as dividends, rental income. $2500 must be deposited on a monthly basis to a Costa Rican bank account.

You’ll need the following documentation to obtain your pensioner of passive income / rentista residency in Costa Rica: 

  • Birth and marriages certificates
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Police background check
  • Application form (done by Mariela)
  • Proof of pension (for pensioner visa)
  • Proof of passive investment income (for rentista visa)
  • Fingerprints
  • Consular registration
  • Social security registration

3. What are the requirements to keep the residency active?

When you receive your residency card, it is a temporary card which is valid for one year. You must renew it on a yearly basis. There aren’t any minimum physical presence requirements so you don’t have to spend a minimum amount of time per year in Costa Rica in order not to lose your residency. You just need to come back to renew it.

After three years of temporary residency, you can apply for the gold standard of residencies: Permanent Residency. This is great and what you should be aiming for.

After 5 years of permanent residency you can apply for citizenship. It’s a great passport. One must admit that becoming a citizen of such a beautiful, neutral country without a military is a rather attractive and peaceful proposition.

Don’t be fooled by dishonest lawyers

Some people will try to convince you that you need a lawyer to apply for residency in Costa Rica.

You don’t.

You can do it by yourself, and save a few hundred dollars in the process. The immigration department has all the information on their website.

That said, the process typically takes a year. If you make a single mistake, then you are back to zero and have to pay the government fees all over again. A good lawyer will save you a lot of time, stress, and potentially even money by helping you avoid making mistakes.

Contact Mariela - Immigration Lawyer in Costa Rica

or send an email to mariela@thewanderinginvestor.com

Other services in Costa Rica:

Transcript of “How to Obtain Residency in Costa Rica”

LADISLAS MAURICE: Hello, everyone. Ladislas Maurice from thewanderinginvestor.com. And today, we will be discussing how to obtain residency here in Costa Rica with my lawyer, Mariela. Mariela, how are you?

MARIELA: I’m good, thank you.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So Costa Rica is an increasingly popular place for people to obtain residency. It’s a beautiful country, lots of national parks, beautiful nature, amazing weather. There are multiple ways to get residency here. So that’s always interesting. And that’s what we’re going to be discussing in detail here.

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So Mariela, can you tell us about the most popular ways for foreigners to obtain residency here in Costa Rica?

How to Obtain Residency by Investment in Costa Rica

MARIELA: Okay. Here, we have different categories for you to obtain your residency. The most popular right now are investment, retirement, and rentista. So the first category is the investment residency, in which you need to invest, here in Costa Rica, $150,000, which you can invest in a property, you can buy a house, or you can do a term deposit, also here in Costa Rica. This can bring you a lot of benefits as you can bring your group, your family group, which include your kids, your parents, and your spouse. You can also have some tax benefits if you want to bring things from the other country into Costa Rica for your new house here in Costa Rica.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And about the investment, the $150,000, can I, for example, buy a little apartment for $100,000 and put $50,000 in a term deposit, or must it all go in either real estate or a term deposit?

MARIELA: It’ll need to go in the same investment, $150,000 in just one thing, and then you’ll get the–

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, so it’s a bit different from Panama, for example, where you can just mix the two, depending on how much you want to invest in property, you want term deposit. So here, there isn’t that flexibility in Costa Rica.

MARIELA: Yes.

Which family members can be included with your Costa Rica residency

LADISLAS MAURICE: But what’s really interesting is that you can bring your whole family, so it’s not just your spouse and your kids, which is typical in a lot of countries, here, the grandparents, essentially your own parents, qualify. So with just one investment, you get three generations that can move here, live here in Costa Rica, or that can have the residency as a Plan B.

How to Obtain the Retirement Visa in Costa Rica

MARIELA: Yes, exactly. Then we have the retirement residency, which means you need to show a certified document that you have a retirement of $1,000 monthly income. It brings the same benefits as the investment, you can bring your family, you have tax exemptions. You just need to prove that you are retired and that you have your $1,000 income.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Cool. So it’s not about rental income here, it really needs to come from a retirement fund of some sort, or from some life insurance product, some private pension, etc. So it needs to be something that is credibly coming from pension money.

How to Obtain the Rentista Residency in Costa Rica

MARIELA: Yeah. And the third one we have is rentista residency. And this, you need to show to the bank that you have an income of $2,500 monthly, too. And this, you have the same benefits. It may vary the tax exemptions, but it’s usually the same. And you can also bring your family with you.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And so you need to send these two-and-a-half thousand dollars every month to Costa Rica?

MARIELA: Yes, exactly.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. And then there are the other typical ways to obtain residency, you know, marry a local, and then also you can create a company here. But if you create a company, the government actually wants you to do business here. So they want to see activity. You can’t just create a dummy company and appoint yourself director and hope that that will work. It might work for one year, if you have a business plan, but you won’t be able to renew once they realize that actually you’re not doing anything.

MARIELA: Yes, exactly.

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in Costa Rica

LADISLAS MAURICE: So Mariela, so this is for temporary residency, right?

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And when I get my card, how long is it valid for?

MARIELA: Okay. It is usually valid for one year, and then you need to renew it. But if you have your temporary residency for three years, you can now apply for a permanent residency. Once you have your permanent residency, you can have it for five years, and then you can apply to become your nationality here in Costa Rica. This is five to seven years depending on your nationality.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So I think a lot of people are interested in the permanent residency. But how many days do I actually need to– for example, I get my temporary residency. After one year I have to renew it. Does the government care how much time I spent in Costa Rica for them to renew my residency, or can I just come here for two weeks every year, and then that’s fine?

MARIELA: Okay, now, one of the benefits of having residency in Costa Rica is that you can come and go from the country, it won’t affect your status, for example. If your residency is about to expire, you need to book an appointment to renew it before it expires. If you do that, there won’t be a problem if you’re here in Costa Rica or if you’re out. If you let your document get expired, then you need to stay in Costa Rica before they give you the appointment and tell them that your document has expired. And then you can go out, but you need to be coming back, too.

Physical presence requirements for Residency in Costa Rica

LADISLAS MAURICE: Clear. And when I apply for permanent residency, same thing, they don’t check how much time I spent in Costa Rica. So they’re not asking me to build a case for permanent residency. And they wouldn’t come back and say, “No, Ladislas, you can’t be a permanent resident after three years of residency because, actually, you’re here just for two weeks a year. You don’t deserve permanent residency.”

MARIELA: No, they won’t check that. They might check some other stuff. Like, for example, what are you doing in Costa Rica, if you have business here, if you’re paying your taxes, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. If you’re doing everything right, they won’t check how much time you spend here in Costa Rica, but they will check some things, right.

Mandatory Social Security for residents of Costa Rica

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, cool. So essentially, Costa Rica can be used as a paper residency that turns into a permanent residency after a while. So you mentioned the Social Security taxes that people have to pay here.

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So this is something that is fairly recent, it wasn’t like this before. But can you elaborate on the new developments?

MARIELA: Yes. So once you are approved to get your residency, one of the requirement for them to give you the card is for you to go to the Social Security and register yourself. You need to do a voluntary registration, that’s how it’s called. Depending–

LADISLAS MAURICE: It’s a voluntary registration but without which you can get residency.

MARIELA: Yes, exactly. And depending on your monthly income, that you need to prove to them I receive $1,000 a month or $2,000, depending on how much you receive, you need to pay to them monthly.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So, typically, people end up paying about between $100 and $200 a month roughly, you know, if they don’t have crazy income that they declare. And it’s every adult that needs to pay this. So even if you’re not technically a tax resident of Costa Rica, even if you’re just a resident, you use it as paper residency, you will have to pay into the local Social Security. So this is the big negative in many ways, because it makes the paper residency more expensive. On the other hand, you actually get something for it, which is access to healthcare. Healthcare is really good in Costa Rica. I mean, Costa Rica is one of the countries with the longest life expectancy.

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So you know, it’s not just the climate and the lifestyle, but it’s also the good healthcare. So, you know, sure, it sucks to have to pay $100, $200 a month per person, but then, again, it’s a decent Plan B. If you have cancer, or you need surgery, etc., you need a hip replacement, and you’re in the US or in Canada, you can just come here and get it done for free, entirely.

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So yes, you’re paying, but it’s, you’re actually getting something for it. So for example, even digital nomads, you know, having this as a Plan B residency is interesting, because then all you need is a travel insurance, really, and if you catch something, you know that you can fly in and you can go treat it, then you just come to your home base in Costa Rica, and you’ll have access to very good healthcare.

MARIELA: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So fantastic. Thank you very much for this overview, Mariela. So if you’re interested in obtaining residency here in Costa Rica, feel free to reach out to Mariela. There’s her email right below as well as a link with more information on her services. Mariela, thank you.

MARIELA: Thank you.