3 Realistic Options to Become a Resident (published in The Costa Rica News)


A lot has been said about the residency process application procedure, however what is true and what is a false is only obvious after years and years of handling its different stages.

Normally the future expat or “perpetual tourist” will first start surfing the web looking for the exact requirements and then shopping for the lowest legal fees. The truth is that in all our years as Immigration attorneys we never had a clearer perspective from the legal standpoint.

Today the Immigration Law is complemented by very clear Rules that support it and clearly explain what the requirements are and how to prepare them.

Certain Residency options are still perhaps vague or depend on the criteria of the all mighty Immigration but there are at least three that are very straightforward:

  1. Pensionado: As long as the applicant can demonstrate that he or she receives a minimum monthly lifetime pension of at least US$1000.00 from a government agency that is the key eligibility criteria. The benefit is extended to the spouse.
  2. Rentista: If the applicant does not yet receive a pension, then if he or she can demonstrate to receive steady monthly income of at least US$2500.00 from a recognized source that will be enough. The benefit is extended to the spouse and to minor children. Normally the applicant opens a Certificate of Deposit for 2 years at a local recognized bank for US$60,000.00 from which he or she pulls out the US$2500.00 a month.
  3. Inversionista: We suffered for many years trying to convince the government that the investment would bring benefits to the local economy but not anymore. Yes, as many of you know currently the law establishes that showing a minimum investment of US$200,000.00 in a local asset like stock and/or real estate will be sufficient to qualify.

If you are able to fit in one of those three categories you can rest assure that if the rest of the formal requirements are met, the documents are properly prepared and a follow up effort is done your residency will be a reality in months.

The following are the requirements that ALL residencies have in common:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Police Record
  • Marriage License

The principle is that ALL foreign documents require a specific legalization process for them to be recognized locally and also have to be officially translated to Spanish.

Processing times vary significantly from applicant to applicant however it is safe to say that currently a residency will not be approved before 3 months of being submitted and that at most 12 months should be enough if it was filed complete since the beginning. Yes, the residency applicant can remain in the country while waiting for the approval with certain practical limitations but not having to leave every time the tourist visa expires.

We encourage you to analyze your individual situation and seek qualified advice to determine how to become a Costa Rican resident and enjoy life in this welcoming country.

Augusto Arce has a JD from the Universidad de Costa Rica and a Global Masters in Business Administration from Thunderbird School of Global Management and the Tec de Monterrey. Mr. Arce has more than 15 years of experience in foreign advisory and currently is the Managing Partner of GLC Abogados.

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