Getting Residency in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, there are several forms of residency options from which to choose. The process is done through the General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality, more commonly referred to as Migracion. You’ll be required to have all of your important documents on hand (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) and a criminal background check will be required as well. Get yours from the FBI to avoid any unnecessary hassles, as Migracion only sometimes accepts state background checks. All of this is necessary no matter what kind of residency in Costa Rica you’re looking to gain, but the rest is up to you. Here are the four different residency options for Costa Rica, and what you need to know about them.

Retiree/Pensionado
The pensionado program is for anyone who’s already retired and receiving a pension. The income requirement is that you make at least $1,000 USD per month. For married couples, only one spouse has to show proof of this pension income for both to be eligible for this form of residency in Costa Rica.

This is a temporary type of residency, but you can apply for permanent residency after being a temporary resident for three years. You also cannot work under this type of residency, but you can once you become a permanent resident if you so choose.

Legal Resident/Rentista
Applicants for this program cannot be retired and must not need to work while in Costa Rica. They’ll need to receive a guaranteed, unearned income of $2,500 per month from investments, savings, or other sources. They’ll also have to guarantee that they’ll be receiving this income for at least two years. These requirements are exactly the same for each spouse when a married couple is applying, or if an applicant with dependents is applying.

The most common method used to prove this income is by notarized letter from a bank or other financial institution that verifies the necessary information. Income can be from rental properties or dividends as well. While you don’t have to keep your earnings in a bank account in Costa Rica, it is easier to obtain that bank letter if you do.

There is a bank deposit requirement once you are approved, however. You will have to deposit a minimum of $2,500 USD each month into a Costa Rican bank account for two years. Once you’re approved, you’ll also have to agree to spend at least one day per year in Costa Rica. You can apply for permanent residency in Costa Rica after three years of this temporary status.

Business Investor/Inversionista
The inversionista program is for those who make a direct investment in Costa Rica of at least $200,000 USD. It can be made in any type of business or real estate, and you must be able to prove that the amount already invested is of this value – not that it’s part of a future value. Home purchases count as an acceptable investment for this purpose. It can also include the purchase of land for future development or for preservation purposes.

There is no bank deposit requirement for this form of residency in Costa Rica, but it is also temporary for the same three-year period as the others. Again, permanent residency can be achieved at this time.

Marriage or Relation/Vinculocrg
People who are married or related to a Costa Rican citizen may apply for this program. This person must be able to prove that he/she has a relationship by either marriage or birth to a Costa Rican citizen. That citizen, in turn, must be able to sponsor this applicant.

There are applications for a spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, and unmarried siblings. This residency option is not for extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. In order for the marriage application to be filed, the marriage has to have been officially recorded with the Civil Register in Costa Rica, and the Civil Register must be able to issue a certified copy of the marriage certificate.

Those applying for this residency status must also do an immigration interview. They will have to prove through this interview that the marriage is legitimate if the couple has been married for less than two years. Both spouses have to attend said interview. Once approved, the same stipulations apply as those of the previous forms of residency, in which the non-citizen would have to spend at least one day per year in Costa Rica and the residency is temporary until the three-year mark, at which time you (applicant) can apply for permanent residency in Costa Rica. Those with this type of residency are allowed a work permit, though.

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