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Living Abroad in Costa Rica
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House and yard in Escazu
Excerpted from Living Abroad in Costa Rica

How can I get legal residency in Costa Rica?

Tourist Visas
Residency Visas

Note that residency requirements changed dramatically in March 2010. Read on for details.

Tourist Visas
First things first: Visiting Costa Rica is easy. North Americans don't have to apply for visas to enter the country; a valid passport is all you'll need. Upon arrival you'll get a stamp on your passport authorizing a 90-day stay. It's possible to extend that 90-day stay by leaving Costa Rica for at least 72 hours. When you re-enter the country, you can get another 90-day stamp on your passport.

Doing this again and again as a way of staying in the country is called being a perpetual tourist. You're betting that the border officials won't notice (or won't care) that your passport is filling up with entry and exit stamps. Those with anything to lose in Costa Rica (land, a business, a family) don't usually want to take that risk, and do the paperwork necessary for more permanent residency.

Until you have legal residency of some sort, when you enter the country—at the airport or the border—you could be asked to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself for the time you intend to be here. They may also ask you to show a return or onward plane or bus ticket. In the past, this rarely happened. The country's new approach to immigration may or may not change that lack of enforcement.

Residency Visas
Residency requirements underwent an overhaul in September 2009, and the new regulations went into effect March 1, 2010. The dust is still settling on some of the details, and it remains to be seen how diligently the new rules will be enforced, and what sort of workarounds will spring up to circumvent some of the provisions

What's clear, though, is that the monthly income needed to qualify for the two most popular residency categories--pensionado (pensioner/retiree) and rentista (small investor) have changed dramatically. The amount required to qualify went from $600/month to $1000/month for pensionados and from $1000/month to $2,500/month for rentistas.

Below you'll also find basic information on the five most common forms of residency. For more detailed information on residency and tips on the application process, see Living Abroad in Costa Rica.

PENSIONADO (pensioner/retiree)
Requirements: Requires proof of US$1000 per month income from permanent pension source or retirement fund
Length of Stay: Must remain in country at least four months per year
Spouse/Dependents: Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age
Employment: Cannot work as an employee
Business Income: Can own a company and receive income

RENTISTA (small investor)
Requirements: Requires proof of US$2,500 per month for at least five years, guaranteed by a banking institution.
Length of Stay: Must remain in country at least four months per year
Spouse/Dependents: Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age (there will be an increase in monthly income required)
Employment: Cannot work as an employee
Business Income: Can own a company and receive income

INVERSIONISTA (large investor)
Requirements: US$200,000 in any busines or a specified amount of investment in certain government-approved sectors
Length of Stay: Must remain in country at least six months per year
Spouse/Dependents: Cannot claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age (must process separately)
Employment: Income allowed from the project
Business Income: Can own a company and receive income

REPRESENTANTE (company visa)
Requirements: Applicant must be director of a company meeting certain requirements, such as employing a minimum number of local workers as established by the labor law, with financial statements certified by a public accountant
Length of Stay: Must remain in country at least six months per year
Spouse/Dependents: Cannot claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age (must process separately)
Employment: Can earn an income from the company
Business Income: Can own a company and receive income

PERMANENTE (permanent residency)
Requirements: First-degree relative status with a Costa Rican citizen (through marriage to citizen or having a Costa Rican child) or may apply after three years in another type of residency. Note that the immigration reforms of March 2010 provide for "closing the loophole" of marriages of convenience entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining residency.
Length of Stay: Must visit Costa Rica at least once (72 hours) a year
Spouse/Dependents: Cannot claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age (must process separately)
Employment: Can legally work
Business Income: Can own a company and receive income

 
 

 

 

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