I have been accompanying individuals and families in their move to Costa Rica for almost 20 years. With my team, I answered hundreds, if not thousands of questions regarding all aspects of the process. It is so wonderful to be able to keep in touch with our clients throughout their years and to know that we have helped them enjoy a wonderful life here in Costa Rica.
Acquiring the legal status of your choice is indeed one of the most important steps to consider before retiring to Costa Rica. In this article, you will learn all about the residency/legal status process in Costa Rica.
How do you start? How long does it take? Why do you need to become a Costa Rican resident in the first place? So many questions, and we have the answers for you!
Choosing to retire in Costa Rica
Perhaps you have already visited this amazing country several times. You have made your decision! You’re moving to Costa Rica and you’re ready to spend some quality time lying in a hammock, reading a novel or two every week or so!
Or maybe you are just beginning the process. The past 2+ years have been a pivotal time in many people’s lives. There seem to be feelings of mistrust and restlessness among our fellow human beings, and many people are now simply finding another path – another country in which to perhaps spend the rest of their lives. They probably never thought their “plan B” would be necessary, but now they realize the “go time” has arrived.
Once you reach the point in your decision-making process where you know you are totally committed to moving to Costa Rica, your next step is to learn more about the three legal statuses available to you: Pensionado status, Rentista Status and Resident Investor Status. There are different financial qualifications for everyone.
Below, I’ve highlighted the three most popular statuses, along with an alternate option. This information is for US citizens only. Our company, Costa Rica Immigration & Moving Experts, will provide details upon request for other nationalities.
Note: As each of these statuses is considered “temporary”, the applicant and dependents must be physically in Costa Rica for at least one day per year. After 36 months, one simply applies and can expect to receive permanent status. You can also renew your “temporary” status for 2 additional years as many times as you wish, but it is not necessary: 100% of our clients choose to acquire their permanent residence after the 36 month period.
1. Pensioner status
Pensionado status was created by the Government of Costa Rica for individuals and families who have a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 or more for life.
You will need to gather documents from your home country. All of these documents, with the exception of your passport, must be apostilled. An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document intended for use in another country.
You will need proof that you are entitled to a permanent pension of at least USD 1,000. Your permanent pension may come from Social Security (if from the United States), a private pension, or any other government pension, including a railroad pension.
Proof of citizenship of the country of origin
A copy of your passport information page, including the most recent entry stamp, is required for the applicant and all other persons named on the application. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of application. You and all applicants will need a certified copy of your individual birth certificates. You will also need your marriage certificate, if applicable.
FBI background check
You will also need to submit your fingerprints to the FBI and receive an FBI background check report. This will be explained to you by the company assisting you with your residency process, or you can visit the FBI website here.
2. Renter Status
Rentista status provides 2-year residency to individuals (plus dependents) who have a guaranteed monthly income of $2,500. You will need to gather the following documents from your home country. Again, all documents except your passport must be apostilled.
You will need a letter from your financial institution stating that you have sufficient funds with that institution to provide $2,500 per month for 24 months. You must contact the financial institution and ask them to do this for you.
Proof of citizenship of the country of origin
As with Rentista status, you and everyone else on the application will need a copy of the information page of your passports, including the most recent entry stamp. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of application. You and all applicants will also need a certified copy of your individual birth certificates – and marriage certificates, if applicable.
FBI background check
You will also need to submit your fingerprints to the FBI and receive an FBI background check report.
3. Resident investor status
To acquire resident investor status, you must provide proof of government-approved investment (or investments) totaling $200,000 in Costa Rica. Currently, buying a home in Costa Rica is eligible. You will need to collect the following documents from your home country – and each document in addition to your passport must be apostilled.
You will need proof of government-approved investment(s) in Costa Rica totaling a minimum of $200,000. The company assisting you with your residency process will have the correct forms to submit. They will help you with this step (and our company can also help you).
Proof of citizenship from your home country
A copy of your passport information page, including the most recent entry stamp, is required for the applicant and all other persons named on the application. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of application. You and all applicants will need certified copies of your individual birth certificates and (if applicable) marriage certificates.
FBI background check
You will also need to submit your fingerprints to the FBI and receive an FBI background check report. This will be explained to you by the company assisting you with your residency process.
Help with paperwork
- You can get proof of pension from the organization that pays your pension, such as the Social Security Administration.
- If you don’t have the original, you can order and purchase your birth certificate from your state’s Department of Vital Statistics, or you can order it through VitalChek (US applicants only). Marriage certificates can be ordered the same way.
- For resident investor status, proof of investment must be produced in Costa Rica by the accountant of the company in which you have invested. Or if you bought a house privately, a professional forensic accountant.
Our company, Costa Rica Immigration and Moving Experts, can help you gather all the paperwork, including the FBI background check and apostille process. We have been assisting individuals and families with their residency/legal status here in Costa Rica for over 15 years.
Another option: the perpetual tourist
In contrast, many individuals and families settle here and spend many years as “perpetual tourists”. The label of perpetual tourist is not a status, but rather akin to a condition. Unlike the three statuses discussed previously, a perpetual tourist has no legal rights here in Costa Rica that are granted to a schedule incumbent. The perpetual tourist is not guaranteed an automatic 90-day visa renewal. They can be asked to leave at any time. They have great difficulty opening a bank account, getting phone service, cable TV, etc., and have to leave the country every 90 days to renew their visas. The perpetual tourist can buy a house, a car, a boat or any other means of transport there if he wishes. But life won’t be as easy as it could be as a resident.
Moving to another country can be stressful for some and very exciting for others. There are many things to discuss. Acquiring residency/legal status in Costa Rica is a process that has deadlines and established rules. Be sure to find a company that has done this before to help you every step of the way. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer. Ask for references and agree on a fixed price for their services. There are a lot of moving parts here. And, if done correctly, your experience will be seamless and positive for everyone involved!
The bottom line is that there is a wonderful life waiting in Costa Rica for those who want to make a positive change in their lives. So many adventures ahead for you and many new memories to create. We wish you the best in your new journey. Pure Vida!
Thinking of retiring to Costa Rica? The journey awaits you‘ Costa Rica Retreat Center contains information about the weather, transport, the country’s health system, etc.
Skip has written much more on the subject. Discover his Top 8 Questions to Ask Before Moving to Costa Rica.
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