I have been assisting individuals and families in their move to Costa Rica for close to 20 years. Along with my team, I have answered hundreds, perhaps thousands of questions regarding every aspect of the process. It is so wonderful to be able to stay in touch with our clients throughout their years and know that we 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 prior to retiring to Costa Rica. In this article, you will learn all about the Costa Rican residency/legal status process.
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 I have the answers for you!
Costa Rican Residency Statuses
Everyone who reads this article is at a different step in their decision process — but if they decide Costa Rica is right for them, it all leads to choosing a residency status.
Perhaps you’ve visited this amazing country many times before. You’ve made up your mind! You’re moving to Costa Rica, and you’re ready to spend quality time laying on a hammock, reading a novel or two every week or so!
Or maybe you’re just now starting the process. The last 2+ years have been a pivotal moment in many people’s lives. There seem to be feelings of mistrust and unrest among our fellow man, and many people are now simply finding another way — another country in which to perhaps spend the rest of their lives. They surely never thought that their “Plan B” would be necessary, but now, they realize that “go time” is here.
Once you reach the point in your decision process that you know you are totally committed to moving to Costa Rica, your next step is to learn more about the three legal statuses that are available to you: the Pensionado status, the Rentista status, and the Resident Investor status. There are different financial qualifications for each one.
Below, I have highlighted the three most popular statuses, plus an alternative option. This information pertains to United States citizens only. Our company, Costa Rica Immigration & Moving Experts, will provide details upon request for other nationalities.
Note: As each of these statuses is deemed “temporary,” the applicant and dependents are required to be physically in Costa Rica for a minimum of one day every year. After 36 months, one simply applies for and can expect to receive permanent status. You can also renew your “temporary” status for 2 additional years as many times as you desire, but there is no need to do so: 100 percent of our clients opt to acquire their permanent residency after the 36-month period.
1. Pensionado Status
The 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 some paperwork from your home country. All of these documents, excluding your passport, must be apostilled. An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document for use in another country.
You will need proof that you’re entitled to a permanent pension in the amount of $1,000 USD minimum. Your permanent pension can be from Social Security (if from the United States), a private pension, or any other government pension, including a railroad pension.
Proof Of Citizenship From Home Country
A copy of the information page of your passport, including the most recent entry stamp, is required for the applicant and for all others who are named on the application. Passports need to be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the time 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 fingerprints to the FBI and receive an FBI Background Check Report. This will be explained by the company that is assisting you with your residency process, or you can visit the FBI’s website here.
2. Rentista Status
The Rentista status provides a 2-year residency for individuals (plus dependents) who have a guaranteed monthly income of $2,500 USD. You will need to gather the following paperwork from your home country. Again, all documents, excluding your passport, must be apostilled.
You’ll need a letter from your financial institution stating that you have sufficient funds with that institution to provide $2,500 USD per month for 24 months. You must contact the financial institution and have them do this for you.
Proof Of Citizenship From Home Country
As with Pensionado status, you and all others on the application will need a copy of the information page of your passports, including the most recent entry stamp. Passports need to be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the time 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
Again, you will also need to submit 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 a government-approved investment (or investments) totaling $200,000 in Costa Rica. Currently, the purchase of a home in Costa Rica qualifies. You will need to gather the following paperwork from your home country — and each document besides your passport must be apostilled.
You’ll need proof of a government-approved investment or investments in Costa Rica totaling a minimum of $200,000 USD. The company that is assisting with your residency process will have the correct forms for you to submit. They will assist you with this step (and our company can help you, too).
Proof Of Citizenship From Your Home Country
As with the other residency statuses, you and all others named on the application must provide copies of the information pages on your passports, including the most recent entry stamp. Passports need to be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the time of application. You will also need certified copies of your individual birth certificates and (if applicable) your marriage certificates.
FBI Background Check
Seeing a trend here? You will also need to submit fingerprints to the FBI and receive an FBI Background Check Report.
Help With The Paperwork
- You can acquire proof of pension from the agency providing your pension, like 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 them through VitalChek (U.S. applicants only). Marriage certificates can be ordered in the same way.
- For Resident Investor status, the proof of investment must be produced in Costa Rica by the accountant of the company you’ve invested in. Or if you’ve privately purchased a home, a legal professional accountant.
Costa Rica Immigration and Moving Experts can assist you with the gathering of all paperwork, including the FBI Background Check and the apostilling process. We have been assisting individuals and families with their residency/legal status here in Costa Rica for over 15 years.
Another Option: Perpetual Tourist
In contrast, many individuals and families move here and spend many years as “perpetual tourists.”
The label of perpetual tourist is not a status, but rather is similar to a condition. Unlike the three statuses previously discussed, a perpetual tourist does not have any legal rights here in Costa Rica that are afforded to a cedula holder. The perpetual tourist is not guaranteed an automatic 90-day renewal of his visa. They can be asked to leave at any time. They have a great deal of difficulty opening up a bank account, acquiring telephone service, cable TV, et cetera, and must leave the country every 90 days to renew their visa. The perpetual tourist can purchase a home, a car, a boat, or other means of transportation here if they so desire. But life will not be as easy as it could be as a resident.
Moving to another country can be stressful to some and very exciting for others. There are many things to discuss. Acquiring one’s residency/legal status in Costa Rica is a process that has time frames and set rules. Be sure to find a company that has done this before to assist you with every step. It doesn’t have to be an attorney. Ask for references and agree on a set price for their services. There are many moving parts here. And, if done properly, your experience will be seamless and positive for all 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 waiting to be created. We wish you the best in your new journey. Pura Vida!
Think you want to retire in Costa Rica? TravelAwaits‘ Costa Rica retirement hub has information on the country’s weather, transportation, healthcare system, and more.
Skip has written plenty more on the subject. Check out his Top 8 Questions To Ask Before Moving To Costa Rica.