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Once you have spent some time in Costa Rica and then decided that you want to live in Costa Rica on a more permanent basis it is time to consider which residency category you will qualify for.
Costa Rica Immigration Law ( Law #8764) divides residency categories into the following sections:
Permanent Residency (Article 77-78)
Temporary Residency (Article 79-86)
Special Category Residency (Article 93-97)
Let’s break each one of these down for you so you can determine which category is the best fit for you.
Permanent Residency Category
Permanent residency is only available to foreigners under two circumstances: (1) Foreigners that have an immediate family relationship with a Costa Rica citizen. This is generally limited to first degree family relationships such as the parent of a Costa Rica citizen, their minor children, children over 18 years old who have a disability or their minor siblings. (2) Foreigners that have held a temporary residency status for at least three years may then apply to have that temporary status converted to permanent residency. Given the limitations most initial applicants for residency in Costa Rica do so under the Temporary Residency Category which provides more options that I will discuss in the next section.
Temporary Residency Category
The majority of applications for Costa Rican residency will fall into the Temporary Residency category which is regulated by Article 79 of the Immigration Law and has the following subcategories
(1) The Spouse of a Costa Rican citizen as set forth in Article 73 of the law.
(2) Those of religious orders for religions that have been accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Culture
(3) Executives, Managers, Technical Personnel for Corporations which are established in the country. This may also include those specialized workers that are independent workers but whose technical expertise is required and the Department of Immigration as set forth the criteria to allow that specialty to work in Costa Rica.
(5) Scientific, Professional and Specialized persons.
(6) Sports figures recognized by the National Council on Sports and Recreation
(7) International Press Correspondents
Spouse of a Costa Rican Citizen
The Immigration law (Article 73) allows the spouse of a Costa Rican citizen to apply for temporary based on the marriage. This has been one of the most abused categories in the Immigration Law because of the amount of sham and fraudulent marriages used to qualify for this category. As a result, the Department of Immigration has been more stringent in verifying the validity of the marriage. As a result, this category requires that both spouses appear personally at immigration for an interview. They must also provide all documentation to prove the validity of the marriage.
Those of religious orders for religions that have been accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Culture
As the name implies this category is limited to religious workers, missionaries that are in the country based upon a particular religious order that has been authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Executives, Managers, Technical Personnel for Corporations which are established in the country. This may also include those specialized workers that are independent workers but whose technical expertise is required and the Department of Immigration as set forth the criteria to allow that specialty to work in Costa Rica.
This category is most commonly used by foreign corporations that are sending executives, technical personal or specialized contractors to Costa Rica to work on specific projects for the foreign company.
The Investor Category (Article 79 (4) ) requires an applicant to demonstrate that they have made an investment in Costa Rica. To qualify for investment status the applicant must show that they have invested at least US$200,000 in Costa Rica. According to the Immigration regulations: “The investment can be made in tangible property, shares, negotiable instruments, productive projects or projects which are deemed of national interest”
The investor category allows individuals that have purchased real estate in Costa Rica either directly or by way of a Costa Rican corporation with a value of US$200,000 or more to qualify for investor residency. You can also combine investments to reach the investment threshold.
Be sure to properly document the value of the investment with official government records and a Costa Rican Certified Public Accountant (CPA) since the government will look at official documents to verify the investment.
To apply for residency under the Rentista category (Article 82), the applicant must show that they will receive at least US$2,500 per month of income in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner for at least 2 years. This category includes the applicant, their spouse and all their children which are under the age of 25.
Rentista Residency in Costa Rica
Generally, those who seek the Rentista residency category do not have a pension source and instead have an investment source of income which will need to be verified by a financial or banking institution. This can be done by providing a letter from a bank or financial institution that indicates that the applicant will receive the sum of $2,500 per month in Costa Rica. The letter must include wording to the effect that the funds will be sent to Costa Rica in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner for a 2 year period. To avoid processing delays with your application make sure that the income letter which will be the basis of your application contains those keywords.
If your home country bank cannot issue the income letter with the required wording, then you have the option of working with a Costa Rican bank to do so. Several banks in Costa Rica will assist you in the rentista application process. To do so they will require that you deposit with them US$60,000 with their bank. From the $60,000 deposit, they will in turn transfer to your savings account at the same bank the sum of US$2,500 per month which you can spend down as needed
Costa Rica was a pioneer in creating a retirement residency program which has been in effect now for more than 40 years.
The Pensionado (Retiree) applicant must demonstrate a lifetime pension source of income of at least US$1,000 per month. The typical applicant in this category has a government, private sector pension or social security retirement benefits. The legal basis for the pensionado category under the immigration law is Article 81 of Law 8764.
Also check out our video on the Residency process in Costa Rica below