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How to Get Costa Rica Residence: The Ultimate Guide 2024

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Known for having the most stable and democratic government in Central America, Costa Rica has long been an immensely popular hotspot with expats.

Things don’t appear to be changing as the tropical land remains as popular as ever with just about everyone from retirees to young digital nomads.

From busy cities to the peaceful idyll of the countryside to miles of clean shoreline, Costa Rica has something for everyone.

There are many benefits to being a resident of Costa Rica but, the main question facing you is whether Costa Rica is just what you’re looking for? Or are you looking in general for a second residence in Latin America with a thriving real estate market?

Either way, broaden your horizons and save yourself time and legwork by talking to the experts at Nomad Capitalist. Our team will help you explore Costa Rica’s possibilities and decide if it’s the right place for you or whether you need to look further afield. 

Costa Rica Overview

Costa Rica is a tropical paradise with so much to do, see and explore, from the surf of its beaches to the turf of its forests.

This Central American country has just over five million inhabitants, three million of whom live in the capital, San José. Many of the locals and most of the tourists who flock here all seek the ‘pura vida’ ( pure life), a common expression that sums up the laidback lifestyle enjoyed by immigrants and locals alike.

Costa Rica Overview
Costa Rica offers sunny skies and a vibrant way of life.

Residency in Costa Rica: Program Options

Costa Rica offers a range of residency options that are simple and inexpensive if you want to stay longer than the time permitted by a tourist visa.

Chief among Costa Rica’s residency attraction, is the fact the country doesn’t have much in the way of physical presence requirements. Once obtained, you’ll need to maintain your residency by spending at least one day a year in Costa Rica and retaining your investment. To qualify for permanent residency after five years, you only need to visit Costa Rica once a year every four years.

Inversionista Residency Status

Inversionista Residency Status
Investors may consider getting a temporary residency in Costa Rica.

The investor (inversionista) visa requires a minimum investment of US$150,000, which can be made in active businesses, real estate, national interest projects, stocks or securities or sustainable tourism infrastructure.

An application may include an applicant’s spouse and children under 25 years, or older with disabilities. This visa grants a temporary residency permit which is valid for two years and can be renewed for the same period. 

Temporary residents are not authorised to work in Costa Rica. After maintaining residency as an ‘inversionista’ (a legal resident) for three years, you can apply for permanent residence without restriction in the country.

This permanent residency requires at least one renewed identification card after two years. Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residence.

Required Documents:

You will need to present the following documents when applying for this visa:

  • A birth certificate authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate in the country where it was issued or legalised by an Apostille stamp
  • Certificate of Criminal Background Check legalised by the Apostille process or authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate in the country where they were issued
  • A marriage Certificate authenticated by the relevant Costa Rican consulate or legalised by the Apostille process
  • Fingerprint registration
  • Certified copy of the entire passport (including blank pages)
  • Two passport photos with a white background
  • Payment of application fees and expenses
  • Consular registration at the local Costa Rican Consulate of their country of origin
  • A detailed description of the investment
  • Documents proving the investment
  • Special power of attorney where necessary.

Rentista Residency

Rentista Residency
Costa Ricans are welcoming and friendly.

The essential requirement for applying as a rentier (‘rentista’) resident is that the applicant, including their family group (either spouse or partner, parents, single siblings and children), must receive a monthly income of at least US$2,500 for a minimum period of two years. A rentier is someone who derives their income from property or investment.

Another option is if the applicant shows they have a US$60,000 investment in a Costa Rican bank.

For these options, you’ll need to prove ‘rentista’ residency income with an official letter issued by a financial institution, foreign bank, CPA certificate or other titular entity certifying that you will receive said income monthly for the next two years. In the case of investment in a Costa Rican bank, the local banking institution must issue the necessary letter.

The rentista residency is valid for two years and can be renewed for an additional two years. You’ll become eligible for permanent status after three years of temporary residency.

Required Documents for Rentista Residency:

Have the following documents ready once you choose to apply:

  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of Criminal Background Check
  • Marriage certificate if your spouse also wants residency
  • Proof of income requirement issued by a competent authority by way of a statement verifying that only the applicant will receive said monthly amount for the next two years
  • Fingerprint registration at the Immigration Department
  • Certified copy of the entire passport (including blank pages)
  • Two passport photos with a white background
  • Payment of application fees and expenses
  • Consulate registration
  • A detailed description of the investment
  • Documents proving the investment
  • Special Power of Attorney where required.

Pensionado Visa

Pensionado Visa
Retired foreign nationals consistently seek out Costa Rica and its sunny skies and cool seas.

To qualify for a pensionado (retired) visa, you must receive a lifetime monthly pension of no less than US$1,000 per month and also be able to prove it. While this residence is, of course, most common for older persons, there is no age limit for a pension recipient.

Required Documents for Pensionado Visa:

The government requires the following documents for the pensionado (retired) visa:

  • Police certificate of good conduct from the last ten years
  • Birth certificates are required for you, your spouse, and all dependant children up to 18 years old or up to 25 if a university student
  • Income certificate
  • Pensions from government agencies must have a letter stating that the government pays the pension
  • Pensions from other institutions must have a statement verifying the type of institution paying the pension.

Digital Nomad Visa

Digital Nomad Visa
Costa Rica offers digital nomads an appealing temporary residency Visa.

Costa Rica’s government recognised the country’s potential as a remote work hub and a source of income for the tourism industry and introduced the Digital Nomad Visa in 2022.

When applying for the Digital Nomad Visa for Costa Rica, applicants need to demonstrate a minimum monthly income of US$3,000.

The visa for remote workers enables them to legally stay and work in the Central American nation for up to a year, with the option to renew for another year. To renew this visa, remote workers must demonstrate that they have been residing in Costa Rica for a minimum of 180 days.

To qualify, applicants must be self-employed or work for a foreign company and demonstrate a monthly income to support themselves and their family in Costa Rica.

Required Documents for the Digital Nomad Visa:

As soon as you’re ready to apply, have these documents ready for review:

  • Application form 
  • Twelve bank statements for the previous year proving a monthly income of at least US$3,000 (US$4,000 for a family)
  • Receipt confirming payment of government fees
  • Proof of health insurance 
  • A passport copy
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable).

An official translation must accompany all the documents in Spanish in the visa application.

Costa Rican Residency Benefits

Costa Rican Residency Benefits
Permanent residency in Costa Rica offers several appealing benefits.

Accessibility

Four international airports connect Costa Rica with the rest of Central America. Juan Santamaría International Airport is the main one, offering flights to and from Europe and the US.

Costa Rica also has an extensive network of local airports, many of which boast private jet facilities. A coast-to-coast journey takes about three hours by car on well-maintained roads.

Routes To Citizenship

Costa Rica does not offer citizenship by investment, while exceptional citizenship is rare and only granted to those appointed to a government position.

Citizenship by naturalisation is possible, but it takes seven years. Another downside is that you have to spend more than 183 days a year in Costa Rica for each of these seven years spent in the country.

A New Passport

If you do choose to go the citizenship route, a Costa Rican passport gives you visa-free, visa-on-arrival, or eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation) access to 143 countries and territories. This passport ranks 55th on the Nomad Passport Index and is one of the strongest travel documents in Central America.

Education

Schooling is generally free in Costa Rica and all dependent children of citizens are legally obliged to receive an education. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in the region. There are international schools following various international curriculums.

Healthcare

Once you obtain residency, you will need to maintain national health insurance and retirement insurance payments. The national health insurance and social security system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), covers all Costa Rican residents.

Should Expats Move to Costa Rica or Belize?

Why Costa Rica?

Why Costa Rica
Is the sunny life of Costa Rica right for you?

Costa Rica offers a low-cost, Pura Vida lifestyle, stunning beaches and much more. It’s home to a large expat and retiree community and is known as one of the safest countries in Central America.

It operates under a territorial tax system, meaning the only income you need to pay tax on is the income earned within the country. The same principle applies to corporate tax, as foreign-sourced income is tax-exempt.

Whatever your needs, Nomad Capitalist can help you go where you’re treated best. All you need to do is reach out to us, and let us handle the rest.

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