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Residency in Costa Rica? Read This First!

Spending a couple of weeks or even a couple of months in a foreign country is a wonderful way to experience a new culture and – lets face it – escape the cold and snow that a lot of the northern hemisphere lives in for 5 months of the year.

If you’re considering purchasing a vacation home, that you hope to turn into a retirement home, in Latin America, residency is no doubt on your mind. Do I have to apply for residency? How long can I stay without applying?

If Costa Rica is on your short list, this may just clinch the deal.

Basically, if your plans include you staying, or living, in Costa Rica for more then 90 days (if you’re from North America and most other countries), you are required to qualify for and establish legal residency.

Costa Rica is incredibly welcoming to new residents, as long as you can prove that you have adequate resources to live there without leeching off the system.

There are a few different types of residency you can apply for in Costa Rica…


The application process for the Rentista category is pretty clear-cut and doesn’t require a significant amount of documentation. Birth certificate, criminal record check, current passport and proof of financial security are the key components to apply for a Rentista residency. The proof of financial security should show an income of $2500 USD per month, regardless of whether you have a spouse or dependants. The easiest way to confirm financial security is to deposit $60,000 into a Costa Rican bank account. After two years of withdrawing $2500 a month, you simply top-up your account with another $60,000, and so on. After your initial deposit, the bank will issue a letter of financial security.


The application process for the Pensionado category is pretty much the same as the Rentista category. The main difference being the letter of financial security. To apply for Pensionado residency, you must show a guaranteed monthly income of $1000 USD. Contrary to what you may think, there is no age limit associated with applying to be a Pensionado. The only requirement is that you are receiving a lifetime pension such as CPP, Social Security, retirement pension or another form of a guaranteed life-long income.

For both the Rentista and Pensionado categories, all documents are required to be certified by a notary and legitimized by the Costa Rica Consul in your home country. In addition, you must register with your home country’s embassy in Costa Rica.

Individuals in the Rentista and Pensionado categories are not able to work as employees in Costa Rica. That being said, you are able to manage your own business through a Costa Rican Corporation.

Inversionista & Entreprenurial

We’ve put these two categories together because they are much more complicated forms of residency, and quite frankly, require much more research from the applicant then we’re providing here today.

For Inversionista and Entreprenurial residency, there is a considerable amount of capital and government approval required. The amount of capital is dependent on the nature of the business, and you are required to provide documentation on accounting, business plans and so forth.

If all you’re hoping is to enjoy your winter vacation away from the snow or to retire in paradise, we don’t recommend applying for Inversionista or Entreprenurial residency. Immigration authorities don’t simply hand these residencies out to just anyone; there are many hoops to jump through and back-up to provide.

Regardless of what type of residency you apply for, all residents of Costa Rica must register and pay into the government Social Security Health Insurance program.

Permanent residency can be obtained only after you have maintained any of the above residency categories for more then 3 years. The only exception to this is if you are married to a Costa Rican.

Overall, applying for residency is an exciting and monumental moment in living or retiring in Costa Rica or any country other then your home. Respect the rules the country has in place, follow the laws and complete what they ask of you and you should have no problems becoming a resident!

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