Basics about Residency in Costa Rica

Before you even think about moving to another country you should first ask yourself these questions:

  1. You like Costa Rica?
  2. Is residency for me?
  3. Where do I stand right now, if I wanted to start a residency procedure?

We will try to give some reliable answers to those questions, just keep in mind these are general answers and your situation may have exceptions.

Liking the Country

Before you think about moving, you should visit the country. Costa Rica is a great place to live, but as every country in the world, it has a different CULTURE, POLITICAL ISSUES and LIFESTYLE, that may suit you or not.  Here are some basics:

  1. Costa Rica is the only country in the world without an army.
  2. It has exuberant nature and places to visit.
  3. In the GAM (Great Metropolitan Area), there is intense traffic jam, you must be patient!
  4. Dealings and processes with government offices tend to be cumbersome and slow, so you have to be prepared for this.
  5. Ticos are helpful, and they will try to help you always, even though they don’t know how to.
  6. They will receive you with a smile.

About Application

If you just recently arrived in Costa Rica, and have decided to live here, applying for residency is essential.  It’s not that hard if you have the right information; for starters, you need to know which documents from your country home are required, for example:

  1. Birth certificate.
  2. Police report.
  3. Proof of income.

After knowing this basic information, you should know what is needed to make them acceptable to Costa Rican Immigration office:  

  1. All documents submitted to Immigration must be APOSTILLED or CERTIFIED.
    Apostilled: form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention.
    If your country of origin is not a member of Hague Convention, Certification is required.
  2. For U.S citizens, apostille is accomplished by the Secretary of State where the document was originated.
    Example: If someone was born in Florida, married in Nevada and now lives in Illinois, the birth certificate will have to be apostilled by the Florida Secretary of State, the marriage by the Secretary of Sate of Nevada, and the criminal history background check apostilled in Illinois.
  1. Countries that are not Hague Convention members, the process might be accomplished by the Foreign Affairs or Foreign Service Office.
  2. For Canadians, documents must be submitted to The Canadian Foreign Affairs Office for certification. The documents are sent to Costa Rica Consulate in Canada, who will certify them – the cost is $40 per document –. The document(s) then need to be sent to Costa Rica and submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
  3. United Kingdom and most of the European Union countries, are members of the Hague Convention and the procedure of apostille will be performed by the country’s respective foreign affairs office. The process is like what occurs for the U.S citizens.
  4. In all cases the documents must be translated into Spanish before they are submitted to Immigration. The translation must be done by a licensed and approved translator, it can be translated in Costa Rica.

Some advice

Each type of residency has its own specific requirements, in this article only covers the basics.

Consult with an attorney to choose which is best for you. What is extremely important is that you choose a law firm or attorney that is well versed and experienced in the residency process. With ARCR, you will get the help you need with:

  1. The selection of the right type of residency you need,
  2. And assistance with all the procedures.

The usual time between document submission and approval of a residency application is 14 to 16 months, beginning with the date of the submission of the last required document.

Once all documents have been submitted, immigration will issue a letter that the application is “in trámite” – in process –. Whe the applicant receives notice of their “en trámite” status, they are no longer required to leave the country to renew their 90-day visa. HOWEVER, applicants should be aware that in order to use their foreign driver’s license to drive legally in Costa Rica beyond 90 days, they MUST renew their visa.