San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Myths and Facts about Residency

COSTA Ricahas a long traditionof immigrationfrom otherLatin Americancountries; over thepast several yearsit has also becomea popular relocationdestinationfor North Americansand Europeansseeking to obtainlegal residencyin the country.The currentadministration has made efforts to controland regulate the flow of temporary andpermanent residents. A major element thathas come into play in this regard is thediscretionary power of the GeneralImmigration Administration in evaluatingand approving residency applications.Residency under categories such asinversionista (investor), contrato de trabajo(contractor) and empresario/apoderadode empresa (business owner) havebeen increasingly difficult to obtain in thepast couple of years.These categories have several inconveniences,one being that applicationsmust be filed at a Costa Rican Consulateabroad. This often represents valuabletime lost, as the application needs to findits way from the Consulate to the appropriatehands at the Costa Rican immigrationoffices. It sounds simple, but in practiceit has caused major problems forapplicants who have seen their filesdelayed because of this system.IT is extremely advisable to have anexperienced and knowledgeable legal professionalhandle your residency application.To increase the chances of successfor an immigration filing, the documents,translations and certificates containedtherein should be prepared by immigrationspecialists.In all cases, fingerprinting must bedone in person, in the country. Failure tocomply with this step will constitute animpediment to application processing.Another problematic issue commonto many residency categories is theGeneral Immigration Administration’sample discretionary powers in approvingor denying most types of applications.Temporary work permits are being subjectto restrictive policies as well. Thishas led applicants who have been expectingresolutions for a year or more to besorely disappointed by the results of theprocess, after a vast investment of timeand effort.BUT it’s not all bad news. The residenterentista (annuitant resident) and residentepensionado (pensioner resident)categories are still open and available.Governed by a separate law than regularimmigration categories, these special residenciesare processed by a separatedepartment within Immigration.The changes in immigration proceduresthat took place in 2003 did notaffect these categories, meaning thatapplications under these headings canstill be filed directly in Costa Rica(although authentication of foreign documentsby a Costa Rican consul is required),and are approved for anyoneclearly meeting the legal requirements.The processing time is considerablyshorter – with an estimated average offour months – and application approval isnon-discretionary.The main requirement for residency asa rentista is a bank letter stating that thebank will give the applicant $1,000 amonth for five years, in a stable, permanentand irrevocable manner. The lettermay be obtained from a local or a foreignbank, but the chosen bank must be listedin Thomson’s Bank Directory.To issue the letter, Costa Rican banksusually require a guarantee of $60,000 inthe form of a certificate of deposit (CD) –which will bear interest according to marketrates – from which to deduct themonthly $1,000. However, contrary topopular belief, the deposit itself is not anactual requirement; the bank letter is.Pensionado residency requires an officialdocument demonstrating a monthlypension payment of at least $600.Pensions from government agencies areusually preferred, and make the applicationprocess much simpler.AFTER applicants have obtained residency,they must live in the country forat least four months out of the year (notnecessarily continuous), show theexchange of their annual income($12,000 or $7,200, as applicable) intocolones, and renew their residency cardsevery two years.It should be noted that Congress isconsidering an initiative that proposeseliminating these types of residencies ormaking them more difficult to obtain.Future changes will not affect applicationsalready in progress; once an application isfiled, Immigration may not apply newrules to the applicant.For more legal advice, contact Lang& Asociados at 204-7871 or

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