San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Immigration Law Effective This Month

While new immigration rules are set to take effect this month, some clauses still have lawyers scratching their heads.

Though analysts and immigration attorneys call the law “an improvement,” some of its finer points regarding retiree pensions and short-term business visas are causing concern.

At an executive lunch Thursday in San José with representatives of some of the country’s top employers, legal consultants from Fragomen Immigration Services, a private service to assist immigrants and foreign businesses, examined the law point by-point.

The new legislation, which was approved early last month, does not eliminate the “perpetual tourist” (someone who renews their visa by leaving the country every 90 days), but it does introduce processes to simplify residency applications and it increases fines levied against those who live here illegally.

“(The new law) will create a better synchronization between immigration policy and a strategy of promoting foreign investment,” said Vanessa Gibson, a director within the Costa Rican Investment Board (CINDE). She added that many of the laws favor the business sector.

For example, the application process can take place entirely in Costa Rica, whereas before, foreigners had to get their papers approved by the consulate in their home countries.

Under the new law, if a foreigner is found to be “irregular” – that is, without legal documentation – he or she will be required to change immigration status or leave the country within 10 days. If a foreigner is deported, he or she will not be permitted to reenter the country for a period of five years.

Businesses caught employing “irregular” workers will be charged between two and 12 times the base salary (which is roughly $500). Higher fines are expected to generate $12 million for improved immigration services.

More information about the new immigration law can be accessed by calling

Fragomen at 2204-6300 or e-mailing costaricainfo


Review of the

Immigration Law


Contributing to the Caja

New Law: Applications or renewal requests for residency must show proof of contributions to the Costa Rican Social Security System.

Old Law: No mention.


Applying from Costa Rica

New Law: Solicitation for residency can be conducted through Costa Rican consular offices in foreign countries and through the Immigration Administration here.

Old Law: No mention. (All solicitations for residency had to begin in the applicant’s home country).


Marrying into Costa Rica

New Law: In order to get temporary residency through marriage, applicants must demonstrate they know their spouse and that they live together. Old Law: Those who are married to a Costa Rican could apply for residency without restriction.


Rentistas and Retirees

New Law: Those retiring in Costa Rica must demonstrate they receive $1,000 monthly pension from their home country. Investors (also known as rentistas) must demonstrate a net monthly income of $2,500, plus $1,000 for a spouse and $500 per child.

Old Law: Retirees formerly had to demonstrate a monthly income of $600 and rentistas had to prove a $1,000 monthly income (plus $1,000 for spouses and $500 for children).


When the Visa Expires

New Law: Foreigners with expired tourist visas may apply for a new immigration status after paying a fine.

Old Law: Foreigners on an expired tourist visa had to go through an application process to change their status.



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