5 types of legal residency in Costa Rica

December 8, 2014
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Costa Rica remains the dream for a plethora of expats and foreign retirees alike. Images of the towering volcanoes, heavenly coastlines and cartoonish sloths hilariously stumbling around the jungle are enough to pique any traveler’s interest, let alone someone looking for a new home. The so-called “Switzerland of Central America” is the proverbial heaven on Earth for many.

But even heaven, with St. Peter’s bounce list, comes with a bit of bureaucracy. To truly call Costa Rica home, you’ll need to apply for residency. Following are five basic types of residency in Costa Rica, with a bit of information to get you started.

Family relationship

This is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll go ahead and walk you through it, nonetheless. Family relationship status in Costa Rica requires first-degree relative status with someone who through birth or marriage has already achieved Costa Rican citizenship. If you fit the bill, you’ll be offered permanent residency — the holy grail of immigration. You’ll also be afforded the opportunity to work, should you so desire. As a permanent resident, you no longer have to worry about staying in the country long enough to maintain your residency status, as pensioners and small investors do. All you have to do is visit Costa Rica at least once every year. No big deal, right?

Pensioner (Pensionado)

To qualify for pensioner status, you’ll need to offer proof of income matching or exceeding $1,000 per month from some sort of retirement or permanent pension fund. You’ll also be able to claim a spouse and any dependents under the age of 18. However, unlike the aforementioned family relationship route, this is not a path to permanent residency — only temporary residency. Thus, you cannot work as an employee, but you can own a company and earn income. Expats in this category need to renew their status every two years. After three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Also worth noting, recent immigration reforms dictate that anyone with temporary residency who leaves the country for more than two years can lose their residency status. This would hopefully not be a problem. After all, why retire in Costa Rica only to leave Costa Rica?

Small investor (Rentista)

For rentista status, you’ll have to show deeper pockets. This residency requires proof of at least $60,000 (or $2,500 per month) over two years from a banking institution. The same rule regarding temporary residency applies. Leave for two years or more and you may risk losing residency. So stick around and renew your rentista status just once every two years. After your third year, you can apply for permanent residency by proving you’ll make a positive contribution to the country. Also like the pensioners, you can claim a spouse and dependents under the age of 18, and working as an employee is a no-no, but you can own a company.

Investor (Inversionista)

Congratulations! If you’re looking here, you must be quite wealthy with $200,000 ready to be invested in any business or real estate project. The same temporary residency restrictions apply, and obviously you can earn income from your investment. However, you cannot claim a spouse or any dependents. Your loved ones must be processed separately. Just as the above two options, you can apply for permanent residency after three years.

Company visa (Representante)

Last but not least, you’re moving to Costa Rica through your company. This requires that you be serving in some sort of managerial role with a certain number of local workers based on labor law requirements. You’ll also need financial statements certified by a public accountant. Once again, you can earn an income from your company (and even create your own business if you’re feeling ambitious), but you cannot claim a spouse or dependents. They’ll have to fill out their own paperwork.

Good luck!

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