The natural beauty, the city peace, the business climate and the exportation of goods and services are only some of the reasons that people decide to live and start doing business in the small and friendly country, Costa Rica. Whether it is because our arguments in favor of moving your company here have convinced you, or because you are simply looking to retire in Costa Rica, here is a guide with simple steps on how to obtain a residence permit in Costa Rica.

A residence permit is required to live in Costa Rica and this can be obtained under various categories such as work and family etc.

Types of Residency and the Time it Takes? 

Initially, the application should be carried out to obtain a temporary residence permit, which will be granted in one or two years in accordance with the case and category, and then eventually, you will have to update it so that you can apply for a permanent residence permit.

A permanent residence permit is only granted to foreigner once they have completed three uninterrupted years living in the country or to those who have family links to a national resident. They are then able to apply for citizenship with the specific requirements. With the obtention of a permanent residence visa, the foreigner will be able to live inside or outside of the country and will not need to carry out any renewals or updates of the permit.

Who Does the Temporary Residence Permit Include?

With any category of the temporary residence, you apply for, the permit can be extended to both your spouse and their dependents, such as children under the age of 25 years or a person with a proven disability.

For this, documents proving relationships should be included in the application or incorporated in the inquiry, including marriage certificates, birth certificates or others.

Obtain a Residence Permit in Costa Rica

It is very important that you comply with the necessary requirements to obtain a residence permit.

General Requirements For a Temporary Residence Permit

The application for residency is done in accordance with categories defined by the General Directorate of Migration (Dirección General de Migración) and each one has specific requirements. The application should be presented to the General Directorate of Migration with the corresponding stamps and payments, as well as the following basic requirements:

  • Application form
  • Letter of explanation including the reasons for the application
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificates, copies of identity documents issued by the country of origin
  • Criminal record issued by the country of origin
  • Fingerprint registration at the Ministry of Public Security
  • Recent photographs of the applicant
  • Registration with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund.

Furthermore, the provided documentation must get an apostille by the corresponding authorities in the country of origin, in case of there not being one, it must be presented to the Costa Rican Consulate prior to submitting the application. In addition, documents that are not issued in Spanish must be accompanied by an official translation.

What are the Different Categories to Apply for a Temporary Residence Permit?

The most commonly used categories to apply for a temporary residence permit and their requirements are outlined below.

Pensioner

The applicant that would like to obtain a permit for being a pensioner in another country should demonstrate that he/she will receive, for the rest of his/her life, a minimum monthly income of USD$1,000.

For this, the necessary proof of documentation will be:

  • Certification of income from an accountant
  • Governmental or pensions institution certificate from the receiving country
  • Registration at the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social) as voluntary insurance.

If the application is going to include dependents, be it a spouse or children, you must also present:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificates of the children, indicating the name of the parents
  • Medical certificates for disabled children over the age of 25 years.

Investor

Any capital investor that wants to enter the Costa Rican market and who possesses a high capital can do this by using a temporary residence permit for investors.

The investor should have a minimum capital amount of $200,000 invested in the country in the following areas with the corresponding requirements.

Productive or National Interest Projects

They should present:

  • A detailed plan of the project with the respective public, operating, municipal, or any other required permits.
  • Certificate of income from a public accountant where the investment is on a personal basis.
  • Certificate of the insurance institution of the company.
  • Certificate of registration with the General Directorate of Direct Taxation (Dirección General de Tributación Directa).

Real Estate or Registered Goods

This refers to real estate, vehicles, or any other good that is eligible for registration at the National Registry. For this category, the following has to be submitted:

  • A detailed description of the investments in goods.
  • Certificate of registration with the General Directorate of Direct Taxation and the Local Council, for those where it is possible to detect a real value of the goods.
  • Certificate of registration of the goods at the National Registry.

Investments in Securities or Stocks

To apply for a temporary residence if you invest in stock capital or social capital in a company, you will need to present:

  • A precise description of the investment carried out by a Public Notary.
  • Incorporation documents of the company you have invested in.
  • Certificate of Registration with the General Directorate of Direct Taxation.

Investment Projects in Forestry Plantations

The country’s commitment to the conservation of its forested areas has the added benefit of reducing the investment quota to the amount of USD$100,000. In this case, as well as the general requirements, you must present:

  • Copy of the approved investment management plan where the initial investments of USD$100,000 were established in a three year period.
  • Copy of the forestry regent contract.
  • Certificate of income from a public accountant where the investment is on a personal basis.

It is important to point out that the temporary residence permits obtained under the category of investor, does not allow the resident, or their dependents, to carry out any type of manual or intellectual paid labor. In other words, it is not a permit to work in the country.

Obtain a Residence Permit in Costa Rica

Obtaining a residence permit under the investor category does not permit the individual to work (manually or intellectually) in Costa Rica. 

Worker

This category is the most used for those that want to undertake a new business in Costa Rica or who want to expand an existing business to Costa Rica. This subsection can include two types of workers:

  • Independent worker
  • A dependent worker of a national company

Each type will be explained below.

Independent worker:

To apply for a temporary residence as an independent worker, they must be qualified for an occupation or profession that is recommended by the Ministry of Work. The list of recommendations is updated on a yearly basis in accordance with the professional needs and demands of the market.

For this reason, it is one of the least used categories for being recommendations for very specific specialized fields of work.

The following documentation should be presented:

  • Certificate of Registration at the General Directorate of Direct Taxation.
  • Copy of titles or accreditation that prove the capacity to carry out the exercise of a profession.

The migration authorities tend to reject applications under this category, and so it is not the most recommended for the efficiency of the process.

A dependent worker on a national company:

This part refers to workers hired by a company that operates on national terrain, you can be of national or transnational origin.

Generally speaking, if a worker is hired by a company, the worker himself/herself is responsible for carrying out the migratory procedures in accordance with the provisions of the General Directorate.

A worker of their own company (i.e a company they have incorporated):

This section has the uniqueness that the applicants can set up a company in Costa Rica and use the company to essentially sponsor for your residence permit.

This is one of the most used categories because it allows the applicant to start with the residence permit procedures at the same time as starting their own business, saving both time and money in the long-term.

To do this, it is necessary to present the following:

  • Labour contract, including roles, hours, salary and other stipulations according to the Labour Code.
  • Company operating permits.
  • Registration as a wage earner at the CCSS.
  • Registration documents from the company.

Other requirements for the application:

All the applications should be done when the applicant has gained a legal migratory status in Costa Rica. In other words, once they have obtained a valid entry visa for the country. Otherwise, the application will be rejected immediately.

How long does the process take?

Once you have handed in your application, the Directorate will review your file and may ask for any missing documents. As soon as your file is complete, the Directorate has a total of 90 days to decide and send the answer by the means indicated in your application.

In the case that you are denied a permit, you can present an appeal with the higher authority for a review of the reasons for your denial and for a review of your file.

Local Tip: It is very important to review the expiration date of the documents to be submitted to avoid re-emission delays, especially those issued by other governments and documents that need to get an apostille from a consulate.

Need Personalised Support? 

Living and starting a business in Costa Rica can be easy if you have the support of a specialized local team. If you have any questions about obtaining a Residence Permit in Costa Rica, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Country Coordinator, Josseline Campos, from Biz Latin Hub at [email protected] to see how her team can support you in Costa Rica.