Getting residence in Costa Rica can be done under different schemes, and can be temporary or permanent. In addition to certain peculiarities specific to each regime, a set of documents will be requested by the migration services.​


1) By marriage with a Costa Rican citizen
Anyone legally married to a Costa Rican citizen may apply for temporary residence. After three consecutive years under this plan, the spouse may apply for permanent residence. The marriage legally formed abroad is valid in Costa Rica after registration at the civil services of the National Register. However, same-sex marriages are not recognized in Costa Rica.

2) Resident investor program
An investor is considered to be a person who makes a direct investment in Costa Rica of at least US $ 200,000. The investment can be made in any type of business or in real estate. The application for residence must be after the investment.
The applicant must prove that the amount already invested (and not the future value) is of a recommended or verifiable value of at least US $ 200,000.
Investment can be made in any type of business including manufacturing, transportation, hotel, catering, beverage, tourism industry in its broadest sense, real estate commercial and non – commercial real estate.
Non-Commercial Real Estate: This type of investment may include the purchase price of a house in Costa Rica for personal use, the purchase of land held for future development or for the conservation of the territory including ecological and / or environmental purposes.
Attention, the only value taken into account by the Ministry of Immigration is the value of the property as registered to the local Municipality for the collection and recovery of the property tax. This taxable value must be at least $ 200,000.
A new regulation allows an investor to make an investment of at least $ 100,000 in a forest project qualified as “Plantation”. As a rule, the investment is made in teak plantations or similar.

3)Income based residency
This program applies to people who are not yet retired, who do not need to work while living in Costa Rica, who receive guaranteed income from private equity or other non-working financial sources and who can prove that the declared income can be insured at least 24 months or 2 years.
The applicant must be able to prove his ability to receive $ 2,500 per month of income (without working) for 24 months or 2 years.
The commonly used method of proving the so-called “annuity” income is by means of a notarized letter from a bank or financial institution stating that the applicant has on deposit at least US $ 60,000 ($ 2,500 x 24 months) on aaccount, and that he undertakes to withdraw at least US $ 2500 per month for the next 24 months.
For other sources of income called “annuity”, such as savings interest or dividends, it is not mandatory that the bank account be in Costa Rica.However, it is easier to obtain the bank letter required for residence when the account is held at a Costa Rican bank.
For married couples, the amount of $ 2,500 of income per month applies to only one of the two married couples or to applicants with dependent children.
Namely: Receiving income from any salary or having an employment contract (even in another country) prevents you from obtaining the status of annuitant.
Once the application is approved, the resident agrees to exchange $ 2,500 per month ($ 30,000 per year) for the equivalent in Colons (local currency) during the day and must live at least 1 day per year at Costa Rica.

4)Pension based retirement residency
This program applies to anyone who is already retired and already receiving retirement benefits.
What do you need to prepare your expatriation in Costa Rica as a retiree?
The retired person must submit proof of monthly income from a pension plan that covers at least US $ 1,000 per month. A pension plan may include, among other things, state or organization pensions, the Old Age Security pension, private pension plans, etc.
For this to be an eligible retirement plan, the pension must be paid for life to the requester. Once the status is approved, the resident agrees to exchange his pension or monthly pension that he receives in Euro or dollars in Colons (local currency) at the current rate.
For a married couple, only one person in the couple entitled to this status is sufficient to apply for residence. Once the application is approved the resident must live at least 1 day a year in the country.
Other Temporary Resident ResidencesTemporary residence in Costa Rica is often linked to a professional employment situation in the country.

But there are a multitude of other regimes to apply for temporary residence.

Thus, there are temporary residence plans for:

    • religious people
    • managers, executive or technical staff
    • specialized workers on their own account
    • workers in dependent relationship
    • scientists, trainees and professional
    • specialized technicians
    • sportsmen
    • Correspondents and staff of news agencies

    The Supporting Documents to Your Residency Application.When you apply for residency you must attach to your application the supporting documents to justify that application. Those documents that are required by law are the following. All documents issued in a foreign country must be authenticated for use in Costa Rica. The document authentication process is discussed in the next section. Also any document that is not in Spanish must be officially translated into Spanish before it will be accepted for immigration purposes.
    1. Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your birth certificate and that of your dependents.
    2. Marriage Certificate: If you are married and your spouse will be applying with you as well then you will also have to provide a certified copy of a marriage certificate.
    3. Proof of Income:
    a. Pension Based Income. If your source of income is a government pension then obtain a letter from your government certifying the income.
    Note for United States Citizens: U.S. citizens on Social Security can obtain this letter from the United States Embassy Federal Benefits Office located in San José. You must make an appointment online since they do not take walk ins.
    b. Rentista Based Income: If the source of income is from a Bank or Financial Institution then the letter must be on official letterhead and the signature of the bank official must be notarized.
    c. Investment in Costa Rica: If you are applying under the Inversionista category then you will need to document that investment by including: (i) A copy of the property deed. (ii) A certificate of property tax registration from your local municipal office. (iii) A C.P.A. certification of investment. More documents may be required if the property is owned by a Costa Rican corporation so consult with your Attorney on the specifics of this category before you apply.
    4. Police Certificate of Good Conduct: You must provide the Department of Immigration proof that you do not have any criminal history. To do so you must provide a certification from your local police authority where you last resided.
    This certification is obtained from the police department where you last resided. Note that this certificate is only valid for 6 months from the date they are issued. If this document expires while you are pulling together the rest of the documentation then you will have to obtain another one. If the document expires after you have submitted it to immigration and they have not processed your obligation you will NOT have to submit another one.
    5. Photocopy of Your Entire Passport. With your application you will need to provide a complete copy of your passport. This means every single page from front cover to back. You will also require a very clear copy of the date of the immigration stamp when you entered the country.
    6. Photographs: The application requires two (2) photographs. However we recommend you have at least six (6) photographs during the various stages of processing since you will need them for over stages of the process.
    7. Translation of Documents: Once you have compiled all your documentation, all documents which are in English must be translated into Spanish. This procedure can generally be handled by the Attorney that you have retained to process your application.
    8. Background Information Sheet (Hoja de Filiacion). This form requests the personal background information of the applicant and must be attached to the application. A sample of the form is shown here.
    9. Power of Attorney for Representation. If you have hired a local Attorney to process your application you will have to confer upon them a Power of Attorney to act on your behalf before the Department of Immigration.
    10. Proof of Registration With Your Local Embassy. Your local Embassy in Costa Rica must provide you with a letter or certificate indicating that you have registered with them. This is now a pre-requisite to the approval of immigration residency status in Costa Rica. Many embassies have an online registration system so you can register online and then print the registration form out to include with your residency application.
    For citizens of the United States the program is called the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program. Just register and print the form.
    11. Finger Prints for Interpol Background Check: This step is done in Costa Rica at the Ministry of Public Security. The applicant will be finger printed in Costa Rica and the prints will be checked with Interpol. You must take at least 3 photographs facing front.
    Under current regulations you can only be fingerprinted after you have filed your residency application. Once you have filed you will have a receipt of filing and with that document you can go to the fingerprinting office for processing.

    HOW DO I AUTHENTICATE MY DOCUMENTS ?All the supporting documents that must accompany your residency application must be authenticated in your country of origin.
    Costa Rica is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents which recognizes foreign documents that are Apostilled in their country of origin. If your country is also a member then have your certified documents certified in your country of origin by the government office in charge of handling the Apostille of documents. Once your document is Apostilled then in your country of origin it may be used in Costa Rica without further authentication procedures in Costa Rica.
    If your country is not a member of Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then you will need to interact with the Costa Rican Embassy or Consular office in your home country in order to have your documents authenticated. See the following article on the Legalization of Documents for Countries that are members of the Hague Convention.
    For citizens from the United States the authority in charge of Apostles is the Secretary of State of the state of the particular state where the document was issued. To find your local Secretary of State you can visit the site of the National Association of Secretaries of State for that information.
    If you are a Canadian citizen then your procedure is different because Canada is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. As such Canadian documents can be legalized at the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Office. Once that is done the documents will have to be sent to the Costa Rican Embassy in Ottawa for further authentication.
    In the case of European documents they must be legalized by the Foreign Relations office of the country where they were issued. If your country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then you can skip the Costa Rican Embassy and Consular authentication step.
    The following is an example of a Secretary of State authentication. Since the United States is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents this document could be sent directly to Costa Rica for legalization.