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Costa Rican Immigration

We recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney when considering moving permanently to Costa Rica, as the rules change with little notice. Contact Lic Bernal Chaverria at to get information on current status of immigration law.

Although it is true to say that there are many expats living in Costa Rica without a real immigration status we do not recommend that. Many expats living here as perpetual tourists i.e. they leave every 90 days to renew their visa by being out of country for 72 hours and then return for another 90 days and so they go on indefinitely. There are number of disadvantages to this, you cannot work or conduct business properly and will have all sorts of problems opening bank accounts etc.

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If your intention is to only live in Costa Rica part time, that is fine but of you are making a permanent move make the effort to get your Cedula de residencia (Residency permit).

Generally you will require the following to put in an residency application.

  1. Birth certificate.

  2. Certificate of clean criminal record.

  3. Marriage certificate and / or divorce certificates (if relevant)

  4. Physical presence in Costa Rica for finger printing at some stage.

  5. The documents must be authenticated by the Costa Rica Consulate closest to the place of issue and if not in Spanish must be translated.

Income Status

You may obtain residency by being able to prove an pension income of at least $600 a month or an Investment income of at least $1000. These figures are die to change in late 2009 so check with the attorney above on current status. This amount covers your spouse and all you family members under 18 if applicable.

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Company Status

Under this part of the immigration law any company with, under current law, a net worth of at least $150k can sponsor an employee to come and live and work in Costa Rica. There are specific documents required to ensure it is not just a ghost job. A company may apply for as many foreign workers as it wishes. Your permit is linked directly to the job offered and will only be valid while employed by that company. This covers a spouse and any children under 18 who can go to school but are not allowed to be employed.

Policy for Entrepreneurs

As in most countries a policy is available for individuals with a proven financial track record who want to do business in Costa Rica. There must be firm proposals and plans in place when the application is submitted. The application must prove that the business will support the applicant and they will not be any type of burden on the state, and that sufficient income will be produced. The business must operate under the law of the Country, and have all permits properly in place from all relevant authorities. You must have premises ready and you must prove the business makes financial sense. You will not be able to work for other businesses under this category and can only administer your own business.

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Work Permits of a Temporary Nature

This applies to temporary labor contracts and you must prove you have been legally hired by a Costa Rican company and a copy of a contract must be provided with your application.

Policy for Financially Independent Individuals

If you can prove you have substantial funds at your disposal and wish to reside on a permanent basis in Costa Rica this is the route to take. The Immigration ministry has discretion in cases of wealthy individuals, and this policy also changes from time to time so again consult with the attorney above, however of presented properly you will have no problems.

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Basically if you can show the authorities you will be no burden and have sufficient funds in place to look after yourself you will be fine. The sources of income must be documentable, i.e. rental from Real estate, Bonds, Interest payments, business rental, securities, bank accounts with a min of $100k in each account and all sources on monies that you can of course properly document and prove.

Family Unification

Legal Marriage and or Parents and Children as Costa Rican citizens.


We recommend that you choose one of the above many choices if wanting to live permanently in the country.

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Isthmus Real Estate — San Jose, Costa Rica

Office in Hotel Barceló San José Palacio

Phone: (506) 8391-9051, 2291-0208 • eMail: