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Residency in Costa Rica

All residency applications are processed by the Costa Rican Department of Immigration (Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria) which in turn is overseen by the Ministry of Public Security and Police (Ministerio de Gobernacion, Policia y Seguridad Publica). The entire process can be completed by an individual themselves for submission but this option obviously requires a good working knowledge of the process, excellent Spanish skills and some help from the Immigration Ministry. The best option is to have an attorney handle the gathering of the documents, authentication, translation and waiting in line for various processes to take place. It is also best to have an experienced attorney, one who does a lot of immigration cases, complete the work. Those who practice in San Jose are closest to the Immigration offices and seem to have the best track record getting things done in a somewhat timely manner.

In the past the Department of Immigration required that applications be filed in your country of origin through the Costa Rican Consular Office in your area. Under the current law the Department of Immigration will accept applications filed in Costa Rica directly with the Department of Immigration. However, if you file in Costa Rica as opposed to outside of Costa Rica then, in addition to the $50 application fee you will be charged an additional $200 fee for a change of status fee. You will still need to interact with the Costa Rican Embassy or Consular Office in your home country to have you documents authenticated. If your country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then your certified documents should be “Apostilled” in your country of origin. You should note though that documents issued in a given state, such as a birth certificate, need to be issued an apostille from the secretary of states office for that state. In example, a person born in California can not have the document issued an apostille in New York where they reside. Once completed, the documents may be sent directly to Costa Rica to the Ministry of Foreign Relations for authentication thus skipping the Embassy/Consular authentication process. These documents are good for six months from the date of issuance of authentication. If your documents have not been submitted within the six month “window” new ones will need to be obtained.

For list of Embassy and Consular Offices of Costa Rica around the world see the list on the Ministry of Foreign Relations site: Embassy and Consular List. Once you have submitted your residency paperwork, and it has been accepted as complete by Immigration, you will be issued a “comprobante”. This is a file number for your submission along with your name and passport number, date and type of residency submission and a few other details. This piece of paper currently relieves you from the requirement to leave the country every 90 days while you are “In Tramite”. This comprombante should be carried along with your passport if you decide to take advantage of this provision in the law in case you are stopped by law enforcement.

Be advised that the residency procedures change from time to time. Since Costa Rica has become an attractive destination for many the processing of immigration applications at time has overwhelmed the Immigration processing system. As such, there are considerable delays in processing new applications. Also, the approval of residency is a discretionary matter of the Department of Immigration. The Department of Immigration favors applicants that can demonstrate that they will provide a financial benefit and contribute to create employment for Costa Rica citizens either in the form of direct investment (investors, entrepreneurs) or indirect investment (Rentista and Pensionados) .

The Residency options available in Costa Rica under the current immigration law (8764) are discussed below: