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Pensionado and Rentista Residency

Costa Rica has had a Pensionado (Retiree) and Renitsta program for more than 40 years. This program continues to date as follows:

If you are planning to retire in Costa Rica and you have a pension or investment income then you may qualify for either PENSIONADO RESIDENCY or RENTISTA RESIDENCY. This program is governed by the New Immigration Law which confers residency status as follows:

1. PENSION BASED RESIDENCY [Pensionado]

The Pensionado (Retiree) applicant must demonstrate a permanent fixed income from a pension or similar retirement income of at least US$1,000 per month. The typical applicant in this category has a government, private sector pension or social security retirement benefits. The documentation required is easily obtained from the Social Security Administration, state retirement systems or other retirement plans.

2. INVESTMENT AND INCOME BASED RESIDENCY [Rentista]

To apply for residency under the Rentista portion the applicant must demonstrate a permanent fixed income of at least US$2,500 per month. This amount includes the applicant, their spouse and all their children which are under the age of 25.

Generally, those who seek the Rentista category do not have a pension source and instead have investment income. To apply for this category it is necessary to provide proof of the investment and that it will generate the requisite amount per month which is required under this program. As such the applicant must provide a letter from their bank or financial institution where your funds are deposited certifying the existence of that income. It is not required that the funds be held in Costa Rica. The letter can be issued by international banks as well as Costa Rican banks.

The ideal letter issued by the financial institution should state that the recipient will receive at least US$2,500 per month in Costa Rica in a stable and permanent manner.

In both cases, Pensionado and Rentista the beneficiaries must comply with the following:

Prove that the funds were deposited in Costa Rica. This issue generally comes up when you are going to renew your residency category. When you renew your status you will be asked to provide proof that the funds have been sent to Costa Rica. As such keep records of all deposits until you complete your renewal of status. The easiest way to comply with this requirement is to ask your bank to issue a letter stating that you have an account with them and indicating that during the year you have exchanged the amount required by the immigration law i.e. $12,000 per year for Pensionado or $ 30,000 per year for Rentista.

Contribute to the Social Security System of Costa Rica. The current Immigration law (8764) requires that all residency holders must contribute towards the Costa Rican Social Security and Medical System (C.C.S.S.) The easiest way to comply is to request a voluntary policy known as seguro voluntario. The amount you pay is based upon the amount of income you report. Since the law establishes the monthly requirement i.e. $1,000 for Pensionado and $2,500 for Rentista those are the amounts they will base the payment on. For Pensionado that generally translates into a monthly social security payment of around $50 per month..

A. The Rentista and Pensionado Application Process

The application for Rentista or Pensionado status can be filed through the Costa Rican Embassy or Consular office in your country of origin or directly at the offices of the Department of Immigration in Costa Rica. Before the application can be prepared the applicant must compile all the supporting documentation that is required for the application as follows:

1. Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your birth certificate and that of your dependents. The certified copy must be sent to the Costa Rican consulate for your jurisdiction for authentication. The consulate charges US$40 for each document to be authenticated. Be advised that the Department of Immigration will not accept any supporting documentation which has not been authenticated by a Costa Rican Consul.

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. The certificate must also be authenticated by a Costa Rican Consulate.

3. Proof of Income: If your source of income is a government pension then obtain a letter from your government certifying the income (US citizens on Social Security can obtain this letter from the United States Embassy -Consular Section in Costa Rica).If the income is from a Bank or Financial Institution then it must issue the letter. All documents should be authenticated by the Costa Rican Consulate.

4. Police Certificate of Good Conduct: This certification is obtained from the police department where you last resided. This certification also needs to be authenticated by a Costa Rican or directly with the Ministry of Foreign Relations Consulate if the issuing country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents. 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. 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 2 photographs facing front and 2 face to the side.

6. Photographs: The application requires photographs during the various stages of processing and we recommend that you take at least 4 photographs facing the front.

7. 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 where you entered the country.

8. 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.

9. Power of Attorney for Representation. If you have hired an 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. Background Information Sheet (Hoja de Filiacion). This form requests the personal background information of the applicant and must be attached to the application.

11. 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.

As previously indicated all documents that are issued in your country of origin such as a birth certificate, police certificate, marriage certificate etc.. must go through the documenta legalization and authentication process. This means the documents you will use for the residency process must first be be obtained from your vital records office and then certified by your local authenticating govenment agenty. In the United States that would be the Secretary of State of the state where the document was issued. In the case of Canadian documents they can be legalized at the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Office. 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 / 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.
Your documents are ready for use in Costa Rican when they have been certified by the Ministry of Foreign Relations The following is what the certification looks like. If your document does not have a certification from the Ministry of Foreign Relations it cannot be used in Costa Rica. The Embassy/Consulate charges $40 for each document authentication. Once you have all the documentation set forth above you are ready to submit your application to the Department of Immigration through the Costa Rican Consulate in your country of origin. The cost of the application is $50 which must be paid to the Department of Immigration. by way of deposit to their account at the Banco de Costa Rica. If you apply locally instead of via your Consular office you will have to pay an additional $200 with your application since they consider this a change of status from a “tourist” status to the new category you are applying for. Generally the Department of Immigration will only receive applications that are accompanied with ALL the supporting documentation. Keep in mind that all the original documents that you submit become the exclusive property of the Department of Immigration and will NOT be returned to you.

Within the application process you will be required to provide the Department of Immigration with the following information:

1. Full Name, 2. Nationality, 3. Occupation, 4. Name of your Father, 5. Name of your Mother, 6. Name of your Spouse, 7. Race, 8. Color of your Eyes, 9. Color of your hair, 10. Your height (in meters), 11. Your weight (in kilos), 12. Marital Status, 13. Place of Birth, 14. Date of Birth, 15. Original Entry Date into Costa Rica, 16. Point of Entry into Costa Rica, 17. Physical Address in Costa Rica, 18. Telephone number in Costa Rica.

Once you application is received you will be given a receipt. This receipt is important since it is your proof that you have a pending residency application with the Department of Immigration. Your application first goes to the Legal Department within Pensionado/Rentista Section of the Department of Immigration who will review all the documentation for compliance. If all your paperwork is in order the Legal Department will forward the application to the approval committee for final evaluation. If there are any defects in the application the Legal Department will notify your legal representative of the defect and request that it be corrected before it will submit the application for approval.

If your application is approved then the Department of Immigration will issue a formal resolution indicating the date on which the application was approved. You or your legal representative must appear at the Department of Immigration for formally retrieve the resolution. Once you have the final resolution and have registered with the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS) then you can request an appointment with the Department of Immigration to have them issue you a picture identification residency card. Below is a copy of the Document Receipt Form

B. Renewal of Pensionado/ Rentista

In order to renew you residency status under this category you must first must demonstrate that the income was received in Costa Rica. The renewal process has greatly improved since the Department of Immigration created an alliance with Banco de Costa Rica one of the largest banks in Costa Rica. As such residency holders can renew their residency status at some of the branch offices of Banco de Costa Rica. To do so you call their 900 number which is 900-00-34639 to request a renewal appointment. They have English speaking phone operators if you request it.