By: Rosario Araya A.

How to become an official Costa Rican!

There are 3 routes to being approved for local residency in Costa Rica. All 3 involve providing evidence of your ability to bring U.S. dollars into the Costa Rican economy. One way is to provide proof of a life-long pension of at least $1,000 per month and become what is known as a “resident pensioner” or “pensionado.” Another is to apply as a “rentista,” someone with sufficient financial assets to guarantee at least $2,500 of income per month for two years. The third method requires a minimum investment of $200,000 in either a business or Costa Rican real estate. It is advisable to examine each particular situation with the help of a qualified immigration attorney before making a decision about your own move to Costa Rica, particularly if you wish to generate income while you are here.


This method applies to residency requests based on receiving a life-long monthly pension of no less than US$1,000. This income must originate from a qualified source such as a retirement plan company, social security, or another type of government payment.

Upon approval of the residency, the beneficiary may get involved in business activities but may not be hired as an employee.


A US$2,500 monthly income is required for a family group, which can include the applicant’s wife or husband and their children younger than 25 years old who are dependents of the main applicant. The income may come from a local or foreign bank.

The income must be documented by a letter from the bank certifying its obligation to provide the applicant with the monthly amount of US$2,500 for a term of no less than two years, in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner for that timeframe.

This letter must include the applicant’s name and the five elements of personal data required in all Costa Rican legal documents: full legal name, marital status, passport number, legal address, and occupation. It is a must for the letter to contain the specific statement listed above regarding the applicant’s bank providing the monthly amount.


This applies to residency requests based on investing a minimum amount of US$200,000 in either a business or Costa Rican real estate. The applicant must demonstrate that he/she owns a business or real estate in Costa Rica with a value equal to or higher than US$200,000.

If the property is owned by a company, ownership can be proven by the means of ownership of the company’s shares.

If the shares are not owned entirely by the main applicant, the value of the land will be prorated corresponding to his/her percentage of share ownership.

Required Documents for Residency Applications

The following is a summary of the principal residency application documents you will need to bring from your home country:

  1. Birth certificate. An original as issued by the respective authority with a very recent date of issue. A birth certificate for the applicant and each of your dependents (if any) is required. The document(s) must be issued by the appropriate authorities at the place of birth.
  2. Criminal or police record. Must be issued by the competent authority where you have lived for the last 3 years. This certification shall state that you have no criminal record in the country where the document was issued.
    If the certificate is from the United States, it must be a Federal Criminal Record issued by the FBI.
  3. Verification of income. The specific documents required for your application depend on the category of residency you select.
  4. Marriage certificate if applicable.

These documents MUST BE FILED WITH YOUR RESIDENCY APPLICATION WITHIN 6 MONTHS OF THEIR DATE OF ISSUE. The date of issue of each document is what is relevant to the deadline, not the date the required apostille was done.

What is an apostille?

An “apostille” is an additional form of authentication required for international acceptance of documents for use in countries that participate in agreements formed in the Hague Convention of 1961.

For U.S. documents, the Office of the Secretary of State provides “apostille” and authentication service to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals on documents which will be used overseas. For more information:

For documents originating in countries which were not part of the Hague Convention, authentication must be obtained from the Costa Rican Consulate located in the country of issue.

Other requirements to fulfill once you are in Costa Rica:

    This is required for both the applicant and each of his/her dependents to be included in the application process. The copy must be comprised of all pages (including blank pages).
    Six passport-size photographs with white background are required.
    All applicants must register with the Consulate of their home country of citizenship in Costa Rica. Each Consulate has its own requirements for this registration and they change from time to time so it is recommended that you establish direct contact with your Consulate to be informed of current applicable conditions.
    If the applicant’s country of citizenship does not have a Consulate in Costa Rica, this requirement can be met with a letter issued by the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirming this situation.
    Once the applications are filed before the Immigration Authorities, the applicant and their dependents –if any- need to be fingerprinted at the Ministry of Security. This requirement applies to the main applicant and each of his or her dependents twelve years or older.
    Fingerprinting starts a local investigation to ensure the applicant has a clean criminal record, and a request for INTERPOL to conduct an international search as well.
    The request for fingerprints is made on a form which must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Security. Our firm will guide you through this step at the Police Headquarters in San José.
    All applicants must register before CCSS after the residency application is approved. This registration will require a meeting with a CCSS inspector, the determination and payment of a monthly fee and obtaining social security cards with the local clinic (EBAIS). The amount to be paid for CCSS insurance ranges from 8-12% of the income you declare for CCSS purposes. Specific CCSS requirements may vary, therefore we recommend you consult with us when you are ready to apply in order to get a list of current
    Each resident’s ID card (DIMEX) must be renewed every two years.