Obtaining Your Visa or Residency in Costa Rica
Citizens of the U.S. and Canada do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica. An immigration validation will be stamped into the passport upon entry, and this provides proof of legal status in the country. Your passport should be in good condition; Costa Rican authorities may deny entry if the passport is damaged.
Residency applications are processed by the Costa Rican Department of Immigration
( Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria), which is governed by the Ministry of Public Security and Police ( Ministerio de Gobernacion, Policia y Seguridad Publica).
All applications for residency must be filed in your country of origin, through your local consul, or directly with the Department of Immigration in San Jose.
The only current exceptions are 1) Rentista and Pensionado (retirement) Residency, and 2) Immediate Relative Residency Petitions.
The Department of Immigration states that it “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 or indirect investment.” “Direct” investment refers to direct investors and entrepreneurs, while “indirect” investment refers to Pensionado and Rentista visas.
Though Costa Rica’s immigration laws changed in 2010, they still offer prospective residents a wide range of options. You don’t have to make an immediate decision on your residency status. Most foreigners can remain in Costa Rica for up to three months on a tourist visa.
Here are some of the more popular visa options:
- Pensionado Program: It requires proof that you have at least $1,000 a month in income from a pension or other retirement plan. You won’t be able to work as an employee in Costa Rica, but you can own a company and receive dividends from it.
- The Rentista Program is for people without fixed retirement income. It requires proof of $2,500 monthly income for at least five years or a $150,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank approved by immigration authorities.
- If you want to invest at least $200,000 in Costa Rica, you can become a resident under the Inversionista Program, which applies only to investors, not their families.
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