Costa Rica Visa Residence Information
Obtaining Your Visa or Residence 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. You must also provide proof of onward travel out of Costa Rica within 90 days, the amount of time your “tourist visa” is valid. This could be your return plane ticket or a ticket to another country. If you would like to stay longer, you must leave Costa Rica and re-enter. You can do this by flying back to your home country or by traveling to the land border with Nicaragua or Panama.
Residence 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 residence must be filed in your country of origin, through your local consul, or directly with the Department of Immigration in San Jose. It is recommended you also hire an attorney in Costa Rica to handle your residence application, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
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. You can renew your tourist visa as needed by making “border runs.” But if you plan to live in Costa Rica long term it is best to seek residence.
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, Social Security 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 two years or a $60,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank approved by immigration authorities.
If you want to invest at least $200,000 in Costa Rica in a business or commercial or residential property (including your home), you can become a resident under the Inversionista Program, which applies only to investors, not their families.
*Prices as of 2015
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