Have you ever wondered how to get residency in Costa Rica? Below is a full description of all of the possible ways to apply to become a legal resident and what you need to make it happen.

“How can I become a legal resident of Costa Rica?” is a natural question for travelers who have visited this country a number of times. It is, after all, a nation of unparalleled beauty and natural wonders; filled with friendly people and delicious, fresh foods. People become easily enamored after spending any amount of time here and vacations can quickly turn into relocations. So, what now? How do you make your elongated stay happen the right way?

A typical beginning for most expats in Costa Rica is to assume a “perpetual tourist” status, leaving the country every 90 days and re-entering on a tourist visa. This can happen at either of the borders of Costa Rica, or by flying out of the country to another destination. It does, however, quickly become tedious to make these quarterly trips, and the better option becomes to apply for legal resident status in Costa Rica.

Most applicants will choose to use a lawyer or immigration consultant as it can be difficult to negotiate the process on your own. Your fluency in Spanish and level of patience are the main factors that will determine if it is a better option for you to hire a reputable and reliable professional to assist you in the application process. But before you begin, take a look through the main categories for application and see which one might be your preferred option for becoming a legal resident of Costa Rica.

How to apply for residency in Costa Rica


This residency type is for retirees who have a steady pension income to declare with their residency application.

  • Requires proof of US $1,000 per month income from permanent pension source or retirement fund.
  • Must visit Costa Rica at least once a year.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
  • Cannot work as an employee.
  • Can own a company and receive dividends.

Rentista Residency in Costa Rica

To apply under this residency scheme, you must be able to prove a steady income from a foreign source.

  • Requires proof of US $2,500 per month income for at least two years, guaranteed by a banking institution, OR a US $60,000 deposit in an approved Costa Rican bank. One amount covers the family.
  • Must visit Costa Rica at least once a year.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
  • Cannot work as an employee.
  • Can own a company and receive dividends.

Special requirements for Pensionado and Rentista applicants

  • Income must be proven to continue at each renewal.
    • Pensionado: US $12,000 per year
    • Rentista: US $30,000 per year
  • Must visit Costa Rica once a year for at least three days.
  • Renewal of residency identification card must happen every two years. The government of Costa Rica charges a US $100+ tax for each renewed identification card.
  • You and your dependents cannot earn a salary or supplant a Costa Rican in a work situation. You can own and operate a business and pay yourself, and/or make investments.
  • All pensionados and rentistas must submit proof of income to the Costa Rican government each year.


This is the most popular type of application that any foreign investor can apply for, as long as they prove the following:

  • Investment of US $200,000 in a business or property.
  • Must visit Costa Rica at least once a year.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
  • Income allowed from the project.
  • Can own a company and receive dividends.

Representant Residency Program

Those who create a business in Costa Rica can use this as a foundation for applying for residency, as long as they meet the below requirements:

  • Applicant must be a director of a company meeting certain requirements, such as employing a minimum number of local workers as established by the labor law, with financial statements certified by a Public Accountant.
  • Must visit Costa Rica at least once a year.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
  • Can earn an income from the company.
  • Can own a company and receive income.

Permanent Residency Costa Rica

Choosing to start a family in Costa Rica has its benefits, which include the ability to obtain permanent residency status. You can also apply for permanent residency after three years in one of the above statuses.

  • First-degree relative status with a Costa Rican citizen (through marriage or by having a Costa Rican child)
  • Must visit Costa Rica at least once a year.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 18 years of age.
  • Can work.
  • Can own a company and receive income.

Required Documents for Residency Application

The first three documents are required for all types of residency in Costa Rica (valid six months from issued date).

1. Police Certificate of Good Conduct from your last place of residency. Valid for 6 months. Required for applicant, spouse, and any children ages 15 to 25.

2. Birth Certificate. Required for applicant, spouse, and all dependent children (up to 18 years old or up to 25 if a university student — proof of enrollment is required).

3. Marriage Certificate (if spouse wishes residency). Proof of a prior divorce is not needed.

4. Income Certificate for Pensionado and Rentista Residency (required for the applicant only and valid six months).

  • Proof of a pension of at least US $1000/month stating that it is for life and that it will be paid in Costa Rica.
  • For pensions from the U.S. Social Security or Canada Pension, it is easier to obtain the certification at the U.S. or Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica.
  • Pensions from other government agencies (all countries) must have a letter stating that the pension is paid by the government.
  • Pensions from other institutions must have a statement verifying the type of institution paying the pension.
  • Married Couple Pension Income: A married couple needs to show proof of only one (1) monthly pension of at least $1,000 US for both husband and wife to qualify to apply for residency. The pension recipient can be either spouse.

All the above residency documents (other than those obtained in Costa Rica) must be:

  • Notarized by a local public notary if they do not have an official government seal. If in doubt about the need to have it notarized, check with the local Costa Rican consulate or an organization like the ARCR.
  • In the USA (and most countries) they must then pass through the Secretary of State (or another body) to be Apostilled.
  • If Apostilles are not available in your country, they must be Consularized (authenticated) by the Costa Rica Consulate in the country where the document was issued.

Notarization: Your signature must NOT appear in the notarization of the document.

Apostilles: Cost varies from country to country, as does the authority who issues them.  Contact organizations like the ARCR for specifics.

Authentication: A Costa Rican consulate will charge US $40 for authentication of each document. They must affix stamps worth that amount to collect the money. If they do not have the stamps, the ARCR can buy them in Costa Rica on your behalf. There is now a $250 application fee in Costa Rica.

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