Thanks to a website commenter on our most recent article, this week we will go through the steps of how you can transfer money to Costa Rica. Before you begin, though, you should note that in the last few years, the Costa Rican government began working to control money laundering with their watchdog government agency, SUGEF. As such, it has become more difficult to open a bank account here if not a resident (any non-resident can open a local account of up to $1000 USD). Basically, you need a reason to be sending money to Costa Rica. Once you own, or are in the process of buying, an asset locally, transferring money to Costa Rica becomes much more straightforward.
Prepare Your Paperwork
If you will be back in your home country soon after making your offer, then you can wire the funds personally from your bank to your escrow account in Costa Rica. If you will be here for an extended time and won’t be back in your home country to transfer the deposit and closing funds necessary, talk to your banker ahead of time. You can request authorization for wire transfers over the phone or give Power of Attorney for your account to a family member or friend.
Open a Costa Rica Bank Account
To open a non-limited bank account in Costa Rica, most banks require the following:
- A copy of your passport
- Your email address, phone number, and home address
- If you are from the U.S., your social security number may also be required
*Note: some banks require more information, subject to their own terms, such as 6 months statements from your bank and a notarized letter of reference. This may be subject to the amount that you want to transfer in order to ensure that they are your funds and not being laundered.
There are approximately 20 private banks in Costa Rica, along with a number of state-owned banking institutions. The state run banks tend to have longer lines, but better security and more favorable user agreements.
Some international banks with a strong market share include Citibank, HSBC, and Scotiabank. These banks generally have English-speaking tellers and the lines are considerably shorter than in the public banks. We currently only have public banks in the Costa Ballena region, like Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional. These banks have more ATM machines and offer state-insured deposits.
Open An Escrow Account
The escrow process allows potential buyers of property in Costa Rica to place a designated sum into the account of a disinterested third party for a set amount of time, aka the escrow agent. The conditions of a purchase agreement must be met before the money is released from the escrow account into the seller’s account.
In order to open an escrow account, you will also need to prove that you have available funds and where your money is coming from. SUGEF has issued specific regulations and requirements, which include:
- Recent phone, water or electric bill from your home country (no more than two months old)
- Color copy of your passport
- Color copy of a second piece of national ID, like a drivers license
- Your original, client-form signature (like on your passport)
- Proof of income (full Income Tax return version)
- Six months of bank statements showing all transactions and enough funds to cover the wire amount for closing (must be from the account that you will wire from and must be under your name)
- A referral letter from your home bank stating that you are in good standing