Required Residency Documents
Follow these guidelines to obtain the documents necessary to file for temporary or permanent residency in Costa Rica. Some documents are more straightforward than others; if you have questions, we recommend you contact a skilled immigration lawyer. For more information, see important Immigration Addresses.
Birth Certificate and Criminal Record
To apply for temporary or permanent residency, you will need to present to Immigration an official copy of your birth certificate and a criminal history check issued by your home state or province. From the date of first issuance – receiving the document (Step 1) – you will have six months to turn these documents into Immigration. If more than six months pass, they will expire and you must begin again at Step 1.
- Each governmental agency will have its own procedures for obtaining an official birth certificate or police record. Please consult with each agency regarding specific requirements and forms.
- After you have obtained official copies of your required documents, they must be sent to the ruling state, provincial, or federal government for authentication. (For example, the Secretary of State.) This may also be called certification. If your home country is part of the Hague Convention on the Apostille, you should request that the documents be certified with the Apostilles seal. The Costa Rican government began to accept this seal in December of 2011. Contact your state or province for foreign authentication requirements. (U.S. Citizens, see State Authentication Authorities.)
- If your home country is not part of the Hague Convention, then after you have obtain state, provincial or federal authentication, you must authenticate your documents with the appropriate Costa Rican consulate. Check with your country’s central Costa Rican consulate office for more details. As of 2010, this service costs $40 per document. Again this is not necessary if you have an Apostilles Seal on your documents.
- A certified translator must translate your twice-authenticated documents into Spanish. This may be done in your home country or in Costa Rica. Your lawyer, local Costa Rican Consulate, or country’s embassy in Costa Rica can recommend an official translator.
- Once translated, your documents must be sent to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Casa Amarilla) in San Jose for document legalization. The cost for this service is ¢625 Costa Rican colones (about $1.15) per legalization.
To apply for temporary or permanent residency, you must submit to Immigration a comprobante de huellas, official proof that your fingerprints are on file with the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica. This is a free service.
At the time of fingerprinting, your passport is the only accepted form of identification. You must also present one recent, passport-sized photo. If you do not have one, there is usually someone outside of the Ministerio who will take your photo for a reasonable fee. (About $4 for six photos.)
You may also be asked to show documentation supporting your residency application. For example, if you are applying as the spouse of a Costa Rican, officials will check your marriage certificate; if you are applying as a Rentista, they will look at your proof of annuity payment. They will only look at your supporting documents; they will not keep them permanently.
A police official will conduct a brief interview for important details, including contact information and physical details (height, weight, hair and eye color, etc.) If you do not speak Spanish, ask for an English-speaking official. After you are fingerprinted, the police official will give you a small sheet of paper stamped with your thumbprint: this is the form that you must turn into Immigration.
Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS or “The Caja”)
All temporary and permanent residents are required to pay into the Costa Rican public health system. To begin the process, take a utility bill that shows your address and two copies of your passport to the Ebais (small clinics in suburbs) or CCSS health clinic that serves your locality. On your behalf, they will request a numero de asegurado, or health insurance number; this will take 8-15 days.
After your receive your insurance number, your local Ebais or health clinic will issue you a carne provisional, a provisional insurance ID card. Take that card to the CCSS central office that serves your locality; the Ebais or clinic staff can direct you to that building. There, you will pay your first insurance bill and receive a voucher. This voucher serves as proof you have paid the Caja; this is what you must take to Immigration.
As of September 2009, all foreigners living in Costa Rica are required to register at their nation’s consulate. Individuals from countries without a consulate in Costa Rica are exempt from this requirement. Likewise, immigrants with refugee or political asylum status are exempt from this requirement.
To register with your consulate, first call ahead. Your embassy may not take registrations every day of the week. For example, the U.S. Embassy only registers its citizens on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $30 and the process takes about 15 minutes (plus wait time). After registration, your embassy will issue a proof of inscripcion; this is what you must present at Immigration.
Investment Income (Rentista and Pensionado Temporary Residency)
Income Source Certification must be issued by the financial services organization (i.e. Banks, Mutual Funds, Capital Trust Firms) that handles your finances.
Effective March 2010, your proof of income must clearly state your name, your qualifications, and that you will be receiving via mail/electronic transfer/wire in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner a minimum monthly income of:
- Rentista: $2,500 U.S. dollars per month (previously $1000 per month) for at least five years starting on the date that the certification is issued.
- Pensionado: A lifetime pension payment of $1,000 per month (previously $600 per month).
Your proof of income must also state the existence, performance, and location of the bank issued by an official of the financial organization.
Investment Income (Inversionista Temporary Residency)
Inversionista residency is a multi-step process. You will need a lawyer’s help to assemble the following documents:
- Proof of an investment project valued at more than $50,000 (pre-approved tourism or priority reforestation), $100,000 (non-priority reforestation), or $200,000 (other investment), or the amount dictated by the Costa Rican government for specific investments.
- This project must be an investment that contributes to the country’s economic and/or social development; all investments that are for personal gain, such as real estate, are excluded.
- The document must describe in detail the project location as well as a timeline of current activities and the project’s critical path.
- Certification issued by a Certified Public Accountant that demonstrates your economic solvency and states that the company or project’s financial goals are within the parameters of the activity to which it is devoted.
- Reliable proof that the project is fully financed.