Costa Rican residency grants foreign nationals the legal right to live in Costa Rica. If you plan to permanently relocate to Costa Rica, you should become a legal resident.
Temporary residency allows foreigners the right to live in Costa Rica for a set period of time, usually one to five years. The most common types of temporary residency are Rentista (Annuity Holder), Pensionado (Retiree), and Inversionista (Investor). As of March 2010, foreign spouses of Costa Ricans must apply for temporary residency.
Temporary residents are permitted to live in Costa Rica, own a business, and collect income from a business; they may not work in their own business or as an employee. As a temporary resident, you are subject to certain annual residency requirements, and may have to exchange a required amount of dollars each month. See more on Residency Eligibility.
There are two ways to obtain permanent residency: through first-degree relation to a Costa Rican or by holding temporary residency for a period of three years. Permanent residency must be renewed every year, but does not expire. Permanent residents may legally work in Costa Rica.
A first-degree relationship includes parents and children (under age 25) of Costa Rican citizens, minor siblings of Costa Rican citizens, and parents or siblings of disabled Costa Rican citizens. As of March 2010, Immigration no longer considers marriage a first-degree relationship status; spouses of Costa Rican citizens must file for temporary residency.
If you have held temporary residency – Rentista (Annuity Holder), Pensionado (Retiree), Inversionista (Investor), or Spousal – for more than three years, you are eligible to change your residency status to permanent resident. This request will be subject to a $200 fee.
Some residents choose to cement their link to Costa Rica by applying for citizenship through naturalization. You are eligible for naturalization after two years of marriage to a Costa Rican or seven years of legal residency.
A Note on Perpetual Tourism
Tourists from the United States, Canada, and many European countries are permitted to enter Costa Rica for up to 90 days without a visa. After 90 days, they are required to exit the country for at least 72 hours.
Starting in 2013 perpetual tourists who overstay the limit will be charged $100 for each month after the initial 90 days.
Tourists who live in Costa Rica and renew their entrance permit every 90 days are often called perpetual tourists. Perpetual tourism is not illegal, but it is not a form of legal residency . As a perpetual tourist, you will not have access to public services, such as the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (the public health system). Perpetual tourists are not allowed to legally work in Costa Rica.