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  • Writer's pictureFrançois Lanthier

Relocating to Costa Rica: The Basics

Costa Rica allocates 20% of its GDP to social programs, which has resulted in Costa Ricans, referred to as Ticos, enjoying a higher quality of life compared to their neighbors in nearby countries. The improved living conditions attract not only Nicaraguan immigrants but also individuals from North America, including Canada and the U.S., who choose to establish new lives in the country.

Ranked as the second-best foreign country to retire to by Conde Nast Traveler, Costa Rica appeals to a diverse demographic, whether it's retirees, families raising children, or young singles. This guide is a valuable resource for anyone planning to relocate to Costa Rica.

A concise overview of Costa Rica

Situated in Central America, Costa Rica shares borders with Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Area: 19,730 square miles (51,100 square kilometers)

Capital: San José (where 20% of the population resides)

Key urban centers: Heredia, Cartago, and Alajuela Population: Approximately 5.2 million individuals

Percentage of foreign-born residents: Roughly 9% of the total population

Official language: Spanish Ethnic composition: 84% Caucasian or Mestizo, 2.4% indigenous Costa Rica is renowned as a haven for nature enthusiasts. Its national parks and coastlines attract tourists from across the globe. Moreover, the nation has gained a reputation for its exceptionally hospitable atmosphere. The national motto, "pura vida," which translates to "pure life," embodies an appreciation for life's simple joys.

Is it possible for citizens of the U.S. or Canada to relocate to Costa Rica?

Individuals from the United States and Canada who meet specific criteria have the opportunity to move to Costa Rica.

What are the prerequisites for relocating to Costa Rica? Costa Rica provides temporary residence visas for retirees, educators, executives, rentiers, spouses of Costa Rican citizens, and permanent residents.

For any of these visas, you will need to undergo fingerprinting, arrange for a criminal background check in your home country, and submit the results. Additionally, there are associated fees. In most instances, the application fee is $50, with an extra charge of $1.25 to $2.50 for each page submitted along with the visa application. An up-to-date American or Canadian passport is also mandatory.

Distinct requirements for specific visas include:

Retiree: This program caters to retirees and their spouses, minor children, and disabled adult children. Proof of a consistent income of at least $1,000 is necessary. Typically, a notarized letter from the pension provider and bank statements suffice.

Educators: Teachers and researchers can qualify for a temporary visa after securing employment with a Costa Rican employer. Submission of an official job offer letter or contract is required as evidence of employment.

Executives: Executives, managers, and highly skilled technical workers engaged by companies in Costa Rica can attain a temporary residence visa for themselves and their families. A letter or contract from the employer demonstrating employment is necessary.

Rentiers: If you receive a steady monthly income of at least $2,500 from investments or royalties, you can apply for a rentier's temporary visa. Proof of receiving this income for at least two years, showcased through bank account statements, is required, along with evidence of its continuation through contracts or an investment account statement.

Spouse: If you're married to a Costa Rican citizen or permanent resident, you can secure a temporary residence visa by presenting a marriage certificate.

How can you acquire a visa to relocate to Costa Rica? To acquire a temporary residence visa for moving to Costa Rica, you will need to visit a Costa Rican embassy or consulate office in the U.S. or Canada. You can arrange an appointment by contacting the nearest location.

Investor Visa (Inversionista)

Costa Rica provides a temporary residency visa within the "inversionista" category to foreign individuals who intend to move to the country and have made an investment.

The stipulated investment amount is $150,000 and can be directed towards active business, real estate, stocks or securities, or forest plantations (with a required investment of $100,000). The applicant's spouse and children under 25, or older ones with disabilities, can be included in the application.

This permit is valid for 2 years and is renewable, contingent upon maintaining the investment. For renewal, it's necessary to demonstrate residing in the country for at least 6 months per year, continuously or intermittently.

Holders of the inversionista visa are allowed to establish businesses or generate income from their investments, but they are not permitted to work as employees.

Once an individual has legally lived in Costa Rica with any temporary residence permit for a duration of 3 years or more, they may become eligible for permanent residency.

Permanent Residency in Costa Rica enables employment as an employee for a Costa Rican employer, and the minimal annual stay requirement is to visit the country for 72 hours once a year. Permanent residency is personal and does not encompass dependents.

Renewal of permanent residency is necessary every 5 years.

Foreigners who share a first-degree relationship with a Costa Rican citizen, such as a spouse or child, may also apply for a permanent residency visa, even if they don't fulfill the regular residency conditions.

After residing legally for 7 years with either a temporary or permanent residency visa, a foreigner can seek citizenship through naturalization. Gaining citizenship through naturalization grants the privilege of acquiring a Costa Rican passport. Dual citizenship is typically allowed; those who become naturalized citizens usually aren't required to renounce their previous citizenship.

To attain citizenship, proficiency in spoken and written Spanish is required, along with passing an examination about Costa Rican history and values. Additionally, two witnesses who can attest to the applicant's behavior and livelihood are necessary.

Does Costa Rica provide visas for digital nomads?

Costa Rica introduced a visa for digital nomads in July 2022, allowing individuals to temporarily move to a different country while working remotely for an employer in their home country.

Eligibility criteria include:

Possession of medical insurance covering your stay Earning at least $3,000 per month or $4,000 if accompanied by a spouse and children (verified by bank statements) Providing evidence of ongoing employment throughout your stay The digital nomad visa is valid for one year and can be extended for an additional year. Applications can be made online or at an embassy or consulate in your home country, with a fee of $100.

Is permanent residency feasible in Costa Rica? Most temporary residence visas are valid for 1-2 years, with the possibility of renewal if you comply with Costa Rican laws and request an extension before the expiration date.

After three years of continuous residence in Costa Rica, you might be eligible for permanent residency. Application for residency must be submitted at a Costa Rican immigration office. Expatriates who live in Costa Rica full-time for seven years with either a permanent or temporary visa could be eligible for citizenship. The embassy or consulate office can provide specific details about the procedure and assist in determining the immigration office closest to your intended residence.

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