Obtaining a Costa Rica residence permit allows the holder to stay in Costa Rica long-term (more than 90 days) for the purpose of working, studying, retiring, or joining a family member, among others.

Costa Rica residence permits are issued after the foreign national is already in the country legally.

This article is a guide to Costa Rica Residence Permits.

Who needs a Costa Rica Residence Permit?

Everyone who wants to stay in Costa Rica for a period exceeding 90 days has to obtain a Costa Rica residence permit, regardless of their nationality.

Types of Costa Rica Residence Permits

There are two main types of Costa Rica residence permits: permanent and temporary.

A Permanent Costa Rica Residence Permit is issued for the following reasons:

  • If you have a Costa Rican family member that’s related by blood (parent, sibling, or child)
  • After you have lived in Costa Rica with a temporary residence permit for at least three years.

A Temporary Costa Rica Residence Permit, on the other hand, is issued for a more extensive list of purposes. The subcategories of Costa Rica residence permits offered to foreign nationals include:

  • Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permit for retirees (Pensionado)
  • Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permit for rentiers (Rentista)
  • Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permit for investors (Inversionista)
  • Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permit for spouses of a Costa Rican citizen
  • Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permit for foreign workers:
    • Specialized independent workers
    • Workers in relation of dependency
    • Scientists, professionals or interns
    • Specialized technicians
    • Athletes
    • Correspondents and news agencies
    • Religious workers or missionaries

The difference between the permanent and temporary Costa Rica residence permits is:

  • A permanent residence permit is indefinite while a temporary residence permit is issued for a maximum of two years and is renewable.
  • Depending on the type, a temporary residence permit does not automatically grant the holder rights to work – you would need to obtain a work permit as well.
  • A permanent residence permit allows the holder similar rights as a Costa Rica citizen, including employment rights.
  • You can only apply for a permanent residence permit from the start if you have blood relations with a Costa Rican. Otherwise, you may apply for permanent residence after spending three years with a temporary residence permit.

Costa Rica Temporary Residence Permits for Retirees, Rentiers, and Investors

Out of the temporary residence permits, the most commonly issued are for retirees (pensionado), rentiers (rentista), and investors (inversionista).

To qualify for a:

  • Temporary residence permit for retirees, you must have a pension income of at least $1,000 per month.
  • Temporary residence permit for renties, you must prove you have a stable income of a least $2,500 per month from an outside source (investment, property etc) and will continue to have it for at least two years.
  • Temporary residence permit for investors, you must invest at least $200,000 in Costa Rica in real estate, shares, or projects which are of national interest.

Costa Rica Residence Permit for Foreign Students

There is a third type of Costa Rica residence permit, known as a Special residence permit. It is issued to students, volunteers, academics or researchers (See also: Costa Rica Student Visa)

The requirements of Costa Rica Residence Permits

The documents you have to submit when you apply for a Costa Rica residence permit (as well as the provisional visa at the consulate) are:

When applying for a provisional visa at the Consulate of Costa Rica

  • A letter of application, addressed to the Consul of Costa Rica, clearly requiresting a Residency Provisional Visa. The letter must contain your full name, nationality, birth place and date, passport number, place and date of arrival in Costa Rica, exact address in Costa Rica, your occupation/profession, and contact information. It must also state the reason why you want a Costa Rica residence permit.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Certificate of police clearance from your country.
  • You valid passport and copies of all the pages on your passport, even blank ones.
  • If you have a Costa Rican relative: Birth/marriage certificate proving the family relationship from the Civil Registry of Costa Rica. The document cannot be older than two months.
  • Three recent passport-size pictures.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means.

When applying for a Residence Permit at the Immigration Department:

  • Application Form (Formulario de Filiación)
  • A letter of application addressed to the head of immigration, containing all the information as your letter of application to the Consulate. Do not sign the letter. You must sign it in front of the Migracion official at the time of application.
  • Proof of registration with the Costa Rica consulate.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Certificate of police clearance from your country.
  • You valid passport and copies of all the pages on your passport, even blank ones. After you arrive in Costa Rica, and before you apply at the immigration department, notarize the pages on your passport by a Costa Rican notary public.
  • If you have a Costa Rican relative: Birth/marriage certificate proving the family relationship from the Civil Registry of Costa Rica. No older than two months.
  • Three recent passport-size pictures.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means.
  • Proof of paid residence permit application fee.
  • Any additional documents related to your purpose of travel, such as proof of investment/retirement, employment contract, etc.

Keep in mind:

  • Translate all the documents in Spanish and legalize them.
  • Notarize your passport.

This is not an exhaustive list of documents. The requirements change depending on the type of residence permit you’re applying for.

How to Get a Costa Rica Residence Permit?

You have to apply for a Costa Rica residence permit at the Costa Rican Department of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería). However, before that, you must obtain a provisional visa from a Costa Rica consulate in your country (or the one nearest to you, if there is no Costa Rica consulate where you live).

Applying for a Costa Rica provisional visa

You have to apply for a provisional visa for Costa Rica in the same manner as you would a regular visa. You must submit the required documents (see below under “Requirements”) and wait for the visa to be processed.

In the interim, the consulate may ask you to obtain additional documents or even attend an interview.

After the visa is approved, you have 60 days to travel to Costa Rica and apply for your Costa Rica residence permit.

Costa Rican consulates may have different requirements and procedures, so your first step towards obtaining a Costa Rica visa should be contacting the consulate where you will apply.

Even if you do not normally need a Costa Rica visa to enter the country, you still have to register with a Costa Rican consulate before applying for a residence permit. Please check with the Costa Rican consulate in your country/nearest to you before you travel.

Applying for a Costa Rica residence permit

Once you are in Costa Rica, you should go to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería or another approved location and apply for a residence permit.

Before you apply for the residence permit, you have to register your fingerprints with the Ministerio Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security) in San Jose.

Here’s what you should keep in mind before applying for a residence permit in Costa Rica:

  • Get all the required documents before you travel
  • All the documents you submit have to be legalized. You can legalize your documents either through an Apostille stamp (if your country is included in the Apostille convention) or by the Costa Rican consulate in your country.
  • All the documents you submit have to be translated to Spanish by an official translator, if they are not already.
  • You may have to hire a Costa Rican lawyer to aid you with the application, especially if you do not speak Spanish, however, that is not a requirement.

You have to pay a $50 fee for the residence permit and an additional $200 to convert your visa to residency.

Can You Work With a Costa Rica Residence Permit?

You can only work in Costa Rica if you are a citizen or a permanent resident.

In all other cases, you will need to have a Costa Rica work permit. Your Costa Rican employer must apply for the work permit on your behalf.

However, as per Costa Rican immigration law, it is very difficult to obtain a work permit. That’s because Costa Rican authorities prioritize Costa Rican citizens in regards to employment. You may only get a work permit if the position you’re applying for is in considerable shortage and there was no Costa Rican who was suited for it.

With a Temporary Residence Permit for retirees, rentiers, or investors, you may own a business from which you get income, but you must hire employees – you cannot actually work yourself.

See Costa Rica Work Visa for more.

Can You Have Dependents With a Costa Rica Residence Permit?

Yes, all categories of Costa Rica residence permits allow the holder to have dependent family members with them.

Dependents include the spouse and children under 25 years of age. However, if a child is over 25 but dependent on the parent due to a physical or mental disability, they may also be included as a dependant.