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Complete guide to obtaining a Costa Rica retirement visa

Costa Rica has one of the highest living standards in Latin America. That, along with the beautiful beaches, affordable real estate, fantastic year-round weather, and rich culture are just some of the many reasons retirees choose Costa Rica as their number one retirement destination.

To retire in Costa Rica, you need to obtain a retirement visa, also known as a Pensionado Visa.

Who Can Apply for a Retirement Visa in Costa Rica?

To qualify for the Pensionado Visa, you must receive a lifetime monthly pension of at least $1,000 individually. This can be through social security, annuities, retirement funds, military pensions, or other retirement benefits. Costa Rica has no minimum age requirement for pensioners.

Documents For a Costa Rica Retirement Visa

These are the documents you need to submit to complete the application for a Costa Rica retirement visa:

  • A request letter stating the reasons for your application in Costa Rica. The request letter must include your first and last name of the lawyer, nationality, age, occupation, address, etc. The letter must be signed by an immigration officer or through a Public Notary.
  • Two recently taken photographs. The photograph format should be passport-sized; you must be facing the camera and in clear view.
  • Completed and signed application form. The application form is provided by the Costa Rica immigration services or the embassy/consulate in which you are applying.
  • Proof of fingerprint registration, issued by the Ministry of Public Safety. This is not applicable for dependents under the age of 12.
  • Birth certificate, issued by your country of origin, legalized and authentically annotated (not older than six months).
  • A legalized and authentically annotated certificate of your past criminal record from your home country or the place you have been living for the past three years. U.S applicants should submit a Federal Criminal Background Certificate not older than six months. 
  • Copies of passport pages. All copies must be certified and compared to the original by the official or through a Public Notary.
  • Lifetime pension issued by the competent authority. A certificate indicating that you will be receiving a monthly pension of more than $1,000. 
  • For accompanying dependents: Submit supportive documentation such as a marriage or birth certificate or any medical certificates proving dependency. 
  • Proof of paid fee. Once you pay the requested fee, attach the receipt to the rest of the documents.
  • Payment of $1.25 and $2.50 for each page submitted with the residency request.

NOTE: All documents issued abroad must be legalized and authenticated or apostilled by the Costa Rican Consulate and then certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. Documents issued in a language other than Spanish must be translated through an official translator through a Public Notary.

How to Apply For a Retirement Visa in Costa Rica?

There are two ways you can apply for a Costa Rican Retirement visa:

  • At the Department of Immigration in Costa Rica.
  • At a Costa Rica consular office abroad.

Applying for a Retirement Visa in Costa Rica

If you are in Costa Rica, you must submit your application for a retirement visa at the Costa Rican Department of Immigration. You have to apply through the Platform of Services of the central offices of the Department of Immigration or one of the regional offices. The process is as follows:

  1. Complete the document checklist. If there are any documents missing, you will have ten days to submit them. If it takes longer to submit the missing documents you must submit a written request to extend the deadline.
  2. Submit the documents at the Department of Immigration. After submission the documents will be reviewed and put into the system. 
  3. Review your application. You will receive a document with your personal information, file number, and the list of submitted documents. You must review it to make sure the information is correct.
  4. Wait for a decision on your visa application. The department takes 90 days to reach a decision. If you have included a fax number in the application, you will receive the decision through fax. If you did not, you should go to the Platform of Services in person and ask for your application status.

Applying for a Costa Rican Retirement Visa Abroad

If you are abroad, you can apply for a Costa Rica retirement visa at a Costa Rican consulate or embassy. The process is as follows:

  1. Set an appointment. Contact the nearest Costa Rican consular office in your home country and set an appointment. You may have to visit the office in person or ask for further information.
  2. Complete the list of documents. You must have the full list of required documents when you submit your application. See “Documents For a Costa Rica Retirement Visa” below.
  3. Complete the application form. You can get an application form for a retirement visa at the embassy or consulate or the immigration services of Costa Rica. complete the form and attach it to the rest of your application.Check the documents and make sure there are no missing documents.
  4. Submit the application and wait for an answer. On the date of your appointment, submit all the required documents, as requested by the embassy/consulate. You may have to wait for up to 90 days to hear a decision on your application.

Costa Rica Retirement Visa Fee

The fee for a Costa Rican retirement visa is $50 or each applicant. You have to pay the fee via bank transfer at the bank account provided by the Department of Immigration in Costa Rica. When applying for a retirement visa from abroad, the consulate or embassy will provide you with the relevant bank details for payment of the visa fee.

What Is the Duration of a Retirement Visa for Costa Rica?

The Costa Rica Pensionado Visa is valid for two years. After two years, you can apply for a renewal of your retirement visa. You need to provide proof of a $1,000 monthly income.

Can My Family Members Come With Me?

Yes, the Costa Rica retirement visa allows you to bring your family to reside in Costa Rica. The eligible family members who can apply with you include:

  • Your spouse.
  • Dependent, unmarried, children under the age of 25.
  • Children over the age of 25 who are dependent on you or your spouse due to a disability.

Can I Get Permanent Residency in Costa Rica With a Retirement Visa?

Yes, after having a temporary residence permit for three or more years, you can apply for a permanent residence which can be renewed every five years.

How Much Money Do You Need to Retire in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica might not be the cheapest option when it comes to living costs. However, location and lifestyle are two key factors that affect your retirement budget. 

But, overall, Costa Rica is cheaper than the US, and you can live comfortably with $1,000 to $1,500 per month, including rent. 

Keep in mind that settling in cities like San Jose, Escazu, Tamarindo, or Puntarenas will cost you more than settling in a rural area and a smaller city.

Healthcare for Retirees in Costa Rica

Healthcare in Costa Rica is considered one of the best in Latin America. There are two healthcare systems expats can have access to:

  • CCSS – Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Caja)
  • Private Healthcare 

CCSS – Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Caja)

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is in charge of most of the nation’s public health sector and offers services available for all citizens and permanent legal residents. 

As a retired expat, you will be required to pay for the use of the public healthcare system. The amount you will need to pay depends on the financial amount you declared during your retirement visa application. 

You can sign-up for Caja after entering Costa Rica. Visit the nearest Caja office and submit the required documents to start the application.

Private Health Insurance

Private healthcare insurance in Costa Rica will offer you access to a higher standard of quality of medical care and facilities.  You can pay for private treatment with cash.

Most of the population in Costa Rica chooses private insurance to avoid long waits at medical facilities or delayed treatment.

Even though it is more expensive than Caja, private health insurance is still very affordable for everyone.

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