However, because the entry laws to Costa Rica are so lenient, most people who only live part time in the country rarely bother to take on the residency process. If planning to stay for more than 3 months then one has to exit the country at least every 90 days and for a minimum of 72 hours before being readmitted into Costa Rica for 90 additional days. After 90 days in Costa Rica most people make a quick escape to Panama, Nicaragua, the Colombian islands, Mexico Venezuela, or any other nearby countries to take a nice little vacation. If planning on repeating this process to stay in Costa Rica, it is not recommended. At some point immigration officials can deny entry.


*Immigration laws are frequently changing so please consult a lawyer for updates.

There are several different categories of immigration that an individual looking to relocate can select, depending on your circumstances including:


Thus far, the Ministry of immigration has not been very serious about enforcing too many additional regulations. Despite this fact, if planning on living in Costa Rica full time or very frequently then it is a much better option to apply for residency and avoid having to leave every 90 days which can sometimes be inconvenient and it can get costly. Additionally, at any time immigration officials can decide to not permit your re-entry if they feel  that someone is a perpetual visitor living in Costa Rica.

The newest immigration law number 8764 requires all foreign residents to register with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) social security office increasing participation by around 150,000 people.

If someone happens to overstay on a visitor visa they could be fined and deported, but then allowed to enter back in after at least 6 months has passed. The fines will not be very significant, around $100 per month that is overstayed.

However, if caught living or working in Costa Rica without proper residency or under a residence category that prohibits one from working, the person will be deported and will not be able to reenter for 10 years. Nevertheless, it is better to follow the rules and avoid illegal activities as to not ruin any future chances of visiting, staying, or living in Costa Rica.

Costs for first time documentation or renovation of immigration related documents will increase around $25 as of March 2010. The new laws also allow foreigners to do their paperwork and present here in Costa Rica instead of in their home country as it was before.

In August 2002, law 8487 passed declaring that for most immigration categories, immigration applications must be done in the applicant's home country and presented at a Costa Rican consulate in their areas jurisdiction.

Once one has filed a residency application Immigration will issue the applicant a document stating that their residency is in progress. During this wait time that the residency is being processed one is not required to leave the country, but can exit when needed. When leaving or entering the country simply show this stamped official immigration documents.

A foreigner cannot gain voting rights by becoming a resident. Costa Rican residency will not negatively affect US or Canadian citizenship either.  In Costa Rica, individuals are allowed to have dual citizenship ever since 1996; however, applying for Costa Rican citizenship might affect certain nationalities citizenship in a home country so please review the laws before applying.

There are a few benefits one can enjoy as a resident including:  having all the rights of a Costa Rican citizen except the right to vote, can manage businesses but not earn a salary, can earn on the dividends, receive up to a  50% discounts in many tourism related places in the country, but must reside in Costa Rica at least 4 months a year which does not have to be continuous.


* Please note that all documents must be translated, certified (legalized) by a Costa Rican Consulate in applicant's home country. Most residency categories must be solicited while applicats are still in their home country.

  • Immigration application with: First Name(s), Last Name(s), parent's names, and specification of which category you are applying for.
  • Birth certificate stating date, place of birth, and nationality.
  • Marital Status.
  • Full copy of all the pages of the passport notarized by a Costa Rican notary that includes the number of Passport with date of entry.
  • Criminal Record.
  • 4 recent photos.
  • And some money for fees, lawyers, etc.

*For special residency categories such as student visas, temporary visas, diplomatic or political status, refugees or others, consult a lawyer for more in depth information.

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