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Urgent COVID-19 Announcement
Updated March 24, 2020
– Short-term Tourists.
– Legal Expat Residents and Citizens.
– Clients awaiting approvals on overdue Residency Applications.
– Perpetual Tourists or Snowbirds.
– Those of you planning to apply for Costa Rica Residency or Citizenship.
On March 24th. The Government of Costa Rica announced further measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- A complete closure of all the country´s beaches;
- A mandatory closure of all places of worship and religious services;
- A vehicle restriction from 10.00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (effective March 24th with exceptions to be published). Violators will receive a fine of 28.187 CRC (approx. $50 CAD);
- Effective March 24th. All foreigners with legal residency status that leave the country will automatically lose their residency status.
NOTE: The last edict was a preventative and punitive measure to curb the border running, but mostly to curb legal Nicaraguan residents in Costa Rica from returing home to Nicaragua for Semana Santa (which they do every year) The CR government does not want them to come back after Easter form Nicaragua where there seems to be little prevention of the spread of COVID-19. So everyone please stay put until the travel bans are lifted. At that time this edict will be lifted or at least amended. At that time, you will be able to leave and return to Costa Rica without the loss of your residency status.
March 19th update
The Costa Rica Department of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería – DGME)
- The DGME will not receive residency applications until May 17, 2020. Check with Laura if you were counting of submissions during this time.
- Documents that will expire within this period will have their validity extended to July 17, 2020. So don’t panic.
- The DGME will continue to process overdue applications during this time. Will they catch up? We hope so!
- Application status notifications will be issued throughout this time. All notifications will be issued by fax and email only to Laura on your behalf.
- No admittance to any residency service providers/lawyers to Immigration to expedite applications until May 17.
- First-Time Residency Cards (DIMEX) processing – (the last step in getting your residency card): Done only by appointment at a participating Correos de Costa Rica (Post Office) or Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) nearest your location. Best bet will be Correos de Costa Rica.
- Renewals of Vinculo residencies (marriage to a Costa Rican national) can only be done at The Department of Immigration (DGME) main office in San Jose, but not until May 17. Same for Inversionista Residency renewals. Pensionado and Rentista residency renewals can still be done at participating Correos de Costa Rica or Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) nearest your domicile.
- Tourists (non-Residents) who entered the country after December 17, 2019, may legally remain in Costa Rica until May 17, 2020. Then they must leave or pay a fine for overstaying at the time they do eventually leave. Don’t refuse to pay that fine if you plan on returning to Costa Rica, or the next entry will not go well.
On April 21, 2020, the fine for overstaying a visa takes effect. The fine also applies to temporary residents whose residency card has expired. Expats with Permanent Residency with an expired card will not be fined. The fine is US$100 per each month of overstay “… retroactive from March 1, 2010.” Will this be fully enforced? Perhaps not fully.
- Driving in Costa Rica: If you have submitted an application for Costa Rica residency, and are still awaiting approval, you will have been given an Expediente. (proof of application submission) That Expediente overrides the 90-day visa restriction and you are free to stay in Costa Rica indefinitely until your residency application has been approved.
However: This benefit does NOT apply to foreign driver’s licenses. Their validity is tied to the 90 visa stamp. If that 90 visa stamp is expired, will transit police give you a COVID19 exemption should you be pulled over? No word on that yet. But courtesy and respect plus showing that Expedient photocopy might just do the trick. Or let Uber be your best friend these next few weeks. Yes. They are illegal. But call them anyway. DO NOT rely of bribery of transit police. Invitation to disaster.
In the meantime, in addition to following COVID19 common sense protocols posted virtually everywhere, focus on your immune system. Avail yourselves of Costa Rica’s beautiful weather. (Sun on your skin = immune-boosting vitamin D). Go to the local farm markets daily for fresh produce. Get lots of sleep. Disconnect the Wi-Fi when resting or sleeping. Your brain and immune system will thank you for it. More information HERE
Be attentive and helpful for the vulnerable near you.
Current limits on international travel in or out of Costa Rica
Costa Rica will not allow entry to foreigners and non-residents in until Sunday, April 12 at 11:59 p.m.
Costa Rican citizens and residents entering the country until April 12 will be issued a mandatory 14-day home quarantine. These travelers will be required to undergo a medical check at the airport and complete a form with identifying information, including the home address in which they will self-isolate.
Costa Rica is not restricting citizens, residents or tourists from leaving the country. But, you are best advised to avoid all non-essential travel.
Tourists currently in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is not restricting travelers from exiting the country. However, airlines are cancelling flights to and from Costa Rica up until April 12. Check with your airline to confirm schedules. This may be extended beyond April 12, so please plan your travels cautiously.
Flights scheduled beyond the travel restriction dates
To be announced as the situation progresses. Travel restrictions may be extended if the situation remains at high risk.
Layovers in Costa Rica
You can transit through Costa Rica’s airports, even if you are not a citizen or resident, up to April 12. However, you cannot leave the airport or clear customs/immigration.
Expiring 90-Day Tourist Visas
Foreigners who entered Costa Rica on a tourist visa after December 17, 2019, can legally remain in Costa Rica until May 17, 2020.
Driving in Costa Rica with a foreign driver’s license
Non-residents may only drive legally with a foreign driver’s license. The validity of that foreign license is restricted to the 90-day visa stamp when you last entered Costa Rica. No extensions will be granted. Afterward, you may not legally drive here using the foreign license, even if your tourist visa has been extended. Ignore all suggestions from the “bar stool experts” about bribery to get you through a pull over by Transit Police.
What is open and what is closed in Costa Rica?
Mass gatherings have been suspended. This includes concerts and soccer matches. Bars and nightclubs are closed. Schools are closed through mid-April. All National Parks will close starting Monday, March 23, through mid-April.
Restaurants, stores, and farmer’s markets remain open.
Boost your immune systems with fresh, field ripened produce in those farmer’s markets! (But bring hand sanitizer.) Public transportation is still running, and hotels are still accepting reservations, although many have closed for the interim. Call first before you book. All establishments must follow strict sanitary guidelines, which may include limiting crowds to 50% of a building’s established capacity.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms in Costa Rica
Dial 1322 right away. If no answer, dial it until you get through. It is active 24/7 and staffed with emergency operators and health officials. They will guide you on the proper next steps.
If you feel symptoms, DO NOT leave home, except to get medical attention. Dial 1322 if you have symptoms or have had contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Remember to help those who cannot help themselves. Lots of ideas on how to do that on line in countless sites. What goes around, comes around.
Be proud of your actions when looking back after this crisis passes.
Get started sooner
than you thought
Even if you’re still back home!
With Laura’s careful step-by-step guidance, even if you are still in your originating country, you can begin preparing for your Costa Rica residency application.
The sooner you start, the sooner you will have that treasured residency card (Cedula) in hand and the life enhancements that come with it.
The Basics of the Most Common Categories:
(More details are available from Laura after she gets your particulars)
(Retiree / Pensioner)
(Least intrusive method to apply)
Anyone receiving a permanent pension from a government or private company or institution. The required documentation must show that the income source is for life. For many, this would be Social Security in the U.S., or CPP and OAS in Canada and similar in the EU of at least USD 1,000 per month. Authenticated lifetime annuities can also be used.
Only the principal applicant needs to provide proof of pension income. A spouse qualifies as a dependent. Non-married partners with civil union certificates also qualify. Same-gender unions with official certificates are now also recognized by Costa Rica Immigration.
Q: Is this a temporary or permanent residency?
A: Temporary for 2 years with conditions. Renewable every two years after that. By year 3, applicants are eligible to apply for conditions-free Permanent Residency.
Q: How many days per year must I reside in Costa Rica with this type of residency?
A: 1 day.
Q: Am I allowed to stay past my 90 day visa once my application is submitted and I wait to be approved?
A: Yes. You will be provided an Expediente with case # that acts as proof of submission of your application(s).
Q: Do I need a return (outward bound) ticket when entering Costa Rica during my wait to approval?
A: Yes. But not after you are approved and receive residency.
Q: Will I need to do border runs to maintain my foreign driver’s license while awaiting approval?
A: Unfortunately, yes. But not a problem with the afore mentioned Expediente. (Proof of residency application submission.)
Once you receive residency, you may obtain a Costa Rica drivers license. No more border runs.
Q: Am I allowed to work in Costa Rica?
A: No. But you may own and invest in any business enterprise. (See first question above. Once you get Permanent Residency, you can work.)
Q: Am I covered by Costa Rica public health (CAJA) while I await approval?
A: No. You must join and pay into CAJA after you are approved. Both you and your spouse will be covered then. You must have some sort of private health care to remain prepared for any health issue while in Costa Rica or rely on government plans from your country of origin while awaiting approval.
Income Based Residency
(Has nothing to do with rent. The Spanish word “Renta” refers to Income, Allowance, Revenue.)
For those whose pensions do not kick in for a few more years, Rentista is the next best option. This plan is a self-funded means of support with a minimum required income set by Costa Rica immigration law of USD 2,500/month for 2 years (60K).
This type of residency must be renewed for 2 more years. But at the end of year 3 of residency, even though you’ll still have a year left on your renewal, you may apply for Permanent Residency.
Once approved, the requirement for the income and letter of proof is no longer required.
Rather than much confusing text about that proof of income, Laura can advise you on how best to obtain the letter from your financial institution based on what you tell her about your given situation. It can get tricky for some. It can involve a bank from your country of origin or a bank in Costa Rica. Laura can advise you which are the most cooperative and which to avoid.
This is also a 2 – year temporary residency. See FAQ above for Pensionado.
(Most intrusive category)
Requires an investment in assets within Costa Rica of at least USD 200,000 of provable value. The letter of the law translates in English to: “The investment amount must be $200,000 United States dollars or more according to the official exchange rate which is established by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The investment can be made in tangible property, shares, negotiable instruments, productive projects, or projects which are deemed of national interest.”
Most often, applicants qualify under this category with property assets that they own through a corporation they have set up. Homes are the most common asset. If the value of a home falls short of the minimum, other registered assets with provable values such as land, cars, trucks, and ATVs can be used to “top up” the asset mix to get an applicant over that 200K minimum.
The principal residency applicant applying as an Inversionista owns at least USD 200K worth of the shares of the corporation in Costa Rica that owns the property. (IE: A husband and wife who own equal shares totaling 350K do not qualify. One or the other must own at least USD 200K outright.)
In Costa Rica, always work with well-vetted real estate professionals who, in turn, use competent lawyers experienced in setting up such transactions. The residency application must include registration with Registro Nacional (National Registry) Property Section. The principal residency applicant must show proof of taxes paid up to Hacienda (Department of Revenue) and proof from the Municipality of taxes paid that also shows the value of the assets to which those taxes apply.
Setting up such corporations is an exact process only handled by experienced professionals. Be thorough in vetting them. Do not be in a hurry because of the tedium of the process. Assume nothing. Excellent documentation makes for the most expeditious approvals on residency applications. Bored, underpaid lawyers in the Department of Immigration handling shoddy documentation all day long are easily irritated and have much discretion.
Inversionista is also a 2 – year temporary residency. See the FAQ above for Pensionado.
Note: Upon her advice, many of Laura’s clients, applied as Rentista instead of Inversionista. She can explain the economic benefits of such a choice upon request.
(1st degree relative of a Costa Rican)
First Category: Parents, minor children (under 18), minor siblings (under 18), disabled children or siblings of any age of a Costa Rican citizen. (Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are not included.)
Required documentation: Certified birth certificate of the relative, and a certified copy of the cedula of the Costa Rican relative.
Second Category: Married to a Costa Rican Citizen. (most frequently used.)
Due to past high incidences of sham marriages, the law has tightened up on this second category (marriage). The residency granted is temporary for one year. Then it must be renewed annually. (Easy to do) After year three, the spouse is eligible to apply for Permanent Residency.
The supporting documents needed for the initial Vinculo application are the basic ones such as birth certificate, criminal history report, marriage certificate from outside Costa Rica, and officially translated into Spanish by a registered translator. If married outside of Costa Rica, that apostilled and officially-translated foreign marriage certificate must be presented to the Registro Nacional and formally registered. In return, the applicant is provided a copy of that marriage certificate registration from Registro Nacional, which then goes in the package presented to The Department of Immigration.
Applicants must also provide a copy of the Costa Rican spouse’s certified copy of their cedula, and at least ten photos that reflect the courtship and actual wedding. Both spouses are interviewed together by the Department of Immigration.
PARENT(S) OF CHILDREN BORN IN COSTA RICA
Applicants who are non-Costa Ricans with children born in Costa Rica can also apply under the Vinculo category.
If approved, they are awarded Permanent Residency.
The application can also include siblings of the Costa Rican born child.
Interviews to audit the commitment to support the child are most likely.
This type of application is submitted infrequently.
There are more details available from Laura upon request.
- Laura provides transparent and accurate advice on how you qualify.
- She has excellent bi-lingual communication skills learned from living and working in both the U.S. and Canada. (Dual Costa Rican and Canada citizenship.) If you ask a question, she’ll wait for you to finish, then answer in context and stay on point. (Uncommon in Costa Rica.).
- She provides understandable guidance in a communication style familiar to YOU.
- Laura is timely in her responses to your questions during the process.
- She is very skilled at maneuvering through the unpredictable labyrinth of the Immigration Center. Her office is very nearby in San Jose and she does all her communications with the Immigration Center staff face-to-face, IN PERSON. No office assistants or messenger services in the communication chain of your application
Laura began by assisting us with getting a bank account prior to us having residency, which apparently is very difficult to do. Laura showed an unusual care and concern for our case – like it was her own family. She also kept us right up to date during the whole process and helped us co-ordinate our flight itineraries to best advantage. She even provided us with a lot of other very important and useful information about how to go about our business here in Costa Rica. We so enjoyed her warm company.
Laura answered my many questions with thoroughness and patience. What I especially appreciated and admired about Laura was her constant encouragement. Even after we obtained out cards, Laura continued to answer questions about ancillary things which she really did not have to. Bob & I are so excited that we stayed with pursuing our residency. I have been so relieved and happy. Thank you Laura, so much!
Thanks to Laura’s understandable directions, we had all our required paperwork in order. Along with applications she had prepared, she presented our documents to Immigration face to face with intake staff… one document at a time. It was all accepted the first time through. As a result, we got our temporary residency number on our first visit.
Laura has been specializing in this field for many years. She knows the staff at immigration and they know her, which is a plus when you are only a stranger to them among hundreds waiting in line.
After the wait for residency applications approvals, there remains the process of getting registered at CAJA and getting your final Residency card made. Laura also guided us through that with clarity.
Everything that was in Laura’s power to do, she helped all go smoothly.
We highly recommend her services if you want to go about this painlessly. Bravo Laura!
Joni and Tom Moore, Nicoya, Costa Rica.
There are lots of choices on Google to wade through and vet.
Save yourself time and a lot of grief by reading this.
Laura Gutierrez came highly recommended by Scott Oliver, a British expat who has a great website: http://www.welovecostarica.com. I called Laura in December 2015 and had an initial conversation with her, followed up by many emails. I was impressed by her thoroughness and attention to detail, and also by the many testimonials on her website.
I grilled her extensively on various issues and felt very assured with her detailed answers. So despite my husband Gary’s skepticism about her hefty up-front deposit, we wire transferred her the requested funds, and immediately got down to the nitty-gritty with Laura’s step by step guidance.
Laura instructed us on all the forms we would need, where and how to get them and how to navigate through a couple snags in the process. The devil certainly is in the details and Laura expertly got us through some challenging obstacles.
After months of preparation in New York, we made our big move to Costa Rica. Days later we met Laura at Immigration. In the midst of this crowded chaos where we played musical chairs up to our eventual turn, she guided us through with uncommon thoroughness and safeguarding against do-overs. “They tend to lose papers here”, she explained.
One of Laura’s “claims to fame” is that she is at the Immigration Department frequently, she knows the workers, and they all know she has her “ducks in a row”. We again saw the value of having her on our team.
Once done at Immigration, we crossed San Jose to the Fingerprinting Center. Another very interesting encounter within controlled chaos. After an hour of Spanglish processing and being cleared through Interpol, we emerged with ink-stained fingers, but relieved. Anyone thinking at the outset about attempting this alone, or with poorly vetted help, think again!
To our surprise, there was ready-for-anything Laura with Huggies Baby Wipes to clean our ink soaked fingertips!
Laura’s help was invaluable and worth every dime.
Her skill in guiding us through the process was amazing as evidenced by the agent's pleasant demeanor as she looked through all our well-organized papers and stamped and approved them. We couldn't believe we were finished so smoothly and quickly!
I wouldn't dream of having anyone else in the country do this for us.
I highly recommend her services to anyone, knowing that you can relax and have confidence that your application will be approved in much less time than done any other way, by any other person!
Laura Gutierrez is the consummate professional. To top it all off, she is also very pleasant to work with. We will always remember her in this process so pleased that we are almost sorry to be finished with the submission process!!
THANK YOU LAURA!!
I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than get involved with any bureaucratic process such as Residency. Laura made it a whole different experience from what I was dreading.
Her communication style, in particular, is what I appreciated most.
Laura could actually wait till the end of my sentence before carefully and understandably responding. Even for bi-lingual professional Ticos who have never been outside Costa Rica, the tendency is to talk over you and answer out of context.
Laura very efficiently kept me on track with understandable emails. She always let me know what was happening and, or, what was expected of me at any point in the process. (I had to source documents from multiple countries).
Laura’s university and business experience in the U.S. and Canada obviously taught her how we A-types from the north are used to communicating. And believe me, it makes a massive difference in how smoothly things go in this otherwise intrusive process.
After my residency, Laura also helped me get my Costa Rica Citizenship... easily.
First class service in a country where for the most part, customer service remains an abstract concept.
Paul Sontrop, Toronto, Canada / Heredia, Costa Rica
Character & Competence
• With her cheerful style and engaging personality, Laura will put you at ease at your first encounter. She has great empathy and has experienced it all from your side of the counter when she was a new immigrant to Canada.
She will never forget the nightmare that this process can be if handled by the wrong lawyer.
While processing times are getting longer due to overload of the Immigration Center, Laura’s approvals are still well below the averages due to her persistent expediting of all her cases.
• She knows how to make your case move as quickly as possible. Immigration staff know Laura well and trust her to bring in correct paperwork so as to avoid needless delays.
80% of all applications submitted to the Immigration Center are either incorrect, missing documents or fraudulant. So getting it right the first time through requires meticulous attention to detail and diplomatic dealings with Immigration staff.
While your application is being processed, you can fully embrace the joy of Costa Rica worry free with updates from Laura as to your status.
However, if your case gets complicated, all the more reason to have Laura in your corner.