Who Qualifies

There are several ways to qualify for a Costa Rica Residency Card.

Pensionado is the most common, followed by Rentista and Inversionista for those not yet on a pension.

Talk to Laura first and get clear on all these and why you choose one over the other.

Some websites, “barstool advisors”, well intentioned friends, and even embassy staff can dispense incorrect information about these issues.

Laura can also answer these common questions about the following highly misunderstood subjects:

What is “CAJA” (ka-ha)? (Costa Rican universal health care).

How do I get it?

How expensive is this?

Why do I need it?

What has this got to do with my Costa Rica Residency Card? (everything)

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.

Pensionado FAQ:

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.

Business Investor
(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.


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.

100% Success rate! Comment by clients at the end of the process:
“WOW Laura…!  No way we could have done this on our own! ”

Here is an image of the alternative reality… 80% of these applicants will be declined due to incorrect or incomplete documentation.


Send us a message today and let us guide you through the process