An image of Laura Gutiérrez who provides Immigration Help and Residency Assistance for Costa Rica

Why Bother Getting Costa Rican Residency?

You’ve chosen to live in Costa Rica for many good reasons, not the least of which being the breathtaking beauty, amazing weather, and an idyllic life measurably better than the one you left behind.

By now, you have also heard a common refrain from your realtor or other engaged professionals, neighbors, or experienced ex-pats here in Costa Rica: Get your residency!


There simply is no other way to optimize your lived experience here in Costa Rica and experience all the best of what you came here for in the first place.

For those who spend more than seven months per year here, you need to seriously consider the following life enhancements and benefits of residency:

      1. An end to border runs.
      2. Avoidance of fines for overstaying your tourist visa.
      3. Easier to maintain a permanent domicile here.
      4. Obtain a valid Costa Rica drivers’ license valid for 5 or 10 years.
      5. Access to affordable, world-class medical care.
      6. Secure banking with relative ease.
      7. Get a digital signature.
      8. Register a business.
      9. Employment – depending on the category.
      10. Quality private schools for the kids.
      11. Safely bringing and keeping your beloved pets.
      12. Returning to Costa Rica through the much shorter “Citizens” line at the airport.
      13. No need to purchase outward-bound (return) air tickets.
      14. More straightforward clearance through security gates or roadside checks.
      15. Resident discounts on goods and services.
      16. The surprisingly important feeling like you belong.


Regarding that last point, Realize that in the mono-culture of Costa Rica, you will always be regarded as “the other.” A natural, tribal human behavior common to ALL countries. This can be significantly minimized when Ticos see that you took living here seriously and went through the trouble of getting legal residency. No different than how you and your fellows viewed new immigrants in your country of origin. It’s very significant. And for you personally, it feels significantly different in a good way.

Conversely, not having a residency card can put you in a state of permanent vacation, which leaves some people feeling like permanent refugees.

Yet the prospect of engaging the bureaucracy required fuels procrastination. Your vague understanding of what is involved created an exaggerated fear of the process. Or you may have concerns about the general character or competence of those who offer Immigration services. There are a lot of horror stories that bolster such fears. “Get the Gringo” is almost as popular a sport as soccer in Latin America. With 30,000 lawyers in Costa Rica, what are the odds of picking the right one? Most assuredly, there are reliable ways to check out anyone offering their services. Websites and word of mouth top such vetting methods.

You may be on the verge of going it alone. Perfectly understandable. After all, some people do their own taxes, right? There are even some websites with lists of what you need to do and what documents are required. But each of those lists is missing crucial little details.

Or they’re wrong.

And who do you call to help you through that tight spot if you get into difficulty with the dreaded DGME (Department of Immigration)? The document chase, as tricky as that can be for some applicants, is not the main issue.

The first thing you need to understand is that the Department of Immigration offices (DGME) are dramatically underfunded, understaffed, often hostile, and constantly overcrowded with hopeful and nervous applicants. This is code for “ensure your paperwork is perfect the first time.” If not, you will get to repeatedly endure the hostility of a staff member who learns that you’re the person who doesn’t want to cooperate with them.

They’re likely to return the favor. And don’t count on a translator app to get you through any tense exchange with them. Your poor understanding or planning does not translate into an emergency for them.

Next, please!

The second is to understand that there’s no valet parking, express line, or separate queue for ex-pats. Everyone is constrained by the same system as all others struggling to immigrate. All applications go through the bowels of the same main immigration offices location in La Uruca, San Jose. (Satellite offices in rural locations such as Liberia, Puntarenas, San Carlos and Perez Zeledon are glorified mail rooms. They send everything into the mailroom of the main offices in San Jose.)

Applications need to be submitted in person, face to face with Immigration staff for optimal results. This alone can be an onerous process. 80% of all hopefuls will be declined due to incorrect, incomplete, or fraudulent paperwork. No triage to filter that element out.

Picture of a crowd at the immigration center in Costa Rica

Ultimately, your representative has to:

      1. Know Costa Rica’s Immigration Law and the immigration process cold.
      2. Is professional in deportment and presentation.
      3. Qualify you at the outset and understand your situation to the last detail. (no reckless promises.)
      4. Handles your case PERSONALLY. (Not assign it to a $500/month staff clerk.)
      5. Be able to help you through obstacles that may arise with your document chase.
      6. Coach you in an understandable way with empathy for your particular circumstances.
      7. Have all your documentation prepared perfectly.
      8. Know every nuance of how things work at the Department of Immigration.
      9. Work through the process face-to-face with Immigration staff with persistence and effective diplomacy.
      10. Be able to perfectly navigate from you, the client, in North American English to Immigration staff in Costa Rican Spanish. Absolutely crucial.


We expect a significant uptick in ex-pat migrations here due to the optimal environment of Costa Rica. It’s no secret as to how the overall environment (social and physical) lowers stress and enhances physical health including immune systems. (For more on that go to:

If you can, get the jump on your residency process as soon as convenient for you. It is possible to begin the process either from your originating country or from here in Costa Rica.

The splendor of Costa Rica lies just beyond the Immigration line, as is the status of being permanently happy rather than forever frustrated. 

Decide now to obtain residency (or, if entitled – Citizenship).

Laura B. Gutiérrez.

Hermosa Beach Costa Rica

1. Free Phone Consultation

2. Residency Application

3. 100% Success Rate