Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer

After spending almost three years in Costa Rica, coming and going on a tourist visa, we have decided to apply for residency. This is a big step for us as it means we’ve committed to staying here permanently, at least for an extended period of time. While most people use a lawyer for the residency process, we had heard mixed reviews about the results. Inspired by others who had done it alone, we felt that this was something that we could probably handle ourselves too. In this post, we’ll cover our experience applying for residency in Costa Rica without a lawyer.

IMPORTANT: We applied for residency in May 2016. Keep in mind that the requirements are constantly changing and people’s experience with the process can differ. Use this article as a guide, but always refer to the Migracion website for the most current information. If you have applied for residency yourself and something was different for you, leave a comment below to help others who will be applying.

 

Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer

Types of Residency in Costa Rica

Before moving to Costa Rica, we did a lot of research about the different types of residency available. We won’t go into detail about all the options here, but there are three types that most people consider.

(1) Pensionado: Applies if you are getting a certain amount of pension or retirement money on a monthly basis.

(2) Rentista: Applies if you put a certain amount of money in a Costa Rican bank to live long-term.

(3) Inversionista: Applies if you invest a certain amount of money in Costa Rica by purchasing a property, business, or making another type of large investment.

These types of residency, if granted, require that you be a temporary resident for three years before you can apply for permanent residency. Permanent residency comes with more benefits than temporary residency. For example, with permanent residency, you have all the rights of a citizen (except voting rights) and can work legally in Costa Rica as an employee. Temporary residents can own/run a business, but must hire employees to do any labor. Both temporary and permanent residents must pay into the Costa Rica health care system called the Caja.

There is also a way to obtain permanent residency without having temporary residency first. Residencia Permanente Por Vinculo requires that you have a first-degree blood relative (e.g., parent, child, or sibling) who is Costa Rican. Because our son was born here and was thus given immediate Costa Rican citizenship, this is the way we applied. Residencia Permanente Por Vinculo also applies if you marry a Costa Rican, but you are only granted temporary residency and must wait the three years to apply for permanent status.

Note: While our application process may be a little different than yours if you are applying other than through a relative, much of the paperwork and process is the same. Hopefully our experience will help you get started, but don’t rely on our information alone.

Overview of the Application Process

Applying for residency in Costa Rica is done through the Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria (the General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality), better known as Migracion. Information about the different types of residency and how to apply can be found on their website under the Residencias tab. This should be your main guide in figuring out what you need for your application. The instructions are quite detailed, and while they are all in Spanish, Google Translate or a friend who speaks Spanish can help you work through them. Sometimes, even with translations, the instructions are not clear. Asking others who had completed the process helped us, and we will try to clarify whenever possible. The application instructions we followed for Residencia Permanente Por Vinculo can be found here.

 

Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer
Migracion Headquarters in La Uruca, San Jose

 

Applying for Residency in Costa Rica: A 10-Step Guide

One thing that we wished we had when starting this process was a step-by-step guide, mostly because the timing of when to do things was not clear. We couldn’t find one, so we made our own:

SEVERAL MONTHS BEFORE APPLYING

 

Step 1: Check Your Passport Expiration Date

Make sure that your passport will not expire during the application process. Although Migracion is supposed to approve or deny residency applications within 90 days, sometimes it can take a year or more so you want to have enough time on your passport for delays. A different passport number halfway through the process could potentially cause problems. Matt renewed his through the US Embassy in Costa Rica, and it came in about two weeks.   

Step 2: Gather Documents from Your Home Country

Request the necessary personal documents from your home country. They are valid for only six months from the date of issuance according to Costa Rican requirements. The timing can be critical, as we note below with respect to the FBI background check.

You might need more documents than this depending on your specific circumstances, but in general you will need:

(1) A criminal background check from where you lived for at least three years prior. If you are from the US, to our knowledge it is now better to get an FBI background check, rather than one from the state where you lived. We have heard that sometimes they will accept state background checks. Other times, they will notify you later that you need to obtain the federal background check, causing your application to be delayed. We went to a local police station in Costa Rica (OIJ) and had them take our fingerprints on the form, then mailed the application to the FBI. See the FBI website for instructions. The background check will then need to be apostilled. In the US, that meant mailing it to the US Department of State.

(2) Birth Certificate: You request this from the state/place of issuance and then get it apostilled. In the US, each state has a different process. For Jenn’s, we had to request it first then send it back to a different office for the official apostille. The state where Matt was born did both at the same time.

(3) Marriage/Divorce Certificate: Request from the state of issuance and then get apostilled. Note: This was not a requirement for our residency application, but we included our marriage certificate anyway, just to be safe.

IMPORTANT: This is one instance when the timing is critical. Our FBI background checks took almost 15 weeks because processing was so backed up. Because of this, we had to request a second set of state documents (marriage/birth certificates) in fear that they would expire. Make sure to check the FBI website for the processing time before applying for the rest of your documents, which generally take only a couple of weeks.

Step 3: Register with Your Consulate

Register with your home county’s consulate in Costa Rica. For us, this was the US Embassy in Costa Rica. We were easily able to register online for the STEP program and print the form. It does not need to be notarized or apostilled, just translated (see Step 5, below). 

 

SEVERAL WEEKS BEFORE APPLYING

 

Step 4: Notarize Your Passport

Have every page (even blank ones) of your passport copied and notarized by a Costa Rican notary public. In Costa Rica, lawyers are also notaries so we went to a local lawyer’s office. He put his seal on the copies and signed each page. He then glued them together like a booklet and added timbres.

Timbres are inexpensive stamps that you apply to official documents in Costa Rica. They are usually sold by street vendors outside the offices where you will be applying or picking up documents. The person selling them will know the amount you will need when you tell them the type of document you have.

Step 5: Translate Documents

Get all documents that are not already in Spanish translated by an official translator. Here is a link for the list of official translators. This includes the required documents from your home country (Step 2, above) as well as the consulate registration (Step 3, above). We used Tiger House Translations in San Jose. They made it very easy. We emailed them scanned copies of everything because we live far from San Jose. A few days later, our translated documents were ready for pick-up. They can also mail or send them by courier service.   

Step 6: Complete the Rest of Your Residency Packet

This will include:

(1) Application Form: The form from Migracion (Formulario de Filiacion), which asks for general information like your name, age, etc. Note that the application form has a place to put a fax number so that they can contact you if there is a problem or they need more information. We think that an email is now sufficient if you do not have a fax. Migracion’s current regulations state this. We also asked the official at Migracion when we submitted our application, and he said it was fine.

(2) Letter: A letter to the Director of Migracion, typed in Spanish, with information including: your full name, why you are applying, nationality, age, occupation, full address where you live, and means for notifications. We used this template, which was posted on a local Facebook group and made a few changes to personalize it. Don’t sign the letter. The letter must be signed in front of the Migracion official when you make your application.

(3) 2 Passport-Sized Photos (Costa Rica size, which are a little smaller than US ones). Purchase at any photo shop.

(4) Pay Application Fees: As instructed, we paid $50 each for the application fee and $200 to change our status from a tourist visa to a visa for permanent residency. These funds were deposited into the bank account provided in the Migracion instructions. Be sure to make separate deposits, in colones, based on the exchange rate the day you go to the bank. The receipts, which will have your name on them, are included in your application.

(5) Registry Documents: If applying for residency through a direct relationship with a Costa Rican, you will need the document proving this (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate) with timbres. See our post about Baby Paperwork in Costa Rica for information on how to obtain a Costa Rican birth certificate. The Registry document must not be more than two-months old.

(6) Additional Documents: Other applicants may have to provide additional or different documents. For example, proof of retirement funds if you are applying for Pensionado status, investment documents if you are applying for Inversionista, etc.

 

DAYS LEADING UP TO APPLYING

 

Step 7: Fingerprinting

Register your fingerprints with the Ministerio Seguridad Publica (Ministry of Public Security) in San Jose. The Ministry website says that an appointment is required, but we couldn’t get anyone to respond to our emails or pick up the phone. We ended up just showing up the day before submitting our completed application to Migracion, but have heard that other types of residency require that you apply first, get a document number, and then get fingerprinted after. If you have recent experience with this, let us know by commenting below.

The Registro Dactilar building is located on Av. 8 between Calle 31 and 33 (map). When you arrive, they will give you a form to fill out your basic information. It is in Spanish and English, but they will want you to write your responses in Spanish. The questions are fairly easy, but you will need to know your height in centimeters and weight in kilograms. You will also need a couple of passport-sized photos, your passport, and we needed a copy of our son’s birth certificate. After you fill out the form, you will have a short interview with a Ministry official who will put your information into the computer. Then your prints will be taken, and the officer will give you a document that you attach to your residency application.

 

Dactiloscopia - Fingerprint Registry Costa Rica
The building where you need to register your fingerprints.

 

Step 8: Make Copies of Your Completed Application

Make photocopies of everything that you will be submitting. We have heard horror stories of Migracion losing applications.

Step 9: Get Timbres

Purchase timbres for the entire application. This can be done the day you apply. There is a vendor right outside the Migracion office (he has a stand that sells snacks), and he will sell you the proper number of stamps (around $3 or so). Paperclip them to the front of the application.

 

Timbres Sold in Costa Rica
This vendor outside the offices of Migracion can sell you the necessary timbres to attach to your application.

 

APPLYING

Step 10: Apply

Submit your application at the Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjeria headquarters in La Uruca (map) or another approved location. The Migracion website lists the other locations in their frequently asked questions section, such as Liberia, Puntarenas, Paso Canoas, Golfito, Limon, and San Carlos. We have heard of people using some of the smaller offices with luck since they are generally a lot less busy. You can apply at a Costa Rica consulate in your home country, however, you will need to have your fingerprints taken physically in Costa Rica (Step 7, above).

Migracion is open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The La Uruca Migracion Office is closed the last Friday of every month.

If you are traveling from outside San Jose and looking for a hotel the night before, we stayed at Hotel Plaza Real. It is a five-minute drive away, clean and comfortable, and very affordable.    

We arrived shortly after 8 a.m. at the main headquarters, which was busy, but not as busy as we expected. The guard at the door directed us to the special assistance line since we had our baby with us. Others should arrive earlier to get in line. We have heard that wait times can be extremely long, and Migracion stops taking new tickets at noon.

 

Inside Migracion Costa Rica
Inside Migracion

 

After about a 30-minute wait, it was our turn. We went up to the window and the Migracion official processed our applications. He sifted through our papers, checking the documents that we included, and put our information into the computer. The process took about 15 minutes for each of us. At the end, he gave us a printout with our file number (numero de expediente) and a checklist of the documents we submitted. The applications were kept separate and we have different expediente numbers even though we are one family.

 

Applying for Residency in Costa Rica
Being processed at the counter

 

Once you have the file number, you can check your status online on the Migracion website. Within a day, our information was in the system and the status was showing that it was being processed. If Migracion needs additional information, they are supposed to contact you using the means you provided (e.g., fax, email) and you have 10 days to supply it.

Associated Costs (per person, estimated)

  • Application Fees – $250
  • Birth Certificate with Apostille – $25
  • Marriage Certificate with Apostille – $25
  • Criminal Background Check (FBI) with Apostille – $26
  • Translation of Documents into Spanish – $82
  • Passport Photos – $8 (we suggest you have extra, just in case)
  • Legal Fees (notary for passport pages) – $30
  • Mail Services (from Costa Rica to the US) – $50 (note: we visited the States once and had visitors bring documents, which helped limit this)
  • Photocopies – $10
  • Timbres – $3

Total – $509

Final Thoughts

Five hundred dollars per person isn’t too bad for applying for residency in Costa Rica, especially when you consider the benefits we’ll get. We won’t have to leave the country to renew our visas every three months anymore and will be able to work as an employee here if we want. It will also be a lot easier to open a bank account, get a Costa Rican driver’s license, etc.

Now the only thing we can do is wait to see what happens. Migracion is supposed to notify us if there is anything missing or further action is required. They are also supposed to make a determination within 90 days. As we said, though, we have heard that months, and even years, can pass without hearing anything at all. We’ll be sure to update this post with our status as soon as we can. Hopefully that will be soon!

UPDATE (August 22, 2017)

As of yesterday, August 22, 2017, we have our final approvals! It took about 1 year and 3 months from making the initial applications to receiving our final approvals. Here is how the final steps of the process worked.

Last February, we went to Migracion to check on our applications in person. They pulled our files and told us that we had our notificada firma (signed notices) and that the status would change in the computer in a few days. This meant that we only needed the final signatures and we would be all set. We have heard that normally this takes a few weeks, but when we went to check on them a couple of months later, they told us to come back in two weeks because they were backed up and had a list of people ahead of us. We went again to check in late July and they were finally ready! A few more hours of waiting and we left with our resoluciones (resolutions approving our applications).

After that, we had to go to our local office to sign up for the CCSS (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social) and pay the required fees. Then we could call the Migracion hotline to make our DIMEX/cedula appointments. Our appointment was at Correos Central in downtown San Jose. Migracion headquarters in La Uruca was so full that we wouldn’t have been able to get in there until mid-October. The process was easy and efficient at Correos. They took our photos, entered the final information, and told us that they would be mailing our cedulas in October. Again, this is only supposed to take about a month, but they are backed up so two months is more likely. It doesn’t matter much to us because we are done and are now officially permanent residents of Costa Rica!

Additional Information

  • US Embassy in Costa Rica: The US Embassy has general info on the requirements for getting residency.
  • Association of Residents of Costa Rica: ARCR is one of the leading companies for obtaining residency in Costa Rica. They have a lot of info on their website about the process and also an active forum where you can pose questions even if you don’t plan on applying through them.
  • Facebook Expat Groups: These groups are a great place to find information from other people going through the same process. We used them to research fingerprinting, criminal background checks, etc. There are several groups, but a couple of really active ones are Expatriates in Costa Rica and Gringo Expats in Costa Rica. Use the search function to find old threads or post a new question if you’re still stuck.

Have you recently applied for residency in Costa Rica by yourself? Leave us a comment with any tips below (Email subscribers click here to post your comment online.).

The information in this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. While we have tried to ensure that the content is accurate and current, we make no guarantees. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information.

Looking for more information about moving to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:

 

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Having a Baby in Costa Rica: Part 3, the Paperwork

168 Comments

  1. HI Guys, Bill from Los Tucanes, Herradura. Hope you three (now) are doing well. I made the investment with a lawyer since I thought I’d speed up the process. Right! I made a trip to the states last April (2015) to get documents apostatized. Key point you might have to go to several states for this process as the birth certificate has to be completed in your state of birth.

    All documents and papers were received by the end of April 2015 and I got my verification paperwork (stating all necessary paperwork was submitted) by the end of May 2015. I am now in the holding pattern of waiting. I thought the hiring of a lawyer would speed things up but I have heard it sometimes takes up to 2 years. One year and holding. Hope your’s goes well. Pura Vida

    1. Hi Bill, Good point about having to go through multiple states. Luckily we were able to get all the forms we needed online and send everything through the mail so it wasn’t that bad for us. We would hope that hiring a lawyer would speed up the process too, but I guess you never know. Hope your application is approved very soon!

      1. After 44 years of living and working in many (7) central and South American countries, as well as USA, it is time to retire. The most beautiful country is Chile, best food, best wine, best seafood, but it is a long ways away – Ill go there on holiday. Brasil is also a great country, but it is so much easier for me to speak Spanish than Portuguese – I sound like a gringo speaking Portuguese. Thus, I will likely return to Costa Rica, which was, after all, my first country to work in as a Peace Corps volunteer 71-74. Ill see if I can somehow qualify for citizenship.

    2. My husband and I moved to Costa Rica in October, 2015; however, we did not apply for residency until September, 2016. We arrived from Toronto and had all our required documents in hand ready to apply on our own as pensionados. Applying for residency without a lawyer is not for everyone. It was easy for me as I have worked in law offices for over 34 years and had an understanding of being detail oriented and organized. We received our cedulla in October, 2017; it took 13 months from start to finish. The advice that I will give you is first do your research before applying for residency, gather all relevant documentation, ensure that all documents are either apostilled or authenticated and legalized and translated into Spanish; if you plan to do the application yourself and cannot speak Spanish, hire a translator and take that person with you; if you go to the Migracion office you can find individuals there who are willing to assist you with the translation for a small fee (that is what I did). Our guy does this for a living. It was the best decision we made. No more leaving the country every 3 months; All the best! Pura Vida

      1. Hi,
        I have a question for the Toronto couple. Could you please describe the process for getting some documents appostilled here in Canada? I suppose you have to send them to Foreign affairs. Is that correct? How long and how much does it take? I am also wondering about the timelines of getting all the document from Canada.
        Thanks

        1. In Canada the documents are not apostilled. You have to get the documents legalized and authenticated. The company I used is located in Ottawa . Here’s their website: http://www.ALSCanada.ca

          go to http://www.costaricalaw.com and read and find out all the necessary documents that you need prior to applying for residency. Please bear in mind that once you have all your documents ready; you should file them in Costa Rica right away because some of the documents will expire in 6 months; like the birth certificates.

    3. They are NOT “permanent residents” what they did was for temporary residents! Permanent residents DON’T do all that. It is a process of living in Costa Rica three years “with” a cedula, applying for “change of status” and writing a letter.

      1. There are different ways to be eligible for permanent residency. It isn’t just through temporary residency. We indeed do have permanent residency in Costa Rica as our cedulas indicate. It’s por vinculo, through the birth of our child in Costa Rica.

  2. “Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer” – But Jenn, you are a lawyer!!! 🙂 So glad to hear y’all are doing well and I just know that little bundle of joy is the love of your lives. Best Wishes and, Live Long and Prosper

      1. Thanks for the reply guys, I just got a steal of a ticket for about $200ish round trip to Costa Rica from Fort Lauderdale airport! So I’ll be in town in December, the first thing that comes to mind is Zip lining through the forrest. I’ve read some places you recommended and it’s amazing the things to do over there.

        Thanks again for your amazing blog!
        ~ Edgar

      2. Dear Jenn and Matt, i didn’t understand the finall accrod of the process – so you cam in february to check because online nothing changed and then you received sedula only in august? Do you know where i can find info how to apply in home country – as faк as i understand i should apply within 2 months after giving birth in costa rica ^ do fingerprints in CR and all other documents should also be notarised in costa rica and timbres, etc or it works somehow differently if you apply at home country?

        1. We think the process goes faster if you show up to Migracion in person to check on the application. Because then someone looks up your file and thinks about how far along you should be to finishing. We had to go back after February to pick up our signed resolutions and then there is a process you have to do by yourself after that before you can get your cedula appointment (enrolling in CCSS, paying fees, etc.) so that took us a little while. Others could do it faster if they wanted.

          We don’t know much about applying from your home country so can’t help with that.

  3. Hello! We had a beautiful Tica baby in May and are on the same journey as your family. We are submitting our papers next week and my question is regarding the apostilled document. Did you order your documents apostilled already or have something done to them in CR? I’m starting to panic as all I have are our regular marriage/birth certificates. I guess I misunderstood the process. 🙁

    1. Hi Erin, The apostilling requirement has to do with them being foreign documents. In order to be used in Costa Rica, they need to be authenticated from the state that issued them. It sounds like you’re going to have to mail them back to your home country to get them done. Bummer! Usually the way it works is you’ll request the document (e.g., birth certificate) with one form and then when you get it back, you mail the doc to the Secretary of State or whoever does the apostilling in your state through a separate request. They put a fancy seal on it, saying that is it the official document. Sometimes they will issue the document and apostille it all in one step, but often it’s two separate ones. Depends on the state if you’re in the US. It’s the same thing for the FBI background check if you got that.

      1. Si even if I have my original birth certificate from a long time ago, I still need to request a new one with a more recent date? Is the apostille the same thing as the notary seal? And i have copies of my FBI background check that were printed off because they emailed it to me, would that work? Thanks for any information.

        1. Hi Leslie, Yes, you need a new birth certificate that’s dated within the last 6 months. The apostille is different than a notary – it’s a form of authentication that’s done to make a document be able to be used in a foreign country. The FBI background check needs to be official. We’ve never heard of them emailing it? Usually it is sent through the mail with a wet signature and then you have to mail it in to the US Secretary of State to get it apostilled.

          1. Hi Guys! So I’m trying to get all our documents in order. I am married to a CR citizen and we plan to move there in December. I have to apply for temp. residency for my daughter and me. When I emailed the CR consulate in the US they said that while the apostille does not expire, the document (like the FBI check) does expire…but they said that birth certificates do not expire. So now I’m confused.

          2. Hi Therese, We’re not exactly sure what they meant. As far as we know, all the underlying documents like FBI check and birth certificate need to be new and can expire if not filed with the apostille within the required time period. So we would just do that so as to be conservative and not have any delays with your applications in case someone else reviews your application at Migration and has a different standard than the person you spoke with. We just took a look at Migration’s new PDFs for residency and they still seem to say that the date of issuance for personal documents from abroad shall not exceed 6 months (“Los documentos emitidos en el exterior, tendrán la vigencia que indique el documento. En caso que no se indique la vigencia, cuando
            se presente ante la Dirección de Migración, la fecha de emisión del documento no podrá ser mayor a seis meses.”). Hope that helps!

  4. hello~~thanks so much for the comprehensive info! we are a family of 5 all applying for Vinculo Residency so we have a lot of paperwork to put together! i am wondering what method of mail you used to receive things in Costa Rica from the states like birth certificates and such, our address is more like giving directions! thanks!

    1. Hi Madison, We brought the documents ourselves because we already had a visit planned for the US. We had everything sent to a family member who collected everything until we got there. You could do that and then have them send it all in one packet so nothing gets lost. Not sure where you live but the Info Centers near us (e.g., in Uvita in the Southern Zone) will receive mail for people. DHL or FedEx are supposed to be reliable for international shipping, but whatever you get, make sure it has tracking so it doesn’t get lost. If you’re interested in getting a PO Box, that would work too. We’ve had luck sending important documents out of Costa Rica using EMS (available at the post office/Correos), which changes to Priority Mail once it arrives in the US. It comes with tracking. I’m sure there are lots of other ways too; those are just some ideas. Good luck with your application!

  5. Hi, Jenn and Matt. Great article. I’ve been to the Migracion office while looking into my options, and recognized it! So, I read that you applied in May 2016. Today is Sept 2016. Have you heard back?

    1. Hi Richard, We went to Migracion to check on our applications shortly after the 90 days was up and they told us to come back at the end of October. They said our applications were complete so it seems they are backed up. Hopefully we’ll hear soon or they will be ready next time we go!

  6. Hello ! Thank you for this article very well detailed !!! Our son will born in few days and we are preparing all the documents that we can before the birth to save time… We have a question about the ”formulario de filiación”.
    – Do we need to fill one form each with the names of our parents ?
    – Or this form must be filled with the name of our son and our names as parents beneath ?
    This is not very clear…
    Thank you for your answer ! 🙂

    1. Hi Gwenola and Yotam, Congrats on the upcoming birth of your son! You are very smart to get your paperwork done before his big arrival. The Formulario de Filiacion is your application for residency so each of you will fill it out and put your name and the names of your parents on it. When you go to submit your application at Migracion, the official will put that information into the computer and include it on the paper you get back with your application number (expediente number). Best of luck with your applications, and most of all, the baby!

  7. Hi there! We’ve re-gathered our documents and are returning next week to file for residency via Vinculo, thanks to our little tica! Thank you for your blog, your time and effort. Was wondering if you had an update on your status of application? Did they give you an answer this month? Hope all goes well!

    1. Hi Erin, That’s great that you’re all set now! We are going to check again next time we are in San Jose in November. Online, our statuses still say “application received,” but we have heard that a lot of times it’s ready if you show up and ask about it. It will be about 6 months then so hopefully it’s all set. Best of luck with yours, and if you think of it, it would be great if you checked back when yours get approved so we can see how long they are taking. Pura vida!

  8. Jenn and Matt, you guys have done an SUPER job on your website. I found it by accident while looking for info. on “applying for residency” and I have been coming to Costa Rica for almost as long as you have, fell in love with it and bought a home here a couple of years ago with the idea of retiring here. So here I am and going through the steps of applying as a “pensionado”. My Spanish is not great but I can get by. But what you have done for me is reinforce many of the things I already know and added quite a few I did not along with making the process a fair bit easier for me in the full preparations before I show up at the “Casa Amarilla” (Migracion) with my documents. I am from Montreal know Boston real well so I can relate to your perspectives. I have been to several of the places you mention around the country and your perceptions and observations are pretty accurate. I have suffered those Grocery Store prices and compared them to the Farmers Market. Yep! Farmers Market …here I come. All in all your comments are “bang on the money”. Keep up the good work

    1. Hi David, Thanks for the kind words about our site, it’s always nice to hear from others who know the country. And glad our article has been helpful with your residency application. Hope the process goes smoothly for you. We’re still waiting to hear back, hoping our status will change online very soon. Pensionado status is fairly straightforward so hopefully you will have a quick and easy approval! Best of luck to you.

  9. Jenn and Matt, I am looking back onto this page to get an idea how long it is taking. I am actually in the USA trying to get my Tica wife her residency (green card) here, before I tackle the CR residency for myself. It was nearly $2000 after all the costs, so the $300ish for CR residency seems like a pretty great deal!

    1. Hi Richard, We are still waiting. Nothing has happened according to the website. We’re going to check on it in person in San Jose in February. Hoping for a surprise that it is ready for us then. Good luck with the green card for your wife…oh the red tape!

      1. At the end of my 90 days can I remain while my permanent app for residency is pending? I also may need caja,

        1. Hi Daniel, Yes, once your application is in, you don’t need to leave every 90 days unless you want to drive in Costa Rica. Your foreign driver’s license renews with your visa, so under that scenario, you would still have to renew your visa.

  10. I did it with a lawyer, but that does cost extra. My total cost was just a tad over $1500. I’d love to recommend the lawyer that I used, but he’s retired now. It was a very simple process that took about 70 days total from the very beginning to being “officially” a resident. This was in the year 2014.

    Overall I would say that if you need to save money and want to learn (kind of) how the government bureaucracy in Costa Rica works, then DIY could be a fun learning experience and could save you quite a bit of cash. On the other hand, if you’re like me and get frustrated just standing on line at the DMV for 20 minutes, then a GOOD lawyer is the way to go. I don’t know if mine was that good, but he came with a glowing recommendation and, like I said, it only took a little over 2 months and I only had to leave my home twice — about 20 minutes in a government office each time. My lawyer seemed to know a lot of people (as I said, he’s retired now, so he must have been around for a long time), and boy did that help.

  11. My husband and I are planning to retire in Costa Rica in the next year or two. The detail on the process for residency is very helpful.

    My question is: Since the tourist visa is good for only 90 days, and clearly the time it takes to be approved and receive temporary resident permit is well over 90 days, does the fact that you applied allow you to stay past the 90 days? Or do you need to leave/reenter CR every 90 days until you’ve received approval?

    1. Hi Karen, Once you file your application, you don’t need to leave every 90 days for visa reasons, but you do if you want to drive. Your foreign driver’s license renews concurrent with your visa so it will expire when your 90 days is up. So people who don’t drive are fine, but if you plan to drive here, you are still supposed to leave until your residency is approved. Very frustrating (we have been doing border runs for this reason since last May, but luckily expect to have final approval soon). Best of luck with your retirement plans!

      1. Hi there — how did you handle needing to show proof you would be leaving the country again when returning from those 3 day getaways? I have applied for residency but need to go to my home country, and plan on returning to CR, but no plans on when I would be leaving again. Does this make sense?

        1. Hi Genoa, Most people get a refundable plane ticket and then cancel it after they reenter Costa Rica. And FYI- the 3 days is a customs rule that only applies if you’re bringing goods back into the country. A lot of people exit and reenter the same day.

      2. Hi!!

        We have our folio number but no cedula yet. When arriving back into Costa Rica, which line do we use when going through immigration?

      3. Hi! Could you please show me an official reference that after the successful submission of the application we don’t have to adhere to the 90 days rule? I couldn’t find it on the Migracion’s site and we’ll have a newborn baby by then so a visa run is definitely not something that we want to do then. Thank you in advance and congrats for the great article, all this info is super helpful! 😉

        1. Hi Zsolt, We think we read it in Migracion’s regulations but it was a long time ago so we can’t recall. It’s common knowledge, though, and not controversial. The only reason you would need to leave every 90 days is to renew your driver’s license.

  12. Another question. Does each birth certificate and our marriage cerificate need to be sent to the each State’s Secretary of State (NY, ND, and CO) , or all to the US Screatry of state? I’m just not finding clarity.

    We too love Colorado and lived there for 20 years. Now in expensive CA.

    1. I don’t think the US Secretary of State authenticates state documents (the Dept of State doesn’t either) so each doc would need to go back to the state that issued it. Some states will do both at once, other times, you request the doc and mail it to a different office after. Here’s a link to a site that expains this. If you get an FBI background check, that would be apostilled by the US Department of State because it is a federal document. If you get a state one, the state would do it.

  13. Hi, Jenn & Matt, your blog it’s so helpful and informative! We will be having our second baby in CR soon, and will eventually apply for permanent residency for ourselves and our first child. Assuming that we complete all of the necessary paperwork to register our baby as a Costa Rican citizen, would we be able to travel back to the States for several months before returning to CR to apply via Vinculo? Are there any specific time frames in which you must apply?

    1. Hi Lola, No, we don’t think there’s any time limit on when you can apply for permanent residency through the birth of a child so whenever you get back from the States should be fine. To take your baby to the US, you will need to get the permiso de salida of course, but that is a different issue.

      1. But you say in your article that Registry Documents: If applying for residency through a direct relationship with a Costa Rican, you will need the document proving this (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate) with timbres. See our post about Baby Paperwork in Costa Rica for information on how to obtain a Costa Rican birth certificate. The Registry document must not be more than two-months old. Doesnt it mean that you should apply for residence within 2 months from baby birth??

        1. Hi Lidia, No, the document you get from the Registry must be less than 2 months old, meaning you can’t use a document you got a year ago for another purpose. It has to be a fresh document that you recently requested. You definitely don’t have to apply within 2 months of the birth.

          1. Thank you for your answer. So I can ask again for a birth certificate in a year for example to have a fresh doc when i apply? or a copy of the birth certificate?

  14. Hi Jenn and Matt! I am so grateful you have shared all this very useful information. Thank you so very much. I am 7 months pregnant and I have most of my paper work together so my husband and I can apply for residency once the baby is born. I do have a question that hopefully you can help me with! We live at the beach “Tamarindo” area and are planning of having our baby at either a private or public hospital in Liberia. My question is do you know what the cost is if any to have a baby in the public hospital?? I have heard it is free, but I am not sure if you have to be paying into the caja for the service to be free. I don’t believe I can pay into the caja until I am a resident so I am confused about the cost. I try call the hospital but I can never get through to speak with someone. Now being so close to giving birth I would really like to be able to decide on were is best for me. The private hospital we looked into seems to push c-sections and i really want natural, that is also why I am looking into public options. Also paying less or nothing at all would really be helpful with the new expense of our growing family! Thank you in advance for any help or advice I truly appreciate it!

    1. Hi Stephanie, First off, congrats on the upcoming arrival of your baby! To answer your question, yes, it is free to deliver at a public hospital and you don’t have to be paying into the Caja. We cover this briefly in one of our having a baby posts. Quality of care differs widely at public hospitals so make sure to ask around about the one you’re interested in. Not sure if it’s true, but I have heard that public hospitals here push C sections as well. It’s far from home for you, but people say good things about many of the doctors at Cima in San Jose (I’ve heard similar things about Cima Liberia being pro C-section, but know of many women who had natural deliveries at Cima in SJ). Best of luck figuring it all out! I should mention too that at the bottom of the post I mentioned before, we give links to more helpful info. One of those links is to a woman who delivered at a public hospital here and shared her experience in a video.

  15. Hi, Matt. Hi, Jenn. Hi, Sam 🙂

    I applied for Residente Pensionado in mid-October 2016. Of course, I was told (like everyone else) that it would take 3 months. I worked with a lawyer in Florida, and I had all my paperwork apostilled in the U.S. then had the translations done here in CR by an “official translator”. A Costa Rican friend helped me with the process so that I had all my paperwork properly together when I submitted everything to Immigration.

    Immigration told me in January that all my paperwork was appropriately submitted, and all would be completed by the end of April. I’m somewhat concerned because there is still no response on the Immigration website that you listed (for checking on the status).

    Then I read that you are still waiting, almost a year later. Bummer … I would surely like to hear sooner rather than later …. Pura Vida!!

    When you find out that your status has changed and you can get your official CR ID cards, would you send out an email so all of us would know …. please 🙂

    Thank you for all the wonderful information that you share!!!!!

    1. Hi Anne, We actually have some good news. Our statuses changed to resolución firma (approved and pending signatures) in mid-February. But our status only changed because we went to check on it. We had been to Migracion a few times before and they kept telling us to come back in two months. But this last time when we went in Feb., they pulled our file and told us we had our firmas and to come back in two weeks to pick up the signed resolutions. About a week after that, the computer updated and we could see the resolución firma.

      If you applied in January, you might want to go in person to check on it since your 90 days is more than up. You still may have some time to wait since they seem to go in order of receipt but you never know. At least you could find out if you’re near the top and maybe they would pull your file and give you firma status like they did ours.

      We went to see if our resolutions were ready a few weeks ago, but alas, they told us to come back in two weeks. The woman showed us a list of people ahead of us waiting for signatures so we will probably give them another month more then go back. We’re definitely not going back right away since San Jose is a long trip for us, especially with a 1.5 yr old. Best of luck with your application and hope you have good news soon!

  16. Thank you for all the information.. this may save me $1,000 🙂

    I have 2 questions..

    For LUGAR Y FECHA DE INGRESO A COSTA RICA

    Should I put the first time I came to Costa Rica.. or the last time I have entered Costa Rica?

    Also, for the photo section.. do I just bring my photo.. and they will attach it.. or should I attach it to the application? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Cam, You would put the last time you entered Costa Rica.

      For the photos, I think we had them loose and the official attached them for us. He organized our whole files as he went through the documents. Good luck!

      1. Just got back from filing my residency here in Puntarenas ..

        Something you may want to add to your article is you don’t actually need to notarize the copies of your passport if you bring your original passport with you… regular copies are fine.

        ——
        Fotocopia de todas las páginas del pasaporte vigente de la persona extranjera. La fotocopia deberá certificarse, ya sea confrontadas con el original ante el
        funcionario(a) que las recibe, o mediante notario público.
        ——
        I think maybe you only need to get it notarized if someone is applying on your behalf?

        Also, I’ve spoke with some expats who went to SJ to get their prints done at the Ministerio Seguridad Publica .. but, I got mine just at the local police station here in Jaco.

        Although, I read and knew all the steps beforehand.. your step-by-step guide and actually seeing someone else do it on their own gave me the confidence to do it myself and save $1,000.. thank you very much!

        1. Hi again Cam, Thanks for the tips. That’s great that you got your application in- congrats! Hope your application is approved soon. We have heard that going through the regional offices sometimes can be faster so maybe that will be the case for you. We are still in resolución firma status. Hoping for it to be ready any day. Thanks for commenting about your experience.

  17. Hola!
    I’m right near the finish line for getting my permanent residency. My husband is half tico and we registered both our kids and they are now tico. I applied for vinculo for having tico kids. It’s been granted – but they told me to go to seguro social. I don’t plan on living in CR full time and will return to the US next month and probably will only be down for a few weeks at a time here and there for a while.
    I don’t want to get stuck paying hundreds of dollars every month for insurance I’m not using.
    Any thoughts or advice? My husband isn’t required to have seguros here because he’s a citizen.
    Pura vida.

    1. Hi Kristina, We haven’t done the Caja process yet, but do not think they will give you the final approvals and a cédula until you show proof that you have signed up for the Caja. One idea since you won’t be living in CR right away is to look into what happens if someone on the Caja is temporarily leaving the country. Maybe they can put their Caja on hold since they won’t be using the benefit? We’re really not sure but this is an idea. A lawyer who does immigration law could help more, or maybe you could take a visit to Seguro Social to see what they say. Good luck- you’re so close!

    2. Kristina and Jenn&Matt, Do you know if there is any obligatory time you need to stay in the country to keep the residence vinculo? As all of us are not planning to live so fat in CR but we want to head to citizenshio. Kristina and what is the size of the payments for insurance? And can you pay it on the distance? The ID card is valid for a year? you need to come every year to renew it? Thank you

  18. Hello,
    Im a Filifina and i have a American partner and we have daugther, we are planning to move in Costa rica this coming year and move out here in the Philippines,Can i can get a residence permit also even im not married to him.Is it the same process as the same as an american to get a residency.thank you very much

    1. Hi Doly, All three of you would apply for residency separately so it does not matter if you are married or not. Not sure exactly how the process compares to the US, but the main types of residency in Costa Rica are: pensionado, rentista, inversionista, and vínculo. We talk about these briefly at the beginning of this article, but there is a lot more to know than that. Our website doesn’t focus on residency but there are plenty of other websites that do or you could consult with an attorney. Good luck with your family’s move!

  19. Thanks Jenn and Matt for this great post and your blog. My wife, son and I got our fingerprints done at The Registro Dactilar building on Av. 8 between Calle 31 and 33 in San Jose on June 15, 2017. We showed up without an appointment before filing for residency at about 9:15 am. Everyone there was very helpful and patient. We were finished with the process at about 11:15 am.

  20. Jenn and Matt: My husband, dog and I are planning to move to Costa Rica from Ontario, Canada on September 30th, 2017. Since we are renting a place for at least one year, we are applying for Pensionado Residency. It is a real puzzle trying to figure it all out, and I appreciate so much the documentation you provided. The Costa Rican Embassy here in Ontario is not very helpful, so I wonder if you would be able to answer the following:
    1) I would be using my stream of pension income as validation of receiving at least $1,000 USD to qualify. I am getting my financial institution to send me a confirmation statement on their letterhead (which I will get “legalized” by the Consulate General here).
    2) Since I am the one declaring the income, does the Residency Application ONLY have to be completed by me, showing my husband as dependant?
    3) If so, is the following correct:
    (a) ONE application; (b) ONE proof of income; (c) ONE Marriage Certificate; (d) EACH Birth Certificate; (e) EACH Criminal Record.
    I don’t want to make assumptions and then have delays, as we have decided to do this on our own without a lawyer as well, to save the costs.

    1. Hi Patsy, We don’t have any experience with pensionado residency so, unfortunately, I’m not sure that we can help. We wouldn’t want to speculate and give you inaccurate information. Perhaps others who have done it can chime in?

      1. Thanks for responding, but since I sent the note, I have had lots of help from others and now know exactly what to do. If anyone wants to know, I can expand on this. 🙂

  21. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    Really enjoy your blog.

    I wanted to share a cautionary tale for people who may be applying for permanent residency “por vinculo con costarricense.” My mother is a Costa Rican citizen and based on the information available on immigration’s website, I should be able to apply for permanent residency (the language seems pretty clear: ” The people who can apply for this type of residence are those whose father, mother, or children are Costa Ricans. Also those who have held for three consecutive years a temporary residence”). However after gathering all my documents and getting the required apostilles, etc., as well as getting fingerprinted, and having an attorney in Costa Rica review everything for compliance, I was told at Migracion that residency ‘por vinculo’ is only for minors, and that I cannot apply. I contacted a consulate in the US and was told the same thing. So, please be aware of this if it applies to your situation. It seems you cannot apply because of a parental connection, although this isn’t what the website indicates. I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding something or if the rules have changed, but either way I’ve gotten nowhere and I’m hoping to spare someone else from going through the same thing 🙂

    Also, a couple of other things to note:
    1) The lawyer who reviewed my paperwork glued my bank deposit receipts to a piece of paper. At my initial visit to Migracion they wouldn’t even look at my other documents because these receipts were attached to a sheet of paper. They need to be able to see the back of the receipt to make sure it’s not fake apparently. I had to go back to the bank where I made the deposits to get a letter confirming that I made them. Upon returning with the letter to Migracion I was told that I can’t apply anyway, so it ended up not mattering in my case, but be aware of this.
    2) I was told by the consulate in DC that they do not accept residency applications (I think I remember reading somewhere in Migracion’s instructions that you can apply at a consulate in your home country, but I was told otherwise).

    Hope this info helps someone 🙂

    1. Hi Laura, What a bummer to go through all that trouble for nothing. Thanks for letting us know, hopefully you will help someone else. We applied (and were granted) permanent residency por vinculo through our son who is a Costa Rican citizen by virtue of his being born here. I’m not sure how it works if you’re applying as a child of a CR citizen, but I guess from what happened to you, it only works if you’re under 18 years when you go to apply. Not sure. Thanks for the other tips. We hadn’t heard that about the bank deposit receipts but it makes sense.

  22. What I can tell you is from personal experience to not necessarily trust all the firms that offer visa/ residency filing and processing. I went through 3 lawyers until i finally found one that didn’t waste my time and money and actually presented me with a customized solution for me. I know this blog is about doing it without a lawyer but i would not recommend it doing it completely without one.

    The service i’m using now is a supporting service which allows me to file all my things on my own but still have somebody to contact for recent advice and knowledge.

    This lawyer actually went through the process himself and i trust him completely! Have a look for yourselves: http://www.tropicallawyer.com

    1. One more recommendation to Herman, the “Tropical Lawyer”, I met him in person and he is a super helpful person and an enthusiastic lawyer.

  23. First,
    Thanks so much for the guide, very helpful. Applied today for vinculo through my daughter.

    Some notes:
    They only take finger prints after applying now at immigration.
    The birth and marriage certificates the government sells online do not work, you need the ones from the registry with timbres.
    Pretty straight forward. Taking finger print document tomorrow morning along with an extra birth certificate with timbres and then that step is done.
    The guide was helpful but don’t forget the 125 colones for archival fees and 2.5 per page, we did three receipts from the bank.

    1. Ian, could you please clarify the fingerprint process? You mean that it’s still done at the place described in the article (Dactiloscopia building of Ministerio Seguridad Publica) but people first need to start the process at the Migracion and then go back, or what?

      Good point about the 125 + 2.5/page fees, it’s also stated in the official guide. It needs to be deposited to the same bank account, right? What if you can’t estimate well the number of pages? Can you overpay like 300 colones? 😀

      Also why don’t they accept the new online versions of birth certificates? I read somewhere that by law it should be considered equivalent…

      Thanks

    2. Yeah, there it is, on the site where you can buy the certificates online:
      https://www.consulta.tse.go.cr – Ver condiciones del servicio…
      8. Las certificaciones emitidas por medio del sistema digital tendrán la misma validez legal que las solicitadas en las oficinas del Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.
      – which means it must be accepted as equivalent.

      But I believe that validity depends on the authority, the department and the clerk in question where you present it 😀

      1. Same bank account but different transaction so you have multiple receipts for the pages and the change of status fee.

        Sure you could overpay but maybe just 1-2 pages worth, no need to overpay that much, just count your pages and not get asked why you paid too much.

        Finger print process for us was go to Migración first, then take receipt and get fingerprinted at the above location, then go back Migración. They needed our Migración receipt for the fingerprints.

        The only thing I know is they would not accept the online version, you need the timbres for it to be accepted they said.

        We are over the 90 days now and nothing has changed in status, wife is at Migración today with a friend and it is horribly backed up.

        1. Thanks for the clarification.
          Fingerprints confirmed… we just passed by the fingerprints office today and the friendly officer insisted that the rules have changed and their central office didn’t update the PDF guide that’s available on their website. So as of Dec 18 2017 they require the following for this situation:
          – birth certificate of the Costa Rican child
          – 1 passport photo from the front
          – bringing your passport
          They didn’t mention any receipt from Migracion so they could be the first step but unfortunately _not_ before the birth of the child.

  24. Thanks very much! this was very informative. I recently marry on Oct. 2nd. I have all the documents on hand apostilled from my country ready to be filed. But, it seems that the Marriage still not registered in “Registro Civil” yet. Do you know how long does it take for them to register it? And if we can apply with copy of marriage certificate the lawyer gave us or after is registered we have to go to Registro to issue one and apply with that one? Im glad you guys finally obtained it!

    1. Hi Lizbeth, We’re really not sure but have heard that birth certificates can take a month to be registered (our son’s was done much faster but others have had different experiences) so it is probably similar for marriage certificates. I don’t think you would be able to apply with a copy. Hope you have gotten it by now or will get it soon!

  25. We have applied for residency and have case numbers. Are we required to exit and re-enter CR in order to continue driving on a US license?

    1. Hi Cynthia, Yes, your US drivers licenses renew with your passport stamp, unfortunately, so if you want to keep driving, you have to renew your visa. Once you get your cedulas and your 90 day stamp expires, you can apply for a Costa Rican drivers license.

  26. Dear Jenn&Matt, do you know if the father is necessary to be present in person to pick up the passport of newly born son in CR or he is just needed with his passport to apply? and then i can collect son’s passport myself?

  27. Hi Jen,
    Thank you for the info, I will do the same as you go through applying for residency as I have a baby that just born last October. I just want to clarify about the fingerprints as I already did before sending the form to my country to get my criminal record and within the form, they also give a certification but I did also send that to my country together with the form that has my fingerprints. My question now is, do I have to go back and have them my fingerprints so I can have that certification to attach to my application?

    1. Hi Liza, The fingerprints you need to submit with your residency application are different from the ones you send to get your criminal record from your home country. Costa Rica wants you to submit your fingerprints to them so that you are in their database. We got our fingerprints done at the Registro Dactilar in San Jose before submitting our application at Migración but recently people have been required to apply first then get the fingerprints done after (see comment from Ian on August 30, 2017).

      1. Question – We’re at the beginning of the process and having our child in May 2019 here in Costa Rica. Can we get fingerprints here in Costa Rica and mail them to the United States to get our criminal background check or do we need to fly back to the US to get our fingerprints done at a police station to get our criminal background check?

        1. Hi Virginia, We got our fingerprints done here in Costa Rica, you just have to find the right place for where you live. We went to OIJ in Quepos. Maybe ask around in the town where you live to see where people have gotten them done.

          1. Hi.My family will be attempting the same thing. We will stop by the OIJ in Quepos next weekend to see if they’ll do it. If they still do they will probably say come back on a weekday.
            QUESTION: Do you think our 3 year old will have to submit FBI fingerprints as well?

      1. Thank you! I did get through using my pre-paid SIM card, so perhaps the restriction was raised. The cost was 390 colones per minute. They answered quickly and responded efficiently. Have been in RESOLUCIÓN FIRMA for three months and the rep confirmed that is not unusual.

  28. Hello! Jenn&Matt, I am a Chinese. I want to apply for temporary residence in Costa Rica. I can prepare all the ducuments in my country and plan to show up in Costa Rica to apply the residence in person. Before I go to Costa Rica, I will stay the U.S for a few months. Do you think my plan can works or not? Plus, do you have some suggestion for me? Thank you for your amazing sharing infos.
    Cheers

    1. Hi Winnie, If you meet all of the requirements for the type of residency you’re applying for, your plan should work. It is easiest to apply here in person so it’s good that you’re planning to do that. Just be careful with the dates of your documents and make sure they do not expire while you are in the US. Many of them are valid for only a limited period of time – this is covered on the Migracion website.

  29. Hi Jenn & Matt
    Question about the various payments that have to be made in the application process. $200 fee has to be paid at the BCR for visa status change – Do you simply go to the bank and make the deposit or do you have to fill out some kind of form to accompany the deposit? Same with the $50 application fee – is there a form or simply make the deposit? Also there is a fee of ¢125 and ¢2.50 for each sheet submitted with the application – is that made by deposit to the same account or is that paid by timbres attached to each page? That fee for each page does it include the apostille pages & formulario page as well? Thanks! I’m submitting my application in 2 days & just trying to make sure I’ve dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s!

    1. Hi Drew, You only have to make the bank deposits into the specific accounts and don’t need to fill out a form. Just make sure the account numbers are correct (the bank teller will be able to see the account holder in the system) and have them put your name in the notes as the depositor. Then you will bring the receipts to Migracion as part of your application to show that the deposits were made. Those small colones fees are the timbres that you will buy. We bought them right outside Migracion (see photo, above) and the guy knew how much we needed to get. We didn’t attach them to the application ourselves; the immigration employee just stapled the group of them onto our applications for us when he organized the files. Good luck when you go to submit!

  30. Hi, I am a Costa Rican citizen. I have been through the process of obtaining residency for several members of my family. You have a really good guide here, congrats! I would like to add just one thing: there is no need for notarization of documents if you present original documents and its copy at the moment you give the officer all your paperwork. You do not need to sign your application either, you wait until the officer receives all of your papers and he/she notarizes it right then. The immigration officer is like a notary public. Thanks for the time you have taken to describe your experience and thank you for listing the costs and timing. I will recommend this great post to my friends. Gracias, Bella

    1. Hi Analyn, The amount is income-based. So people who have rentista residency, for example, pay quite a bit since they have to show $2,500 a month in income to qualify. If you have residency por vínculo like us, you declare your income with the Caja and then they tell you how much to pay. There’s a chart with the different brackets that we have seen shared on some of the Facebook expats’ groups. It is very affordable, though.

      1. Hi guys, the amount to pay to the caja is incom-based… so do you know how it is calculatet? e.g. when I have to show a monthly income from US$ 2’500.– what do I have to pay? And do you know how it works to get an international insurence (because I’d also like to travel outside CR) …can I later on ask for it (while I already live in CR?)

        1. Hi Olivia, The amount is calculated using a sliding scale. The higher your income, the higher your percentage. There is a chart out there showing the different percentages. This website has one. It seems generally right ($2500/month would be 8%) but a lawyer or your local Caja office could confirm. You can definitely get international insurance- this would be through a private insurance carrier. A lot of people do that to have additional coverage in case they want to see a private doctor or because they travel internationally.

  31. Thank you for your blog/site. It’s been very helpful.
    I would like to know what is acceptable for proof of income for the pensionado residency. I have a letter from the Social Security Administration that states I will be getting $XXXX.XX (which is over $1000.00) monthly starting February 2018. Would that be sufficient?

    1. Hi Nick, That sounds like it would work but we aren’t sure. We don’t have any experience with pensionado residency. We would ask a lawyer if you aren’t sure or perhaps someone else can chime in.

    2. Hi Nick,

      My husband and I applied as pensionados from Canada. We obtained a letter from my husband’s school board stipulating how much his pension was and got that letter authenticated and legalized; we also opened up an account in CR (under a corporation) and had his pension transferred to our bank account in CR; If you are in the States, you should get your letter apostilled. Remember, most of these documents expire within 6 months ; some 3 months.

  32. Wow this blog has been a godsend! Thank you so much for taking the time to document this, such valuable info!
    I am currently in San Jose waiting for our little one to arrive.. due date march 8th, so could come any day! We will be applying for por vinculo residency and I’ve almost got all the info/documents needed.
    Two things im not clear on……
    1. We are also applying for our 4 year old son that was born in Sweden. Does he also need to have a letter explaining why he want so apply for residency (we are using the example letter you posted) I have done one letter for me and one fro my partner but not sure if i should do one for our son too.
    2. The bank payments.. Do we need to make 3 different payments to get 3 different receipts? Do i need to wait until the baby is born to do these or can i do them already now? Im not clear even what i am paying for and is it two sets of payments that need to be made.
    Thank you in advance for any clarity you can give! Have a lovely day. Cara

    1. Hi Cara, Yes, We would recommend doing a letter for your 4 year old son too. It’s better to have too much then possibly not have it and need it.

      For the bank deposits, those are application fees and fees to get you out of the country in the event that you are ever deported. You will pay your first CCSS (Caja) payment after you get your resolutions (after your applications are approved). The two deposits are into the bank accounts on the Migración application information and you will need to make 3 separate deposits for each of you into the 2 accounts. Tell the bank teller to put each set in each of your names. Then you’ll submit the deposit receipts with each of your respective applications. You can do this anytime I think, but we waited until closer to making our applications. There is also a bank at Migración headquarters in La Uruca.

      Best wishes for a speedy delivery and congrats in advance on your new arrival!

  33. Do you have to continue to renew your tourist visa every 90 days while your residency papers are being processed? How does this work when you have a Costa Rican born infant who cannot leave the country?

    1. Hi Venessa, You have to leave every 90 days if you drive because your foreign driver’s license renews with your tourist visa. Otherwise you don’t need to and can show your residency paperwork to enter the country.

      You can get a passport and permiso de salida for a Costa Rican born baby once you have the birth certificate (see our post, Having a Baby in CR: The Paperwork).

  34. What a great blog! We are in our 40’s and have a 1-yr-old and a 3-yr-old. If we sold our house we could buy land down there. Would they let us bring a camper? ? Would we need to leave the country periodically for tourist visas? Just wondering how much more difficult it would be to have babies and not be residents… and get school & healthcare and the like. A lot to sort through. Pura Vida!

    1. Hi Kelli, Yes, it’s a lot to think about. They would let you bring the camper but you would need to pay import duties on it. If you shipped it, you’d have to pay them in order to get it released, and if you drove it down, you’d have 90 days and then would have to register it and pay the import duties. The duties are expensive. You should read our post FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica for general info about moving here, including about leaving to renew your visa. For school, I think non resident kids can go to public school and there are private options of course. I think, but am not 100% sure, that all kids are eligible for free medical care through the Caja public system regardless of whether they’re residents but you would want to double check that. Private care is very affordable too. We pay about $90 per visit out of pocket for a private pediatrician for our son. He’s bilingual. Hope that helps!

  35. Hi Guys,

    Great blog post and really informative! Quick question; once you had submitted your application, was it still necessary to renew your tourist visa every 90 days, or were you given something like a special piece of paper that kept you exempt from that?

  36. Thank you so much for this thorough blog post. Regarding the registry documents. Can you clarify what you meant by “The Registry document must not be more than two-months old.” Our son was born back in January and we have his birth certificate. Do you mean that we need to request fresh copies and that each copy comes with some sort of date that it was printed?

    1. Hi Tiffany, Yes, they want the document to be issued within the last 2 months. So you just have to request a new one- same doc, different issuance date. You can do it through this website. Good luck with your application!

  37. You guys are a Blessing, I have read all of your blogs pertaining to giving birth and applying for residency. Thank you so much for providing such valuable information, my husband and putting together a plan to deliver at the CIMA in SJ. I have few questions regarding the permiso de salida ( I hope I spelled it right..lol)

    -What type of permiso salida did you apply for? Permanent or Temporary?
    -Just to clarify, when you apply for your residency all documents have to be notarized and apostilled within 2 months of applying?
    -Can most of these steps be completed in my home country?
    -Do I have to be present in CR to during the application approval/processing?
    -Would you know how long it takes for your childs name to show up in the Tribunal Supermo?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Julia, Hope all goes well with the birth of your child! Here are some thoughts on your questions-
      1. Most people apply for the permanent permiso de salida. It stays in place indefinitely unless you change or remove it.
      2. For the timing, all of your documents have to be issued/apostiled within the last 6 months (see Step 2, above), except that if you are applying for residency por vinculo through the birth of your child, the birth certificate needs to be no more than 2 months old.
      3/4. Most steps can be completed from your home country and then you can come to CR to file. You could also have a lawyer file for you. It’s best to be in Costa Rica after the 90 days are up so you can check on the application and finish the remaining steps after your application is approved like applying for the Caja/CCSS.
      4. Someone just addressed this question. Go see Tally’s comment on May 28, 2018 in our Having a Baby in CR- The Paperwork post.

  38. Got my permanent residency card about a month ago, pretty quick I think considering I waited 2 months to go for my picture due to some travel etc. I think it was 9 months start to finish.
    Biggest piece of advice I could give people is after your 90 day waiting period is up go and check on status in person. They will say its not ready, so wait 4-6 weeks and go back, do this until you get it. Sister in law works for an immigration lawyer and this was her advice and the experience of others I know personally. I had someone check on my status when they checked theirs and they said he hasn’t come in person so to check on it so he isn’t a priority essentially. To make an appointment with immigration to get your cedule you have to have a Kolbi number, we bought a prepaid kolbi card at walmart, put 5,000 on it and presto an appointment for two days later. We tried going through BCR and it was a nightmare and not worth the effort.
    So after having my permanent residency for a month it turns out we will be leaving Costa Rica in 3 months. Wont continue to pay caja so Ill loose my residency. Wonder if I can get my 300 dollar deposit back or if its even worth the effort.

    1. Ian, from what I have read you can put a hold on your CAJA when out of the country but it has to be for at least 3 consecutive months. Another blog said they just presented their visa showing their exit and entry stamps.

  39. You MUST get an appointment before having your fingerprints taken. Even though you may have to call over and over to get through to the call center it’s a requirement now. Call ‭+506 2586-4117‬. You can have them taken before you put in your application though… we wanted to apply for our residency through our consulate in California to save the extra $200 per application ($800 for our family of 4!) and this was the only requirement we had to meet when physically present in CR until we are approved 🙂

  40. When you registered with your consulate what date did you put for arrival in the form? The most recent date of your last entrance into CR? and did you just say you didn’t know your departure date?

  41. Hey Matt & Kenn, thank you for this highly informative blog!
    We’re in the same situation as you were, planning on getting our residency through our newborn son.
    Could you please again post the link to the template for the formal letter (carta migración) you used, as the link above doesn’t work anymore. Or send me the file? Thanks!

    Also we’re wondering if it’s really necessary to do a trip to San Jose to get all documents etc together, because we live far down south. In Paso Canoas apparently one can file the documents, but fingerprinting – any idea?

    Thank you very much,
    Sue

    1. Hi Sue, It looks like the link indeed does not work anymore, but if you go to this page on the same site, they list what should be included in the letter. It’s just a short letter.

      Be careful about using Paso Canoas. We had friends apply there recently and they had some major problems. Their expediente numbers were not in the system the whole time their applications were pending. So they kept having to go ask the people at Paso Canoas if everything was all set since they couldn’t follow the status online. It was a couple and one of them got approved in around 18 months but the other’s was denied even though all the documents were the same and her husband has just been approved! This could have nothing to do with the Paso Canoas office but I would still highly recommend going through the main office in La Uruca since they are 100% accountable for your application.

      1. I emailed them asking how to get proof of enrollment for immigration purposes and they told me they are sorry but at this time they are unable to provide that.

  42. Thank you Jenn and Matt for this website that help me to get my paper done and it took only 8 month from the day I submitted my documents, then now Cedula is in my hands.

  43. Hi Jen and Matt, thank you so much for your blog and always providing such helpful information!
    We will apply for residency after our baby arrives, which will be in 3 months. We have all of the documents with apostilles needed from the U.S….except our federal background check. We recently went back to the U.S. and had our fingerprints taken there, but we just found out that our fingerprints were rejected/illegible, despite having them done by an approved technician. We are already back in Costa Rica, so we will now have to find a way to do the fingerprints from here. My questions are:
    – Where did you get the fingerprint form that you used to send yours in? Did you print the required FD-258 on regular paper or card stock? If card stock, where did you find that here?
    -Which police department did you go to, or can we take it to any OIJ, and how much did they charge?
    Once we figure out this step, we’ll send them to the FBI, and have a family member send it off (once approved) to get the Apostille from the US Dept of State. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ashley, We can’t quite remember because it has been a while but think we just printed out the fingerprint form on regular paper. Yes, it was just the form that was part of the application. We got our prints done at OIJ in Quepos, but it was definitely not a routine thing for them to do. They thought we were crazy and we had to explain that it was for our residency applications. So you could try your local OIJ office. Otherwise, you can get them done in San Jose, or if you live in the Southern Zone, they will do them in Ciudad Neilly. It should be free wherever you go.

  44. I would be grateful if you guys can clarify a few queries I have! Did you guys apply for permanent residency directly after being tourists? As mentioned in the article I though it is required to hold a temp one for 3 years.
    I already am working on a temp residency here for a year now. I contacted a lawyer (immigration “expert” apparently) to explore possibility getting a permanent residency and she is saying that I should be eligible to apply on January, 2019. Also, she is promising that I should have the approval in 90 days! But, if the comments in this article have told me anything, it’s that each and everyone waited for at-least a year. Is that lawyer blowing smoke in my face?

    1. Hi Prateek, We applied for residency through the birth of our son (por vinculo), which granted us permanent residency without a waiting period. Some of the other types of residency like pensionado and rentista are temporary at first, then you can apply for permanent after having temporary for a certain number of year (perhaps 3 as you say).

      As for how long it takes, some of the types of residency are faster than others, like the one we applied under. But we would be weary of any 90 day guarantees in most cases.

  45. For the FBI criminal record, do I have to have that sent directly to my home or can I have it sent to the US state department? How do I know if the police letter I got before I left is good enough? What is the best way to send legal documents from the US to Costa Rica?

    1. Hi Shon, For us, the way it worked was the FBI background check was sent to someone in the US for us and then we had to send it separately to the US State Dept for the apostle. That was all we got for the criminal background check requirement. We did not get a letter from a local police department.

      For sending documents to CR, the best method depends on where in CR you’re sending them. We have used DHL with success several times but it is expensive.

    2. I simply got a local (phoenix) police report and it was acceptable. I think the Interpol report comes when you make application and have finger prints taken.

  46. Does anyone know if the online Costa Rican birth certificate is accepted for the application? Applying on Friday through our Tico baby and I’m seeing mixed opinions. Has anyone submitted the online version recently?

  47. Hi Jenn & Matt,
    thanks for all the helpful info on your website. it’s been a great resource for us! do you happen to have that form letter in Spanish that you must submit with your residency application? the link on this blog post is 404. thanks!

  48. Wow, what an amazing resource! Thank you for carefully presenting all the details and links. I will be gathering documents in April and you’ve answered a lot of my questions.

  49. hI, GREAT information. I did applied by myself last September 2017 I am still waiting….
    In August 2017 the immigration lost my paper of my finger print,so I did again. In February 2019 when again to immigration, they told me to come back in 90 days. I have my expediente no: whenever I try to look nothing happen in the web site of migracion of CR II do not know why I can not check my status. I am thinking to see a attorney.

  50. I have a question regarding the background check. If you still have access to a copy of your residency paperwork could you tell me what the second to the last paragraph says? When I was getting my fingerprints done the people told me to put the reason as “personal review” and they said the reason needs to match the reason on the application. So on the fingerprints application I also put “Personal Review” instead of “Live in a Foreign Country”. The people at the fingerprinting place told me that the reason is not stated on the Background Check but on mine there is a statement that says “The Identity History Summary (IdHS) is provided pursuant to 28 CFR 16.30-16.34 solely for you to conduct a personal review and or/obtain a change, correction, or updating of your record.” Does yours says the same thing or does it say for the purpose of living in Costa Rica? Thank you!

    1. Hi Tiffany, I just checked, and our FBI background check docs say the same as yours about “personal review.” So I think you’re all set. The sentence is exactly the same as what you have quoted.

  51. In your original post you offered a link to a template for the application letter. The link no longer works. Could you email me the template or a copy. Thanks.

  52. Are all the steps in the article pertaining to temporary or permanent residency?
    Sorry , the article is confusing, since it mentions both in various sections.

    I heard the temporary residency was only good for 2 years. Does that mean that the whole process with fees with have to be repeated again after two years (using the rentista program)? Thanks

    1. Hi Justin, Yes, these are the steps for temporary and permanent residency.

      When your cedula expires, you just have to file for a renewal, which is a more streamlined process. You don’t need to produce all the paperwork again.

  53. Dear Matt and Jenn,
    First of all I would like to thank you for all information about applying for a permanent residence. We have an identical situation. Our daughter was born in Costa Rica in early July. The only difference is that we are not from the US. In mid-July we submitted the documents in the migration, and got the so-called expediente. In migration told us there with that paper we can get a job, but it depends on the employer. Migration as an institution does not issue a work permit.
    In the meantime, I had a family tragedy. My father suddenly die. What interests me, if you know, is whether my family and I can go to our country of origine and how long we can stay assuming that we are in the process of obtaining a permanent residence?

    P.S. About changes for permanent residence application:
    1. Now is necessary to schedule a fingerprint appointment. You can do it on their web. And without panic, this document you can bring after your first visit to the migration. Just mention them when you have an appointment.
    2. We did not need timbre. We were sent to the bank at the information desk and paid some money there.
    Thank you again. We wish you all the best!
    Mara, Sasha, Tanasije & Talija.

    1. Hi Mara, We don’t think there’s any prohibition on travel out of Costa Rica or limit to how long you can leave when your application is pending. The only problem that could arise is if Migration sends you a request for some additional information or document. Those usually have a time limit where you need to get back to them. You could hire an attorney to keep track of the status of your application so that you don’t miss anything. Thanks for the updates on the process!

  54. Excellent review. This actually made my day. I live and work in Qatar. Looking forward to having my baby delivered in Costa Rica. I learnt they have excellent and affordable healthcare system. Could you please, throw more light on some good hospitals and the admission process.

  55. I applied for my temporary residency through marriage and the application is pending. I am supposed to go back to the US for a month, do you know if I can just go or do I need permission or how that works? Thank you.

  56. Hi, wondering whether any other families have had the experience that a minor child’s residency was approved before the parents. We received notice four weeks ago that our older son (4yo / not born in CR) is approved, and since that time no word on my or my wife’s applications. We would of course like to complete the remaining steps as a family, but have the 90 day window (now down to 60 days for him) to contend with. Any relevant experiences and/or recommendations appreciated.

  57. This is very useful information! Thank you so much!
    I recently had my residency approved but when i went to check, they told me i had 3 different things to get – a more recent marriage certificate and a birth certificate which had been printed in the last 6 months. The only thing is they have given me 10 days to get all these things but the birth certificate is going to take at least a month since it’s coming from the UK and i need to have it apostilled. Any advice on this matter?

    1. Hi Abbey, We’d recommend consulting with a lawyer in Costa Rica. They could probably write you a letter saying that you will provide the requested documents as soon as they are available. It seems that the important thing is that you respond to the request within 10 days.

  58. Hi, we are in the process of getting residency. We were told the state background check was not sufficient and that we need an FBI one. Outlier Legal says that they can help but have insane fees ($450+ per person for 1 document). This post interested me in that the author was able to get finger prints done at an OIJ office. The FD-258 form seems to indicate that it must be done by a US law enforcement location. It sounds like the FBI accepted the fingerprints taken in CR? Can only give me any more information on how this is done? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jeremy, Yes, we did do ours at a local OIJ office and the FBI accepted our prints and issued our background checks. I just looked briefly at the FD-258 form and didn’t see anything about fingerprints needing to be taken by US law enforcement. But you could check with an attorney to see if something has changed.

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