Renewing Permanent Residency in Costa Rica

Those who have gone through the residency process in Costa Rica and received their DIMEX card (known locally as a cedula) know what a process it is. Once you hold that little piece of plastic in your hand, it is such a relief. Unfortunately, these cards are only valid for a certain amount of time and need to be renewed. In this post, we will go through the process of renewing permanent residency in Costa Rica. While this applies to those holding permanent residency, others who have temporary residency or other types may find some useful tips as well.

Renewing Permanent Residency in Costa Rica

The Renewal Process 

After navigating the lengthy residency process, you might be surprised to learn that your brand-new Costa Rica DIMEX card is only valid for a couple of years.

We applied for permanent residency through the birth of our first child and received DIMEX cards (cedulas) that were valid for two years. When we renewed those, we were given another two years.

Now, on our second renewal, we have been given cards that are valid for three years.

Fortunately, the process of renewing is a lot less complicated than your original residency application. You’ll only be asked to provide a few documents as well as your old card. We’ll get into the details below.

When to Renew?

You can begin the process of renewing your DIMEX up to three months before it expires. However, if you are like most people (including us), you have waited until much closer to the expiration date.

Don’t wait too long, though. Without a valid DIMEX card, it can be difficult to do many things.

You won’t be able to open any new accounts (e.g., cell phone plans, contracts), and banks and other institutions likely will not let you present your cedula as a form of identification to make transfers or apply for services.

And don’t forget that without a valid card, you’ll have to pay those higher non-resident prices at places like national parks. They sure are strict about that!

If you have missed the deadline, you can still renew a permanent residency card up to three months after it expires. However, after three months, you need to have a lawyer write a letter giving a valid explanation of why you are more than three months’ overdue.

For temporary residents, if you are three months’ overdue, you need to renew through Migracion.

Where Can You Renew?   

There are a few options for people who need to renew their DIMEX cards.

You can either make an appointment at Correos de Costa Rica (the country’s post office) or Banco de Costa Rica (BCR, a bank).

Not all branches offer the service; however, there should be one within a reasonable drive from where you live.

Additionally, those who are over the age of 65 can go directly to Migracion in La Uruca, San Jose to renew and receive a new card the same day. According to a local law firm, this service is available only on Thursdays and Fridays and no appointment is needed.

BCR Bank in Jaco Costa Rica
BCR in Jaco

Renewing Your DIMEX/Permanent Residency at BCR Bank  

We chose to renew our cedulas at the BCR on both occasions. Mostly because the post offices near us are small and always very crowded and hectic. BCR seemed more organized and efficient.

Making an Appointment

Calling the Hotline

To make a DIMEX renewal appointment at BCR, you will need to call them at 800-BCRCITA (227-2482). This is a toll-free call that can be made using a post-paid or prepaid phone.

Most of the times we have called, the operator has only spoken Spanish. However, we did once have an English-speaking representative.

Before calling, we would recommend visiting the BCR website to get familiar with the process. Under the section Personas, you can find another section called Punto Pais. This is a list of all the personal services offered at the bank like paying your Marchamo, getting a passport, etc.

From here, click on Cita para Cédula de Residencia. On this residency appointment page, you’ll find a brief description of the process.

When you call, you’ll be asked for your name, email, DIMEX/cedula number, the date it expires, and what bank branch you would like to make an appointment at. The list of available BCR branches is here.

What You’ll Need to Bring

The representative also will explain what you need to bring. The list has been the same both times we have renewed.

  • Original DIMEX card that is going to expire
  • Proof of most recent payment in the CCSS system (Caja) – see below
  • A signed letter declaring who you are and the full names of both of your parents

Before you end your call with the BCR representative, you’ll be given date and time options for the appointment. We have usually gotten an appointment within a week.

You’ll also receive a confirmation number for the appointment. A confirmation should be emailed to you as well. This last time we renewed, one of us did not receive the email confirmation, but when we called back later to make sure everything was all set, they verified our appointment in the system.

Proof of Caja

IMPORTANT: For proof of Caja payment, you’ll have to show up in the Validacion de Derechos system as active and covered. The BCR rep will check this during your appointment.

For those who are insured under their spouse, there is often a problem proving coverage. This is because you need to renew the dependent status at your local CCSS office every couple of years. Sometimes this association lapses between renewals and you will have to visit CCSS (sometimes more than once) to straighten it out. This is all another good reason to start renewing early!

If you are married and under your spouse’s account, you will probably need to show the CCSS an apostilled marriage certificate to prove you are still married. Some people have gotten married in Costa Rica to avoid the hassle of having to get a new apostilled marriage certificate every couple of years.

Website to check CCSS status
CCSS website where you can check to make sure your Caja is current in the system

DIMEX Renewal Appointment

On the day of your renewal appointment, make sure to show up to the bank a little early. Also, let the security guard at the door know that you have an appointment before getting in line. Often, they have a separate line for people who are scheduled for services.

In the bank, there will be a separate office/line for the BCR representative who processes residency renewals.

When it is your turn, the BCR rep will collect your required documents, make some copies, and have you fill out a short form (address, date of birth, etc.). You’ll then need to pay the associated fees for the renewal and have your picture taken.

With all of this done, you’ll get a piece of paper called a Comprobante de Solicitud, Tramite de documento de extranjeros DIMEX (Proof of Application of Processing Foreigners’ DIMEX). This will have all your information, like your expediente number, cedula number, immigration category, and date of birth. It also will have the date that the new card will be available for pick up at the post office (usually a month after your appointment date).

If you are going around with an expired DIMEX card, it would be a good idea to keep a copy of this voucher with you until you get your new card. You can then show it to an official if needed and explain that you have renewed and are still waiting for the new card.

Cost of Renewal

The fees you need to pay include a renewal solicitation fee (Migration’s fee, around $125), shipping to have the new card delivered to your nearest Correos de Costa Rica (about $7), and the bank’s commission (around $8).

Overall, the total amount we paid was a little less than $150 each.

It’s important to know that you cannot pay by credit card. You must either take the money out of your BCR account or pay it in cash.

Picking Up Your New DIMEX Card  

The BCR website says that it will deliver the card within 22 business days. However, we have heard of long delays of two months or more when waiting for the new DIMEX card to arrive.

Fortunately, this was not the case for us (in October 2021). We checked at the post office for our card exactly at the one-month point (22 business days) and it had arrived a few days before.

When picking up the card, you’ll need to show your application voucher (comprobante de solicitud) and old cedula.

This time, the postal worker also opened the package and showed us that the card was in good condition before having us sign for it.

There is no charge at the post office since you already paid for the shipping at the renewal appointment.   

A new DIMEX card

Renewing Your DIMEX at Correos de Costa Rica

We do not have experience renewing at the post office in Costa Rica; however, it looks like many of the requirements and process are the same.

For those interested in pursuing this method, you can visit the Correo’s page for residency renewal.

The required documents for each residency category are listed on this sheet. It also gives the fees associated with renewal. You will have to deposit some of the fees into a specific BCR account before your appointment.

If you have experience with renewal at the postal offices in Costa Rica, feel free to leave a comment below to help others navigate the process.

Conclusion

Renewing permanent residency in Costa Rica may seem like a daunting task, but if you start early and know the process, it should be fairly simple. Once you receive that new plastic card with your picture on it, you can breathe easy for a couple of more years before you have to worry about it again. We hope this post has helped you get prepared and best of luck with your renewal!

Have a question or want to share your DIMEX renewal experience? Leave a comment below.

Looking for more information to help you navigate life in Costa Rica? Check out these articles:

Starting a Business in Costa Rica as an Expat – Thinking of the next big business idea for Costa Rica? Check out this article for some insights into what’s involved and what to plan for.

Buying a House in Costa Rica – Ready to buy in Costa Rica? We went through this process ourselves and share our experience.  

Having a Baby at Hospital CIMA – Our experience giving birth at one of San Jose’s best private hospitals. 

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