Retiring to Costa Rica is on your mind? Before making the move, acquaint yourself with the Costa Rica visa and immigration requirements. For nationals of most countries, the following rules apply (although there are some exceptions)...
If you simply want to visit Costa Rica for vacations, you do not need a visa as long as you don’t stay there for longer than 30-90 days, depending on your country of origin. A valid passport as well as proof of your inbound and outbound ticket must be presented.
When a visa is required, you must provide
more information, like the completed Costa Rica
visa application form, one color passport-sized photograph, a photocopy
of your inbound and outbound itinerary, evidence of sufficient funds
for your stay, and proof of purpose describing the reason for your
If you want to retire to Costa Rica and live there permanently, you need to apply for residency from your home country, either with your local consulate or with the Department of Immigration in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. Several residency programs exist. These are the most common ones...
The Rentista Program is for people who do not have a fixed retirement income. You need to give proof of $2,500 in monthly unearned income for the next two years, or a $60,000 deposit in a foreign or - preferably - Costa Rican bank. Note that the income has to be "unearned," i.e. wages or income from any form of employment does not count.
The Pensionado Program requires that you give proof of at least $1,000 a month coming from a pension fund or another retirement plan.
Contrary to other countries, the financial requirements for the Rentista and Pensionado Program are the same, whether you are single, a couple or have dependants.
The Inversionista Program grants residency to those who are investing a minimum of $200,000 directly into Costa Rica. The investment can be made into any types of business, and as of 2012 it is also possible to invest in non-commercial real estate. That means that buying your own home with a value of at least $200,000 qualifies you for the Inversionista Program!
Acceptance into one of these three programs gives you a temporary residency. After being in the country as a temporary resident for three years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Expat residents are granted the same rights as citizens, except voting of course. Depending with which program you are in Costa Rica, your right to work will differ. With the Pensionado and Rentista Residency program you can own and manage a company/business and receive dividends, but you can't work as an employee.
Other than not having to worry about leaving the country every 90 days, the Costa Rica residency doesn't really come with extra benefits, like tax exemptions on imports, for example. Well, it does give you the right to purchase a telephone line from ICE... if they have one available, that is.
Costa Rica immigration is usually more favorable toward those who bring some sort of financial benefit to the country, either through investments, entrepreneurship or through the Pensionado and Rentista visas.By doing so, Costa Rica ensures that most immigrants will be beneficial for the country’s economic growth and/or its job market. People with higher income or those who are willing to invest in the country will find it much easier to get a Costa Rica visa.