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Applying for Residency

Applying for Residency

To get a DIMEX Card you need to file for temporary or permanent residency and if your application is approved you will be granted and issued the card.

The steps you must take to apply for a DIMEX Card will vary depending on your individual situation and the category of temporary or permanent residency that you apply for, but can be summarized in these steps:

  • Prepare and Gather all required documents: This process may take you up to six months depending on the workload of your home country government institutions that issue, certify or apostille documents. If you will use legal assistance to file your application on your behalf, you can find a attorney who will assist you or we can help you and do all this process on your behalf.

  • File your temporary or permanent residency application: It may take you a whole day to file the application along with all the required documentation in person at the Immigration Offices. Otherwise, we can do that on your behalf. Or, you may do it online.

  • Upon submission of your residency application, Immigration will create a digital record of your application and give you a receipt slip as proof of submission indicating your personal information, your case number and a list of all documents you submitted. Please review that all data in this receipt is accurate and all documents you submitted are listed.

  • Application Review & Approval: From the time that you submitted your complete application with all required documents Immigration office will have 90 calendar days to review your application and will make a decision about your application. If you submitted an incomplete application, you will be notified and the 90 calendar days will start counting from the date that you submitted your last document.

  • Appointment to Pick Up Your DIMEX Card: If your application for residency is approved then you will be given a date for an appointment to come and get your DIMEX card. The estimated time to get an appointment is from 1 to 9 months from the time that your residency application is approved.

Before You Apply

From start to finish the residency process can take the better part of a year. Doing it yourself will save money, but working with a lawyer can save you time and make the process much easier. To file residency on your behalf, most lawyers charge $2,000-$5,000 per person depending on the category of residency status that you are applying, plus authentication, procedural and translation fees.

As of 2012, documents issued from participating countries in the Hague Convention can now be apostilled for use in Costa Rica. Now, U.S. citizens, (not Canadians, since Canada does not adhere to the apostille process), no longer need to send their documents through the Costa Rican Consulate or Ministry of Foreign Relations in Costa Rica for authentication.

Please note that all documents submitted on a residency application that are not issued in Costa Rica must be:

  • Issued within the previous six months from the date your residency application is submitted. For example, if you apply for residency on December 1, 2021, the document must be issued between June 2, 2021 and December 1, 2021.

  • Apostilled in the country where they were issued, if the country participates in the Hague Convention. Or, legalized by a Consulate of Costa Rica that has coverage over the state or province where the document was issue bearing the stamps and seals of the cost of the legalization and authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Costa Rica.

  • Translated into Spanish (the document and the apostilled) by a certified accredited official translator, an attorney that knows how to write English, if the documents were not issued in Spanish

Applying for Residency

All foreign nationals applying for temporary or permanent residency must complete the following steps. Your lawyer with a power of attorney can also complete these steps on your behalf.

1. Write a letter addressed to the Director of Immigration that details:

  • Why you are requesting residency and what you will be doing in Costa Rica

  • Your complete name, nationality, date of birth, profession or office, intended address in Costa Rica, and the full names and nationalities of your parents

  • An address within the San Jose city limits or a fax number

  • The date and your signature. You must sign the letter in front of an Immigration officer, who will authenticate your signature. If you are filing for residency before moving to Costa Rica, your local Costa Rican Consulate will authenticate your signature.

2. Present a certified copy of your full birth certificate:

  • Issued and date stamped no more than six months from the date you submit your application and showing the last names of your parents. For U.S. citizens, this copy may be apostilled in the state of origin.

  • For U.S. citizens the birth certificate must be apostilled.

  • For Canadians, your birth certificate must be authenticated by the local Costa Rican Consulate with jurisdiction over your state or province and stamped by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Relations).

3. Provide a certified copy of your criminal background history certification ("certificación de antecedentes penales") for all applicants above 18 years of age:

  • Issued and date stamped no more than six months from the date you submit your application and showing that you have not been found guilty of any crimes in the last three years.

  • U.S. citizens must get a U.S. criminal background history certification, also known as, the Identity History Summary Check (IHSC) report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

  • For Canadians, this criminal record must be authenticated by the local Costa Rican Consulate with jurisdiction over your state or province, and stamped by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Relations).

  • United Kingdom citizens must get a criminal background history also known as Police Certificates issued by the ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO).

4. Present a complete copy of all pages of your passport:

  • Legalized by your immigration lawyer OR

  • A copy of your passport and the original, presented to the Immigration officer who receives your documents.

5. Bring a set of fingerprints for all applicants over the age of 12

  • Taken by the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica. (Ministry of Public Safety)

6. Provide two recent passport-sized photos (5cm x 5 cm) with white background.

7. Show proof of payment of $250USD or its equivalent in Costa Rican currency paid to the government’s Banco de Costa Rica account. Contact Immigration for current bank account information.

8. Obtain "especies fiscales", a type of government tax stamp, issued by Immigration: 125 CRC per document and 2.50 CRC per page. Your total cost for stamps should be less than $1, and you can buy them at Immigration.

9. All documents not written in Spanish must be accompanied by a Spanish translation:

  • All translations must be done by an official translator. Your lawyer, local Costa Rican Consulate, or country’s embassy in Costa Rica can recommend an official translator.

10. Complete the formulario de filiacion, or affiliation form.

  • This may be downloaded from Immigration’s website or requested at Immigration.

11. Provide proof that you have public health insurance coverage from the Costa Rican Department of Health and Human Services, locally known as "Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social" or by its Spanish abbreviation CCSS.

12. Give proof of inscripcion consular, a form of registration at your country’s embassy in Costa Rica.

  • Immigrants from countries with no local embassy are exempt from this requirement.

Permanent Residency

If you are applying for permanent residency through first-degree relation (parent, child, or sibling) to a Costa Rican or your permanent resident spouse, you must provide:

  • Official documentation to support that relationship. Accepted documents include birth certificates and marriage certificates. Others may be accepted; contact Immigration for more details.

Temporary Residency through marriage to a Costa Rican

To file for residency through marriage to a Costa Rican citizen, you must provide:

  • A marriage certificate issued by the Registro Civil (Office of Vital Records)

  • A copy of your spouse’s cedula, the government ID card.

Before your residency is approved, Immigration may request an interview with you and your spouse. Immigration is trying to determine that you live with your Costa Rican spouse and that your marriage is not one of convenience that was entered into with the sole goal of obtaining residency.

Rentista (Annuity Holder) Temporary Residency

To apply for Rentista residency, you must provide:

  • An official document, legalized by the Department of Immigration that proves you will receive a permanent and stable monthly payment of at least $2,500, generated outside of Costa Rica or by the banks of the Sistema Bancario Nacional.

  • You must also demonstrate that during a period of at least five years, you will receive payments of no less than $2,500 per month. This payment cannot be deducted from a deposit made in any bank outside of Costa Rica or the Sistema Bancario Nacional, unless it generates this amount in monthly interest.

Pensionado (Retiree) Temporary Residency

To file for Pensionado residency, you must present:

  • An official document, legalized by Immigration that shows you will receive a lifetime monthly pension, generated outside of Costa Rica, for an amount of at least USD$1,000 or its equivalent in Costa Rican colones or other currencies accepted by the Costa Rican Central Bank.

Inversionista (Investor) Residency

To apply for Inversionista residency, you must provide:

  • Proof of an investment project valued at more than $200,000, or the amount dictated by the Costa Rican government for specific investments.

  • This project must be an investment that contributes to the country’s economic and/or social development; all investments that are for personal gain, such as real estate, are excluded.

  • The document must describe in detail the project location as well as a timeline of current activities and the project’s critical path.

  • Certification issued by a Certified Public Accountant that demonstrates your economic solvency and states that the company or project’s financial goals are within the parameters of the activity to which it is devoted.

  • Reliable proof that the project is fully financed.

After Application

When you turn all your documents into Immigration, your application is deemed complete. The Immigration official will give you a comprobante de requisitos, in other words, official proof that your residency application is complete and under review. Though your residency has not yet been officially approved, you are no longer considered a tourist. You do not have to leave the country every 30-90 days or renew your tourist visa.

Depending on its caseload, Immigration may take from one to nine months to officially approve your residency application. When it does, official policy is to send notification to your provided fax number or via mail to your San Jose address. In fact, this policy is often overlooked and you or your legal representative must return in person to Immigration until they give word you’re approved.

The next step is to schedule an appointment with Immigration for DIMEX card, which is the government ID card. Immigration will make this appointment for you, usually within one to nine months of your residency approval. At that appointment, you will take the photo for your DIMEX card. You will also be required to pay the equivalent of a one-way plane ticket from Costa Rica to your home country. This payment is required for all residents as insurance in the case of deportation.

Your DIMEX card should be ready within a week. You can choose to pick it up at Immigration or, to save time, you may pay 2,500 CRC (less than $5 dollars) to have it sent to your nearest post office. Congratulations; you’re now an official resident of Costa Rica!

Tips for Visiting Immigration

Follow these tips for a low-stress visit to Migracion, Costa Rica’s Department of Immigration:

  • Immigration opens at 8 a.m., but lines start forming around 6 a.m.

  • When you arrive, you’ll see four lines: each is for a different procedure, so ask around to identify which line you should be in.

  • Though Immigration closes at 4 p.m., walk-ins are not allowed after noon.

  • San Jose’s main Immigration office, where all new residencies are processed, is closed every last Friday of the month.

  • The air conditioning is set to about 70º F inside Immigration wait areas, so take a sweater if you chill easily.

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