Residency Required Documents
Follow these guidelines to obtain the documents necessary to file for temporary or permanent residency in Costa Rica. Some documents are more straightforward than others; if you have questions, we recommend you contact a skilled immigration lawyer. For more information, see important Immigration Addresses.
As of 2012, documents that originate from participating countries in the Hague Convention on Apostilles can now be apostilled for use in Costa Rica. That means 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.
Birth Certificate and Criminal Record
To apply for temporary or permanent residency, you will need to present to Immigration a certified copy of your full birth certificate including the last names of your parents issued by the State where you were born, apostilled and translated into Spanish and a police record check issued by FBI in the U.S., ACRO in the UK or the federal authority of your country in charge of criminal records. The police record must be apostilled and translated along with its apostille in Spanish. From the date of first issuance – receiving the document (Step 1) – you will have six months to turn these documents into Immigration. If more than six months pass, they will expire and you must begin again at Step 1.
- Each governmental agency will have its own procedures for obtaining an official birth certificate or police record. Please consult with each agency regarding specific requirements and forms.
- After you have obtained certified copies of your required documents, they must be apostilled (for U.S. citizens) or sent to the ruling state, provincial, or federal government for authentication (Canadian citizens). Contact your state or province for foreign authentication requirements. (U.S. citizens, see U.S. Authentication Authorities.)
- Canadian applicants must then authenticate your documents with the appropriate Costa Rican consulate. Check with your country’s central Costa Rican consulate office for more details. This service costs $40 per document.
- A certified translator must translate your apostilled or authenticated documents into Spanish. This may be done in your home country or in Costa Rica. Your lawyer, local Costa Rican Consulate, or country’s embassy in Costa Rica can recommend an official translator. This is the final step for documents that have been apostilled.
- Once translated, your authenticated documents must be sent to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in San Jose for legalization (this only applies to Canadians and residents of other countries that do not adhere to apostille policy.) The cost for this service is about $1.15 per legalization.
To apply for temporary or permanent residency, you must submit to Immigration a comprobante de huellas, official proof that your fingerprints are on file with the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica. This is a free service.
At the time of fingerprinting, your passport is the only accepted form of identification. You must also present one recent, passport-sized photo. If you do not have one, there is usually someone outside of the Ministerio who will take your photo for a reasonable fee.
You may also be asked to show documentation supporting your residency application. For example, if you are applying as the spouse of a Costa Rican, officials will check your marriage certificate; if you are applying as a Rentista, they will look at your proof of annuity payment. They will only look at your supporting documents; they will not keep them permanently.
A police official will conduct a brief interview for important details, including contact information and physical details (height, weight, hair and eye color, etc.) If you do not speak Spanish, ask for an English-speaking official. After you are fingerprinted, the police official will give you a small sheet of paper stamped with your thumbprint: this is the form that you must turn into Immigration.
Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS or The Caja)
All temporary and permanent residents are required to pay into the Costa Rican public health system. To begin the process, take a utility bill that shows your address and two copies of your passport to the Ebais or CCSS health clinic that serves your locality. On your behalf, they will request a numero de asegurado, or health insurance number; this will take 8-15 days.
After your receive your insurance number, your local Ebais or health clinic will issue you a carne provisional, a provisional insurance ID card. Take that card to the CCSS central office that serves your locality; the Ebais or clinic staff can direct you to that building. There, you will pay your first insurance bill and receive a voucher. This voucher serves as proof you have paid the Caja; this is what you must take to Immigration.
All foreigners living in Costa Rica are required to register at their nation’s consulate. Individuals from countries without a consulate in Costa Rica are exempt from this requirement. Likewise, immigrants with refugee or political asylum status are exempt from this requirement.
To register with your consulate, first call ahead. Your embassy may not take registrations every day of the week. The cost is $50 and the process takes about 10 minutes plus wait time. After registration, your embassy will issue a proof of inscripcion; this is what you must present at Immigration.
Investment Income (Rentista and Pensionado Temporary Residency)
Income Source Certification must be issued by the financial services organization (i.e. Banks, Mutual Funds, Capital Trust Firms) that handles your finances.
Your proof of income must clearly state your name, your qualifications, and that you will be receiving via mail/electronic transfer/wire in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner a minimum monthly income of:
- Rentista: $2,500 U.S. dollars per month for at least five years starting on the date that the certification is issued.
- Pensionado: A lifetime pension payment of $1,000 per month
Your proof of income must also state the existence, performance, and location of the bank issued by an official of the financial organization.
Investment Income (Inversionista Temporary Residency)
Inversionista residency is a multi-step process. You will need a lawyer’s help to assemble the following documents:
- Proof of an investment project valued at more than $50,000 (pre-approved tourism or priority reforestation), $100,000 (non-priority reforestation), or $200,000 (other investment), 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.