There is an undefinable pull that captures the hearts of many who visit Costa Rica. The charm of the coastal surf towns and immersion into nature have led to a growing group of charmed tourists who decided to settle down in paradise. They’re known as… ‘perpetual tourists.’
What exactly is a Perpetual Tourist?
Foreigners are granted a 90 day tourist visa upon arrival to Costa Rica. The term ‘perpetual tourist’ refers to foreigners who leaves the country every 3 months to renew their tourist visa, aka ‘operation border run’. The border run can be quite an adventure and headache. Thousands of expats successfully reside in Costa Rica using this method for years before going through the process of getting residency. In most cases, perpetual tourists living in the Tamarindo area will head north to cross the Nicaragua border and come back within the same day for years.
Three Types of Residency
- Temporary Resident
- Permanent Resident
- Special Category Resident
In most cases, before gaining Permanent Residency, you are required to have been a Temporary Resident for 3 years.
There is however, a way to obtain permanent residency without having temporary residency first: ‘Residencia Permanente Por Vinculo’ : This applies if you have a first-degree blood relative (parent, child or sibling) who is Costa Rican.
Residencia Permanente Por Vinculo also applies if you marry a Costa Rican. Though in this case, you are only granted temporary residency and must wait the three years to apply for permanent status.
Difference between Permanent and Temporary Residency?
Permanent residency comes with more benefits than temporary residency. With permanent residency, you have all the rights of a citizen (except voting) and can work legally in Costa Rica. 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.
Getting Temporary Residency & What It Means
Here is a list of those eligible for Temporary Residence:
- The spouse of a Costa Rican citizen.
- Investors. To qualify for investment status the applicant must show that they have invested at least US$150,000 in Costa Rica. Whether that’s property, shares, projects…
- Pensionados – Costa Rica pioneered a retirement residency program which has been in effect now for more than 40 years. The Pensionado (Retiree) applicant must demonstrate a lifetime pension source of income of at least US$1,000 per month.
- Rentistas: To apply for residency under the Rentista category, the applicant must show that they will receive at least US$2,500 per month of income in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner for at least 2 years. Generally this is an investment source of income which will need to be verified by a financial or banking institution.
- Religious workers & missionaries that are in the country based upon a particular religious order authorized by the Ministry of Foreing Relations.
- Executives, managers, technical personnel for corporations which are established in Costa Rica.
- International press correspondents: journalists working in Costa Rica for a local news agency.
- Scientific, professional and specialized persons. This applies to foreign workers that have an signed employment contract to work in Costa Rica and that have a unique scientific, professional or technical expertise required by a local company or agency.
- Sports figures. This category is aimed at foreigners that practice a particular professional sport and who have been hired by a local team.
Special Category Residency
The Special Category is for those individuals that do not qualify for either a temporary or permanent residency. This category is subject to the absolute discretion of Immigration. In most cases the applicant must show that the work they intend to carry out in the country is something that cannot be done by a Costa Rican citizen.
Getting Down To It: What does the process entail ?
The Residency Application is generally broken down into two components, the information about the applicant and the supporting documents such as birth certificate, proof of income, background check, etc. All documents must be notarized and translated into Spanish.
The cost of obtaining residency in in total costs around $1000 – $2000 USD. A good Costa Rican lawyer will walk you through and help you complete this process without too much involvment besides producing required documents.
How Long Does it Take to get your Residency Approved?
It takes anywhere from 6 to 15 months to have your application approved. The time frame depends on many different factors. The key is to make sure that your application is complete the first time around, and to use a reliable, connected lawyer.
When choosing a lawyer to aid you in this process, do your due diligence. There are several good ones in Tamarindo.
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