Interested in moving to Costa Rica? This is our simple Costa Rica Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
Costa Rica: Quick Facts
- The country has a population of 4.91 million (as of 2017).
- The literacy rate is high, at 97.8%.
- Costa Rica has no army – the military was abolished in 1949 and the military budget is now used for culture and education.
- Costa Rica has a goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2021 (99% of electricity is already derived from renewable sources).
- Currency: CRC – Costa Rica Colón (₡)
- Spoken languages: The primary language is Spanish but in the tourist areas many speak English and lots of kids learn English in school.
- Largest cities: San Jose (the capital) contains 333,981 people, Puerto Limon has 63,081, and Liberia has 45,380.
- Major religions: Studies done by the University of Costa Rica found that 70.5% of the population is Roman Catholic, 13.8% are Evangelical, 11.3% say they do not have a religion and 4.3% belong to a different religion.
Why move to Costa Rica
- Costa Rica is known as the happiest place in the world to live in (according to the Happy Planet index). The popular saying that you will hear in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida” which translates to pure life – the people are very friendly.
- Costa Rica provides universal health care to its citizens and permanent residents. The country offers some of the best heath care in Central America.
- Many places in Costa Rica are known for their temperate climate – where you do not need air conditioning or heating. If you enjoy the heat, Costa Rica has many locations with high average temperatures.
- Costa Rica has modern conveniences like high speed internet and 4G cell phone networks.
- Costa Rica is a developing country and although it is classified as a “third world country” you will still have access to all the amenities that one would expect in a developed nation.
- The oceans are warm, with ideal conditions for swimming or surfing year round.
- The fruits and vegetables are well priced, you will find fresh organic options and some exotic fruits.
Reasons not to move to Costa Rica
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- The import taxes are high, so it may be difficult to find imported goods. Consequently, prices for groceries and common items can be higher than expected. Case in point: the import tax on shipping a car to Costa Rica be upwards of 85%.
- If you are used to a fast passed life, you are unlikely to find it in Costa Rica. Things move slowly, and everything seems to take much longer than anticipated.
- It is not an easy country to obtain permanent residency in if you do not have at least USD $60,000.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
- Depending on your nationality, you can get different types of visas. If you are classified as “group one” you automatically get a 90 day temporary visa when you enter the country. This applies for countries such as Canada, USA, Australia, Brazil and European Union. Once your 90 days are up, you must leave the country for 72 hours then return to gain another 90 days. On many occasions you will not have to wait the 72 hours (depending on the immigration officer).
- Citizens who are classified as “group two” may enter Costa Rica without an entry Visa and may remain in Costa Rica for up to 30 days. This applies for such countries as El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela.
- If you are a citizen from a “group three” country you will need to obtain a visa from the Costa Rica Embassy or Consulate before entering the country, if obtained the visa grants 30 days in Costa Rica. This applies for countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and India.
- To legally work in Costa Rica, you must either obtain permanent residency or be classified as a highly skilled worker in an in-demand trade (a local employer can apply for a 1 year work permit on your behalf, providing that they can prove the position cannot be filled by a local).
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
- Pensionado: if you have a pension of at least $1000 USD per month and convert your money to Costa Rica Colones, you may obtain temporary residency for 3 years. After 3 years you can apply for permanent residency.
- Rentista: you are eligible for this if you can prove that you have $2500 USD per month in spending money for 2 years. Usually the applicant will need $60,000 deposited in to a bank account and you convert $2500 USD to CRC every month, the bank will supply a letter to the bank stating that you have the $60,000 for the following 2 years. Another way is have a letter from a regular employer stating that you will earn a minimum of $2500 per month over the following 2 years.
- Inversionista: investing $200,000 in real estate or business will give you temporary residency and you are eligible to apply for permanent residency in 3 years.
Starting a Business in Costa Rica
If you a looking to invest in a business in Costa Rica then you do not have to have residency. Foreigners are allowed to own properties and businesses. If you live in Costa Rica without your residency and own a company you are still allowed to take money from the business and oversee operations you just can’t take up a job that a citizen can do.
- You must register the business doing so by a lawyer, the cost is usually around $1000.
- The lawyer will need to register the business to pay taxes.
- You will need to obtain permits from Ministry de Salud and Municipality.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- The Costa Rica Escape Manual 2019
- Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington D.C. – useful information
- A-1 Auto Transport – shipping a car to Costa Rica
- Brazil Immigration Guide
- Chile Immigration Guide
- Colombia Immigration Guide
- Ecuador Immigration Guide
- Uruguay Immigration Guide