Costa Rica: Residency rights, including permanent residency; requirements and procedures for obtaining and maintaining permanent residency status; rights and obligations of permanent residents; situations under which permanent residency status would be lost, including ability to renew or reacquire status if it is lost or expired (2017-August 2019) [CRI106344.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

According to sources, foreigners can apply for three types of residencies: temporary residency, permanent residency and residency with special permits (for volunteering, studying and working) (Costa Rica n.d.a; CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018).

The website of the Costa Rican embassy in Ottawa indicates that not all foreigners who wish to travel as tourists to Costa Rica need a tourist visa and that Costa Rica divides countries into four groups with different visa requirements (Costa Rica n.d.b). The source specifies that nationals of countries listed in the first group can enter Costa Rica without a visa for a maximum of 90 days; nationals of the second group can enter without a visa for 30 days; nationals of the third group require a visa and can stay for a maximum of 30 days; and nationals of the fourth group need a visa and additional restrictions apply (Costa Rica n.d.b). An unofficial English translation of general guidelines for entry visas for non-resident persons, prepared by the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería), which includes a list of countries organized by group, is attached to this Response. Without providing further details, sources state that a person can renew their visa by leaving the country and re-entering (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018; ARCR n.d.a), for a maximum of three consecutive stays (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018).

2. Temporary Residency

According to the Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada, there are several types of temporary residencies:

  1. Temporary [r]esidence for [f]oreigners married [to] Costa Rican [c]itizens
  2. Temporary [r]esidence for [r]eligious [p]eople
  3. Temporary [r]esidence for [e]xecutives, [m]anagers and [t]echnical [s]taff
  4. Temporary [r]esidence for [s]elf-employed [w]orkers
  5. Temporary [r]esidence for [s]pecialized [d]ependent [w]orkers
  6. Temporary [r]esidence for [i]nvestors
  7. Temporary [r]esidence for [s]cientists, [p]rofessionals or [i]nterns
  8. Temporary [r]esidence for [s]pecialized [t]echnicians
  9. Temporary [r]esidence for [a]thletes
  10. Temporary [r]esidence for [c]orrespondents and [p]ress [a]gency [s]taff
  11. Temporary [r]esidence for [r]entists
  12. Temporary [r]esidence for [r]etirees. (Costa Rica n.d.c)

An applicant who has entered Costa Rica on a tourist visa can apply for temporary residency within the country by submitting the application and paying a US$200 fee for the change of status (Costa Rica n.d.d).

According to the website CostaRicaLaw.com, a legal information site about living in Costa Rica (CostaRicaLaw.com n.d.b), a foreigner with a temporary residency status can only work with specific conditions and restrictions (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018). According to sources, some temporary residency categories require proof of income:

  • Temporary residency for retirees requires US$1,000 per month from a pension or retirement fund (Costa Rica n.d.c);
  • Temporary residency for rentistas [those who "do not have a pension source and instead have an investment source of income" (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018)] requires proof of US$2,500 per month (Costa Rica n.d.c); or a US$60,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank (ARCR n.d.b; CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018);
  • Temporary residency for investors requires US$200,000 investment in a business or property (ARCR n.d.b; CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018).

2.1 Temporary Residency for Being Linked in the First Degree to a Costa Rican

According to the website CostaRicaLaw.com, the spouse of a Costa Rican citizen is automatically eligible for temporary residency, which is renewable for periods of one year (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018). The same source notes that, after three years, the spouse may apply for permanent residency (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a lawyer who has been practicing immigration law in Costa Rica for 20 years and runs the website CostaRicaLaw.com, explained that a petition for temporary residence based on marriage

requires the physical presence of the couple so that they can be interviewed by an immigration officer to confirm information. If they apply from abroad, then the Consular officer abroad shall conduct the interview. [They must] [b]ring to the interview documentary evidence to show that they are a couple.
(Lawyer 6 Aug. 2019)

Similarly, the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners states that the Consul may request a personal interview with an applicant (Costa Rica n.d.e).

3. Permanent Residency
3.1 Eligibility for Permanent Residency

Foreigners who have an immediate family relationship with a Costa Rica citizen may apply for permanent residency (Costa Rica n.d.a). This includes:

  • Parents of Costa Rican citizens,
  • The minor children of a Costa Rican citizen,
  • The [adult] children of a Costa Rican citizen that has a disability regardless of age,
  • Minors who are siblings of a Costa Rican citizen or [adult] siblings that have a disability (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018; Costa Rica n.d.f).

Foreigners, as well as their spouse and relatives with a [translation] "first-degree familial relationship," who have held temporary residency status for at least three consecutive years can also apply for permanent residency (Costa Rica n.d.f).

3.2 Requirements and Procedures for Obtaining Permanent Residency

According to the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration, for an applicant related in the first degree to a Costa Rican citizen, the process to apply for permanent residency is the following:

[translation]

  • Filiation form completed, printed legibly and signed.
  • A letter indicating the reasons for applying for permanent residence. It must include the full name of the requesting person, nationality, age, occupation, address of the place where they live and place or means for notifications. The letter must be signed; this can be done in front of the Migration officer or present the signature authenticated by a lawyer.
  • Payment receipt in the amount of US$50.00; where the name of the foreign person is indicated as depositor. Money must be paid in colones, to account 242480-0 of the Bank of Costa Rica.
  • Payment receipt for the sum of ¢ 125 [C$0.29] and ¢ 2.50 [C$0.58]; for each sheet submitted with the application, for stamps, where the name of the foreign person is indicated as depositor, in account 242480-0 of the Bank of Costa Rica.
  • Two recent passport-sized photographs of the foreign person, facing forward.
  • Proof of fingerprint registration, issued by the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security). Only applies to people over 12 years of age.
  • Proof of consular registration. The requirements for such registration will be determined at the corresponding [c]onsulate.
  • Birth certificate of the foreign person, issued in the country of origin, duly legalized and authenticated or apostilled.
  • Certification of criminal records of the foreigner from the country of origin or place of legal residence for the last three years, duly legalized and authenticated or apostilled. For these purposes you must additionally demonstrate the legality of your stay in that country by certified copy of the immigration document obtained within the indicated period.
  • Photocopy of all pages of the current passport of the foreign person. The photocopy must be certified, either alongside the original before the official who receives them, or by a notary public.
  • A certificate issued by the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) proving the relationship with the Costa Rican citizen. This document must have been issued no more than two months before the date of application.
  • In the case of siblings or older children of a Costa Rican with disabilities, this will need to be demonstrated through a medical diagnosis, along with certification of curatorship issued by a judge, where applicable. (Costa Rica n.d.g)

The same source adds that documents that were not issued in Spanish must be translated into Spanish by an official translator or a Spanish-speaking notary (Costa Rica n.d.g). Information on the requirements and application process for applicants other than those immediately related to a Costa Rican citizen could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The lawyer stated that temporary residents can apply for permanent residency from within Costa Rica, and as such they do not have to follow the steps outlined above; instead, they submit a petition, a copy of their residency card [Documento de Identificación Migratorio para Extranjeros, DIMEX], a copy of their passport and pay the US$200 “change of status” fee and the US$50 application fee (Lawyer 6 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.3 Rights and Obligations of Permanent Residents

Permanent residence is “an immigration status that allows the person who obtains [it], to stay in the country for an undefined period and with labor freedom” (Costa Rica n.d.a). Sources state that permanent residents are required to visit Costa Rica at least once per year (Flag Theory n.d.; ARCR n.d.b).

According to International Living, a monthly magazine "detailing the best places in the world to live, retire, travel, and invest" (International Living n.d.a), all legal residents living in Costa Rica can join the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, CCSS) (International Living n.d.b). According to CostaRicaLaw.com, all temporary and permanent residents must pay into the CCSS (CostaRicaLaw.com 1 Jan. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.3.1 Residency ID Cards

CostaRicaLaw.com indicates that all foreign residents in Costa Rica are issued DIMEX residency ID cards (CostaRicaLaw.com n.d.a). According to the website Costa Rica Immigration Services, a business comprised of professionals who assist individuals to immigrate to Costa Rica (Costa Rica Immigration Services n.d.a), residency ID cards need to be renewed every one to five years, depending on how long the person has lived in Costa Rica (Costa Rica Immigration Services n.d.b). The same source further states that to renew one's residency card, the applicant must request an appointment with the Director of the Immigration Department, be registered in the CCSS, obtain a criminal records certification in Costa Rica, bring the original residency card, a letter indicating the current address of the applicant and a declaration of residency in the country in accordance with the time period established by the law (Costa Rica Immigration Services n.d.b). Residents can also renew or obtain a duplicate of their residency card at any Bank of Costa Rica (Banco de Costa Rica, BCR), by paying the applicable fees (BCR n.d.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the lawyer, an applicant cannot renew their residency if they have not paid the CCSS fees (Lawyer 6 Aug. 2019). If the applicant is late in renewing their card, there is US$3 per month late fee (Lawyer 6 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.4 Situations in Which Permanent Residency Status Would Be Lost

According to Outlier Legal Services, a law group that provides assistance with immigration applications in Costa Rica (Outlier Legal Services n.d.), article 129 of Law 8764 on immigration sets out the grounds for cancelling a residency (Outlier Legal Services 16 Sept. 2017).

Article 129 of the General Migration and Aliens Act No. 8764 (Ley General de Migración y Extranjería no 8764) provides the following:

[translation]

The General Directorate will cancel authorization of permanent residency of foreign persons if:

  1. 1) They do not fulfill the conditions imposed by the General Directorate or no longer comply with the requirements that existed when their entry or legal residency in the country was authorized.
  2. 2) They do not contribute to paying taxes or public expenditures in cases where the law does not exempt them from doing so.
  3. 3) Their entry or exit is verified with respect to non-qualified positions that are not subject to migration controls.
  4. 4) Cases mentioned in article 70 of this Act [which relates to serving sentences for crimes] are involved.
  5. 5) Permanent residents are absent from the country for a consecutive period exceeding four years, unless there are specified duly substantiated grounds for exceptions owing to reasons of health, study, family or other matters.
  6. 6) Foreigners with temporary residency are absent from the country for a period exceeding two consecutive years, unless there are specified duly substantiated grounds for exceptions owing to reasons of health, study, family or other matters.
  7. 7) They have obtained authorization of legal residency through false statements or the submission of false or altered visas or documents.
  8. 8) They perform paid work without being authorized to do so.
  9. 9) They are persons whose history or past actions constitute a threat to public safety and public order.
  10. 10) They do not renew the document that certifies their legal migratory status in the country within three months of its expiry, unless there are duly substantiated reasons demonstrating the impossibility of doing so within that period.
  11. 11) It is shown that the residency was granted on the basis of a marriage to a Costa Rican citizen that was entered into for the sole purpose of receiving immigration benefits. (Costa Rica 2009, Art. 129)

The lawyer explained that if someone has not fulfilled the residency requirements, or failed to renew their status on time, the government may ask them to provide a letter explaining why; he stated that, in his experience, a letter explaining the reason is “usually” sufficient for the government to grant the renewal (Lawyer 6 Aug. 2019).

3.5 Ability to Reacquire Lost or Cancelled Status

Information on the ability to reacquire lost or cancelled status could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

ARCR Administración, SA (ARCR). N.d.a. “Criteria Information.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2019]

ARCR Administración, SA (ARCR). N.d.b. “Residency Types.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2019]

Banco de Costa Rica (BCR). N.d. “Residency Card Renewal and Duplicate.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

Costa Rica. 2009. Ley General de Migración y Extranjería no 8764 (General Migration and Aliens Act No. 8764). Excerpt translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada. [Accessed 8 Aug. 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.a. The Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada. “Permanent Residency.” [Accessed 30 July 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.b. The Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada. “Visas.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.c. The Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada. “Temporary and Permanent Residences.” [Accessed 19 July 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.d. Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington DC. “Types of Residence Permits.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.e. Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. “Permanent or Temporary Residency Provisional Visas.” [Accessed 19 July 2019]

Costa Rica. N.d.f. Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. “Residencia Permanente.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

Costa Rica N.d.g. Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. Residencia permanente: vínculo con costarricense. [Accessed 19 July 2019]

Costa Rica Immigration Services. N.d.a. Home page. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2019]

Costa Rica Immigration Services. N.d.b “Costa Rica Residency Renewal.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

CostaRicaLaw.com. 1 January 2018. Roger Petersen. “Costa Rica Residency Requirements 2018.” [Accessed 8 June 2019]

CostaRicaLaw.com. N.d.a. “Costa Rica DIMEX Residency Card.” [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

CostaRicaLaw.com. N.d.b "About." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2019]

Flag Theory. N.d. “Person of Independent Means Visa (Rentista).” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

International Living. N.d.a. "Frequently Asked Questions." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019]

International Living. N.d.b. "Healthcare in Costa Rica." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019]

Lawyer, CostaRicaLaw.com. 6 August 2019. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Outlier Legal Services. 16 September 2017. Rafael Valverde. “How to Lose Your Residency.” [Accessed 31 July 2019]

Outlier Legal Services. N.d. "About." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Canada – embassy in Costa Rica; Costa Rica – Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada, Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington DC; law firm in San José, Costa Rica whose area of practice includes immigration; lawyer in Heredia, Costa Rica who specializes in obtaining legal residency.

Internet sites, including: BG&A Abogados Corporativos; ecoi.net; Global Citizenship Observatory; Keesing Technologies – Documentchecker; Navas & Navas Attorneys at Law; UN – Refworld.

Attachment

Costa Rica. 14 September 2018. Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía, Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. General Guidelines for Entry Visas for Non-Resident Persons. Circulatory Note DG-29-09-2018. [Accessed 31 July 2019]