When did the new Costa Rican Immigration Law go into effect?
The new Immigration Reform Law, formally known as “Ley 8487 – La Ley General de Migración y Extranjería,” was approved on August 2009, and went into effect six months later, March 1, 2010.
When did the new Reglamento to the Ley de Migracion go into effect?
The 2012 Reglamento became effective on the date of its publication in La Gaceta, the official newspaper for the government of Costa Rica. The publication date was May 17, 2012.
Why is the Reglamento important?
Because it contains the rules, regulations and interpretations of the Ley de Migracion. It spells out the guidelines used by Migracion to apply and enforce the Ley de Migracion.
What changes were made to the various residency programs under the new Law and 2012 Reglamento?
From our point of view, the most significant changes to the residency programs are.
- Pensionado - Income:
The new monthly pension income requirement is US$1,000.
One pension allows both husband and wife to apply for residency
- Rentista - Income:
The new Rentista monthly income requirement is US$2,500 for 24 months.
The exact same amount of US$2,500 applies to all applicants, whether or not the applicant is single, or married, or married with children.
- Inversionista – Investment Amount
The investment made must have a registered or verifiable value of at least US$200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand dollars). You can also use the registered value of your house in Costa Rica, to qualify as an investment provided the registered value for property tax assessment is at least US$200,000.
The 2012 Reglamento also allows an investment of at least US$100,000 in a qualified reforestation program.
- Mandatory Membership in “La Caja”
All applicants are required to become members in Costa Rica’s medical system, La Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as “La Caja.” The applicant must show proof of membership in La Caja at the time the residency identification card is issued.
- Location where applications can be filed
Applications can be filed abroad, in the applicant’s country of origin, or directly at the Department of Migración y Extranjería in San Jose, Costa Rica. Vinculo applications can only be filed in Costa Rica.
- Applications for Vinculo Status by Spouses
Under the new guidelines, non-Costa Rican spouses are granted temporary residencies for the first three years. Both spouses must attend an interview at Migracion to verify the marriage is legit.
- Consular Registration
All prospective residents must register their intention of moving to Costa Rica with the embassies of their corresponding countries in San José. The consular registration is waived if the country of origin does not have a consulate or embassy in Costa Rica
- Higher fees
The new law codifies the increase of the fees charged by Migracíon for the filing and review of applications, for a change in status from temporary to permanent residency, and for many other services.
- Expanded List of Felonies that automatically disqualify a residency application:
The list of criminal convictions for crimes that automatically disqualify a person from applying for Costa Rican residency, regardless of how old the conviction is, now includes the following major crimes (felony convictions – partial list): Murder; trafficking in illegal drugs/narcotics; trafficking in human beings; trafficking in weapons or explosives; sexual crimes against minors, the elderly or the disabled; domestic violence; membership in certain designated gangs or in organized crime; etc.
Any felony conviction that is less than ten (10) years old will be used by Migracion to automatically disqualify the applicant and deny the residency application.
Am I required to have an attorney in Costa Rica to process my application?
No. You are not required to have an attorney in Costa Rica to process your application. However, you do need to have an official representative – commonly known as an “apoderado”– to act on your behalf, as your representative with the Departmento de Migración y Extranjería (Migración, for short). We, at Residency in Costa Rica, act as your apoderado as part of our services.
What is an “apoderado”?
An apoderado is a person who meets certain legal requirements established by the government of Costa Rica and to whom you grant a limited power of attorney to act on your behalf and to represent you for the sole purpose of processing your application for residency. Residency in Costa Rica uses a very narrow and specific limited power of attorney which is valid and used to communicate and correspond about your residency with Migración in Costa Rica.
What is the expiration date for my birth certificate and police letter?
Your key documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate, police letter and income letter are valid for only six (6) months from the date the document is issued. The six month validity of the documents is also contained in the 2012 Reglamento. For example, if the police letter was issued on March 1, 2012 the letter would be valid until September 1, 2012. That means that there is only a six month window to have the document authenticated and filed with Mígracíon.
Does that mean if my application is not approved within six month that I will need to get new copies of my key documents?
No. Once a document is timely filed as part of the application the six month expiration date is no longer applicable. So, as in the prior example, assuming your documents were issued on March 1, 2012 and the application with the key documents was filed on August 1, 2012, that stops the 6 months period and you do not have to get new copies again, even if the application is not approved until March 2013.
I have my original birth certificate issued in 1940 (for example) can I have that birth certificate authenticated and used for my application?
No. The birth certificate is older than six months and Migración will reject it based on the issued date. Additionally, many state governments (if in the U.S.) will not authenticate a document if the document is older than five years, or if the document was issued on non-tamper-proof paper, or if it was printed on black and white and it can be easily altered. If the document is older than or it would be older than six months on the date the application and document are filed, a new certified copy of the document needs to be obtained and filed with Mígracion.
Is it true that I have to be fingerprinted in Costa Rica?
Yes. All applicants over the age of 13 must be fingerprinted in Costa Rica by the Costa Rican police. The Costa Rican police will then run the fingerprints through INTERPOL and it will send the results of the search directly to Migración.
Can I have my fingerprints taken in my own country and then take the fingerprinted cards to Costa Rica?
No. Migración will only accept the fingerprints taken in Costa Rica by the Costa Rican police.
I am part of a same gender marriage or legally recognized union/domestic partnership; can my partner and I apply for residency as a married couple?
No. At this time Costa Rica does not recognize same gender marriages, unions or domestic partnerships even when legally married in the country of origin. Each member of the same gender relationship must apply for residency independently from the other partner and each partner must meet the income and other requirements on his/her own individually.
Once I am approved as a pensionado or rentista resident, can I legally work in Costa Rica?
No. Neither pensionado nor rentista residencies have a built-in work permit, as both residencies are temporary and the assumption is that you do not need to work to make a living.
However, you can manage your own business and financial affairs, including being self-employed as a consultant or managing your own business or corporation.
Thus, you cannot be an employee of another person or company or receive wages or a salary but you can be self-employed.
I’m confused. What is a “cédula” and what is a “carnet’?
Actually, both words, cédula and carnet, are interchangeable and are both used to refer to the same document: your legal resident identification card. The only difference between the two words is that carnet tends to indicate the older version of the resident ID card, which until 2009 was a little booklet made out of paper. A cédula is the new high tech version of the carnet. Cédulas contain digital information and are made out of plastic. All Costa Rican citizens carry a cédula and now legal residents do, too.
Can I still invest only $50,000 in a tourist-type activity to allow me to apply as an inversionista?
No. That program is no longer being offered by Mígracion. Under current guidelines, the minimum amount of the investment is either US$200,000 for any business activity or $100,000 in a qualified Forestry Program.
Do I need to travel to Costa Rica to file my application for residency?
No and Yes. Confused? Let us explain. All applications under the Pensionado, Rentista and Inversionista programs can now be filed in Costa Rica or in your country of origin or at a designated Costa Rican consulate if none is available in your country. However, all adults applying for residency must be fingerprinted by Migración in Costa Rica. Clearly, in order to meet the fingerprinting requirement you must be physically present in Costa Rica to be fingerprinted.
Important: Please note that applications filed without proof of fingerprinting are automatically denied as a matter of law.
Why should I use Residency in Costa Rica to help me with the application process?
Residency in Costa Rica has the experience, knowledge, and contacts to properly and professionally handle your application. We are familiar with the intricacies of the application process, the types of supporting documents required by law, and we will answer on your behalf any concerns on the part of the consular and Migración officials reviewing your application.
Our ability to assist with the collection and authentication of your documents has proven to be an important resource to our clients, and it is one of the fundamental functions we provide. You, in return, get peace of mind and the knowledge that your documents are being processed according to current Migración requirements and standards.
As part of our service, we coordinate the translation of all supporting documentation into Spanish by a certified translator, and make sure the translations are accurate and acceptable to the Costa Rican authorities.
In Costa Rica, we coordinate and accompany you through the fingerprinting process. We guide you through your Embassy’s consular registration process or in obtaining your pension income letter (U.S. and Canadian embassies only).
While your application package is awaiting review in San José, a Residency in Costa Rica representative will act as your official representative and “bird dog” and monitor the application until its final disposition by the Immigration authorities. We attend all hearings and communicate with Migración on your behalf.
We can help with your application. We keep the application process simple.