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Retiring in Costa Rica

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If like many foreigners you have also chosen to live your retirement in Costa Rica, we are here providing you with information on related conditions and formalities.

For many years, Portugal and Morocco have been the two most conducive countries in terms of expatriation for retirees. Recently, Costa Rica has also become an ideal destination for various reasons. Indeed, by moving to Costa Rica, you will enjoy a more affordable cost of living which will definitely allow you to make savings, especially if you are receiving your retirement pension in euros or US dollars.

However, living in Costa Rica also has some disadvantages, like many other countries. So you are advised to seek all possible information on the country, as well as on procedures relating to retirement there, before taking a decision. In all cases, Pura Vida is the country's motto.

Advantages and disadvantages

By choosing to live in Costa Rica, you will be delighted to find cheaper housing than in many other countries. For instance, you can rent a 50 square meters apartment in the city center for some 200 euros per month. As regards garments and clothing, these will cost at least 40% cheaper than in most European countries. And if you manage to live modestly, you can even make savings while enjoying many other pleasures. Moreover, you will pay property tax and contribute to the Costa Rican Social Security and Medical System while your income, including your pension, will be subject to tax only in your home country.

Besides the cheap cost of living, Costa Rica is also rich in nature which is omnipresent. Despite being one of the smallest Latin American countries, it holds immense lush green forests, mountains, as well as many animal species. As local authorities aim high at protecting their environment, eco-tourism has also become a promising economic pillar. Finally, Costa Rica has a stable political environment. Indeed, without an army. Hence, the country has managed to remain neutral, especially as it enjoys a true democracy since more than a century now. Therefore, you are quite unlikely to pack up your bags overnight for political reasons.

On the other hand, you should know that standards of living in Latin American countries are quite different from those in European or North American countries. Therefore, buying a car can be rather expensive, taking into account a 50% to 80% tax when buying a second hand vehicle. You also have to bear in mind that you are not likely to find products which are available in your home country, whether in terms of food, technology, etc. Costa Rica also experiences many natural calamities such as floods, earthquakes, possible volcanic eruptions, including the Arenal Volcano.

Resident permit

Note that conditions and procedures regarding the application for a retirement visa and the permanent resident permit are often modified by Costa Rica authorities. Therefore, you are advised to inquire about these with the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in your home country before proceeding. It is best to hire a lawyer, like many foreigners have done before, to assist you with the formalities. Make sure to establish a power of attorney so that your lawyer can represent you at the Immigration Department.

Application for the resident permit is made at the Dirección General de Migración Extranjeria. It will be processed by the same authority under the supervision of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Publica. Note that fees of US$ 50 apply, along with additional fees of US$ 200 for the change of status (that is from the temporary resident visa to the permanent resident visa, for instance).

 Good to know:

All supporting documents have to be authenticated by competent authorities in your home country. If your country has signed the Hague Convention, your documents have to be stamped in your home country so that these are recognized in Costa Rica. Otherwise, you will have to send these to the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in your home country for authentication.

Retiree visa

To be eligible to a retiree visa, that is a Pensionado visa, you must be able to prove that you will be receiving a permanent pension of at least US$ 1,000 per month. This sum should be debited into a local bank account. Note that supporting evidence will be required when you apply for the renewal of your permanent resident visa. Consider requesting a bank statement from your bank, proving that you have received at least US$ 12,000 during the past year.

The following documents have to be produced:

  • a certified copy of your birth certificate as well as that of your dependents (in the case of your children, they must either be less than 18 years old or enrolled in a Costa Rican university)
  • a certified copy of your marriage certificate
  • proof of income (if you receive a government pension, you must produce a supporting letter issued by the government agency involved)
  • an extract of your criminal record
  • 6 passport-size identity photos
  • photocopies of your passport's pages (including the page on which the immigration has stamped your entry into Costa Rica)
  • La Hoja de filiación (which is a personal information form).

Your fingerprints will also be verified by Interpol with the collaboration of the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security.

 Important:

All documents produced have to be translated into Spanish before being produced. You can request your lawyer to take care of these formalities.

If your application for the Pensionado visa has been approved, the Immigration Department will issue an official resolution, indicated the date on which it was granted. The permit can be collected either by you or by your lawyer. You can then take another formal appointment with the Immigration Department to apply for a resident card.

Social security

Once all these procedures have been accomplished, you are required to register with the Costa Rican Social Security system. Indeed, all residents have to abide to the voluntary program called Seguro Voluntario. Your contribution will be based on the amount of income declared during the application. Find more information in the article Health care in Costa Rica.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Formalities in Costa Rica Forum 
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjeria www.migracion.go.cr
Hoja de filiación www.migracion.go.cr/extranjeros/residencias
CCSS - Costa Rican Social Security www.ccss.sa.cr
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Publica www.seguridadpublica.go.cr
Seguro Voluntario portal.ccss.sa.cr

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