How Does Caja Work ?

Dear expats -

I see there has been a lot of discussion about Caja, but I'm not quite finding the answers to my questions - so please forgive me if this has been answered before and I am just not finding it.

My spouse and I are applying for Rentista residency.  Assuming we are granted residency, we then go through the Caja interview.  I am the primary applicant.

We are both retired, so we don't have any salary/job income.  To apply for Rentista you have to confirm that you have an "income stream" of $2500 / mo which you must deposit in a CR bank upon approval for residency.  We will be living off savings, and pulling money out of 401k (which in the US is income on your tax return).  We won't be pulling Social Security for 10 years or more.

I believe Caja is supposed to charge us 9% of our income per month to cover the two of us.  In our case is that 9% of $2500 ?  If we pull some money out of a 401k, does that count as income ?  What is counted as income, and what documentation must we provide at the interview ?

I believe we have to renew our temporary Rentista residency after two years, and then at three years we can apply for permanent residency.

At the two year point, assuming temporary Rentista residency is renewed, what happens then ?  Do we have another Caja interview at that point ?  If we then apply for permanent residency at the three year point, do we have yet another Caja interview at that point ?  After becoming a permanent resident, do you have to renew the Caja periodically and have more Caja interviews ?  Is there a point where you are done having Caja interviews and you know for the future what your Caja payment is going to be from then on ?

Thank you for any information - it is very confusing ...


Dkor.....Your post just reminded me how they notified some of the gringos for their VAX.Only to mention,once they came in,they didn't have it.Only to get notified again and go through the same dance.As in who pays the extra sausage,gets to go to the dance"El que paga baila".Don't forget to supplement your caja with private insurance too.

This is really tricky in that the person you go to in the Caja derechos dept. who does the paperwork has some leeway in what to count as income and how to calculate your payment.
I did this so long ago I dont remember the details (and it was not nearly as strict then) but in my opinion you should have a Tico go with you to help explain. It sounds like your status will be rentista? In other words you have the $2,500 per month based on a deposit of 60,000 to get residency?
If that is correct and it is not pensionista or receiving a pension then I would make the point that the 2,500 is not really income as it is from savings.
I would go to a certified CPA accountant and get a written stamped verification from them on a lower mount of "income" which maybe could be average growth in your IRA or something. that can be worked out when talking to the accountant. Yes you will pay for this but it could be well worth it.
This can give the person at the caja a form of backup to lower your income to calculate the monthly payment. Also be very very friendly and respectful to everyone at the caja.
Dont be the normal gringo trying to rush into the issue. Do it the Tico way...Buenos dias, como esta su familia, tengo mucho respeto para todos ustedes en la caja por su manejo de covid etc. warm up the issue and dont be stressed. Smile etc. Maybe even bring in some PAN for their coffee break. Ask the Tico you bring so you dont  make an error in judgment but do it more in the TICO way.
You need to learn the term Mcgyver which is sort of a workaround type situation or a jury rigged thing. It comes into play in many situations.
Try to speak Spanish even basic Spanish. Dont worry about grammer errors.

Lastly to anyone who thinks they can be here 15 years think about paying the additional amount for a pension. I just retired and now dont pay the monthly fee and get a small pension and my younger wife gets the pension and health care till death.
It was well worth it to pay the extra. But that doesnt work for all.

best of luck and as Edwin mentions good idea to get a private supplement.  Check out INS as it sounds like you are younger than normal retired and may get a fairly reasonable policy amount and not many or any pre existing limits. It can come in very handy.

Best of luck. Learn Spanish and dont expect things to be the way you are used to things. And try to think positive and find benefits to the way of doing things here vs what you are used to.

And be very careful of other gringos as many are going to take advantage of you.

Rodopv -

Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply !

We are definitely really trying to assimilate into and respect the culture and the Tico way of doing things, I think I understand exactly what you mean here.  We are studying Spanish very seriously and I use it every time I can - everyone in the bank, when I installed my internet, when speaking to anyone at the apartment, at Claro for phones, every taxi, every market, every restaurant, I speak Spanish and I know I am making many mistakes but the Ticos have been incredibly patient and kind as I work to communicate and I always thank them profusely for their patience and kindness towards me.  I think the 3 young women who work at the bank have adopted me as their abuelo, probablamente un poco senil !  (just kidding)

Anyway thank you also for the suggestion to get a separate accountant statement for how much "real" income I can expect to have from my savings - that might give the Caja person a way to give me a lower rate if they are so favorably disposed.

I am super curious though about your last statement about other gringos taking advantage - can you talk a little more about that ?


Hey Daniel sounds like you are assimilating very well and have a great chance to be a long termer. To help others maybe you can come back and update us on what happened at the caja,

So yes the using Spanish you can already see how helpful (and fun) that is.

The thing about the gringos is that most are super nice and can be good friends. But there seem to be a number of them who are either running from something in the states or are trying to earn money and simply will not be honest with us. So just be careful thats all.  Actually same can hold true for Ticos as many think they can take advantage. Kind of the deal is that its the same all over the world  Good people and some not so good.
You will be able to figure it out.
Others can chime in on that subject as well.

Keep up the good work!!

RodoPV -

Oh definitely - once I have my Caja interview I will report back and tell everyone what I learned !

I realize my experience with Caja might be specific to me and the person who interviews me (it sounds like there is a lot of variability about what happens out there) but I will be sure to share anything I learn on that or any other topics I think might be helpful to folks.


It is important that you realize that you cannot 'chose' a particular CAJA doctor/clinic but must use the one in your immediate neighbourhood, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
Also, after depositing your first $60K , realize that a second $60K must be made, after two years. You can start the proceedings for Permanent Residency, at the beginning of your third year of Temporary Residency. Further renewals have varying time periods, however no extra deposits or funds will be required,  except the cost of a new cedula  Further 'interviews' are not required, unless circumstances change, such as the death of the principal applicant. Then the surviving spouse can apply for a reduction in premiums if they decide to remain in CR.

If you decide to apply for citizenship, after residing in CR for a total period of 7 years, you may cancel your affiliation with CAJA...and rejoin it at any time.

Unfortunately, you will not know the exact monthly payment until the very end of the application process, however expect that there will be further increases in the cost of your monthly premium.

Duplicate post. :unsure

Thank you kohlerias - that is very helpful information !


I should have added that if the principal applicant for either Rentista or Investor, is under 55, their monthly CAJA premium could be $400+...whether they use it or not.

Interesting -

Fortunately I am 58 so it sounds like that won't apply to me.

But I am curious - what is the thought process for that requirement ?  If someone is younger, presumably they are a lot less risk to the Caja health system.  Why would their premiums be so much higher ?


When under 55, the applicant will be required to pay into a pension fund, which will provide for a small monthly payment, as another member mentioned...which mans no more payments into CAJA. This doesn't apply to foreigners receiving a pension from their home country.

Totally agree that CAJA employees really appreciate any token of thanks that one cares to give to them.

Thank you much.  I love when things are spelled out easily.

Dkor.   Best advise is... Talk to a good legit Tico lawyer, do not go in to it on your own. The paper work, Tico relax ways and the communication break down will wear you guys out. It's extremely hard to do it here on your own.  As rodeo mentioned you will need to deposit $60k in a Government bank to pull off of and I believe after two years u will have to replenished it again. It's not taxable income you can actually open two accounts here and just do a transfer of $2500 a month and they have great interest rates on both dollars and colones
But definitely speak to a lawyer for the best residency program and hire the attorney to submit your applications it will run you about $1500 for the lawyer

I am currently doing my residency as an investor

Good luck

Admittedly, since we applied for Rentista status, rules have changed so check with your lawyer about which government bank you deposit your funds for your application for residency in Costa Rica. The private, high yielding banks, are not used so don't expect to make your fortune...unless this too, has changed.

Here is a very informative article from Outlier Legal when applying as a Investor when purchasing a house/property. However, applying as an Investor with a business may be fraught with problems and  that very often is not accepted by the government for your residency application, as did our first attempt when applying for Investor residency status. Hence, we then went the Rentista route.

Outliers Legal had previously written another article on applying when using a business, but I can no longer find it. If you contact them, possibly they will provide you with the article.

*Please note, I am not recommending Outlier Legal, as we never used their service, but I have read many articles that seem to show that they are talking about.

Good luck!

Thank you jbuonopane and kohlerias for the additional advice -

We are connected with a lawyer - we did choose Outlier, and so far they seem really good.  They are helping us to navigate the Rentista process, and they will also help us navigate the Caja process when that part happens down the line.

Fingers crossed !  I will post back when we have our own experience / learnings which I will share with the group.

(It sounds like it is common for everyone to have a slightly or even greatly different experience going through the process - but we will be glad to share our own particular experience - however that ends up !)


         You are correct with the business residency process it's some what difficult but I chose that route after I saw no benefits in owning real property here in CR. Property here is difficult to sell once it's valued over $400k. and becoming a landlord to me I see to much risk and pocket change on the rental profits
I partnered up with my CR girl friend in bringing a New York style concrete company here  I got out of the game a few years ago but after living here the last few years and watching the Tico's working like the flintstones I had to bring it
So I hope the Gov doesn't deny my residency

Hey I always have the marriage Route....... Wooooooooo

This was a few years back but i applied for rentista and was able to use a private banco Banco BCT for depositing my $50,000 at that time. This is a very conservative good bank and I was able to invest the 50,000 in government bonds in dollars earning 6% or more a year. Then took out occasionally since at that time there was no need to show withdrawals just that I bought x amount of colones per year. Not sure how it is done now but worth checking out for alternative to government banks. Or check if you can open a bolsa account at BCR or BNCR and invest in something that pays interest. Unless change the rules allow deposits in other banks.

Outlier is an example (just in my opinion) of lawyers, residency helpers etc that gringos use because they cant speak Spanish and are used to slick USA type operations, Many times it is well worth it to use groups like that if you are new here or want to be able to talk gringo language.- They are good dont get me wrong but you will end up paying way more than you could if you go local.

But with time people learn and and make friends with locals learn basic Spanish or find non gringo oriented places and maybe get an attorney that is good and 1/3 the cost etc.

Best of luck to everyone

If I was you, I would contact Outlier Legal and ask about going the Investor/business route and see if they will send/tell you where to find the info I mentioned. They had even wrote that they advise against going that route due to their seemingly, ridiculous  requirements, just for you own information.

Good luck in your quest!

Jbuonopane, Yeah you got the right idea. Get married and its a lot faster and process is cheaper. After all that would be just like applying as a business/Investor no?

Totally agree with using established Tico lawyers...that have a good reputation  which checks out. Believe in the saying, 'just because they speak English it doesn't mean they are trustworthy'.

This is why I don't give out any recommendation of any business that I didn't use or satisfactory completed the job in hand.

Outlier is a little more expensive than most , but we used them and were very happy with their services.
I have no experience with Rentista, only Pensionado, so cannot comment on that.
Ticos are not always less expensive.

Outlier are lawyers, and although the process (pensionado) seems to be fairly simple, a good lawyer known by immigration makes things easier, especially if there are delays or documentation issues. I keep working with them, so far so good and communications are clear.

Wonderful info!
Thanks All

Just curious as to the outcome here!  Hope all went well!  :-)

One really needs to read up on the new rules & requirements before applying for residency and selling up your home and packing your belongings. Especially as a Rentista as they have changed

Paid caja yesterday, the second time. In December 57 000, in January 61,000. Make your conclusions. Never used this seguro social but ticos say it is a total garbage.

@patricianethercote .......As far as selling your home, don't.......You want the best of both worlds.Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

@Henrych It is my understanding the the IVA (a tax) jumped from 8% to 13% starting in January

@dbuettner it looks like they've postponed this robbery to keep the golden goose alive. Right now I am paying 10% of my reported income.

The question is: what would be the penalty if you skip monthly payments?

What if you have 3 pensions? Can you just report the lowest pension amount or do they want to see your tax return?

@Blackwatch report as much as needed to reach the required minimum.

@Henrych what sort of proof do they need?  If I have 3 pensions and just report the lowest to keep the Caja down do they ask to see my Canadian income tax return?

I have been through this very thoroughly over the last eight years and this is my understanding of what must be reported.  Firstly only guaranteed income is what your Caja payments will be based on.  In our original application I looked like a pauper but it was legitimate earnings.  I am Canadian and was receiving early Canada pension Plan payments and money from a LIF (life income fund).  These were my only guaranteed income, and was thus reportable.  I did not report or have to report any money available from savings, or any money I deregistered from an RRSP (registered retirement savings plan) .  We are inversionistas and our Caja payment is about $50 USD for the two of us.  Never have been asked to prove my income and have never heard of anyone showing or volunteering an Income tax return.  It will vary GREATLY from office to office!!!

@Blackwatch they dont request the tax return. Make sure that you report at least 1k

I have been through this very thoroughly over the last eight years and this is my understanding of what must be reported. Firstly only guaranteed income is what your Caja payments will be based on. In our original application I looked like a pauper but it was legitimate earnings. I am Canadian and was receiving early Canada pension Plan payments and money from a LIF (life income fund). These were my only guaranteed income, and was thus reportable. I did not report or have to report any money available from savings, or any money I deregistered from an RRSP (registered retirement savings plan) . We are inversionistas and our Caja payment is about $50 USD for the two of us. Never have been asked to prove my income and have never heard of anyone showing or volunteering an Income tax return. It will vary GREATLY from office to office!!!

Is there a minimum monthly income you have to show for inversionistas? Pensionados have to show $1000 + per month, I'm assuming that's US dollars. Thanks

what is an inversionista

I have never had to show formal proof of any income as an Inversionista.  I have always reported it in a Word document to Caja as an Income/expense document and had no problem at all.  We are now permanent residences and no longer even have to report.  The last issuance of our Caja cards no longer have an expiry date.


Investment of US$200,000 in a business or property.

Must remain in country at least 6 months per year.

Can claim spouse and dependants under 18 years of age.

Income allowed from the project.

Can own a company and receive dividends.

Source: The Association of Costa Rica Residents

@TerrynViv Thanks again, very interesting all the ins and outs.

I wonder if an RRSP would qualify as a "retirement fund" by the Costa Rican govt to satisfy the $1000/month Pensionado requirement?

@rodoPV not particular to CR, but observations from eight years as an expat living in Thailand. The issues you mention seem to be the same everywhere. Thais by some estimates are honest to a fault. Other folks post frequently about scams to separate farangs (gringos) from their money.

We fairly regularly see reports about foreigners involved in various crimes. To sum up it seems it's the same the whole world over.

I was interested in moving to CR, but my Thai wife is adamant “Mai!” (No way, Jose!) Took over sixty years for me to get hitched, so not rocking that boat. 😉

Still following so I can enjoy CR vicariously. If I find it expedient to move on a part time basis how would the CAJA work for a pensionado with about $1,700 Social Security, which I understand can be documented at the US Embassy there?