Questions & Answers
When did the new Costa Rican Immigration Law go into effect?
The new Immigration Reform Law, formally known as "Ley 8487 - La Ley de Migración y Extranjería," was approved on December 12, 2005, and went into effect eight months later, on August 12, 2006. Currently, there is a bill pending in the Costa Rican Asamblea Nacional that proposes additional technical modifications to the law.
What changes were made to the various residency programs under the new law?
From our point of view, the most significant changes to the residency programs are listed below. All the changes listed have been in effect since August 2006:
Changes that affect all Residency Programs:
- Where to file residency applications: Applications for residency under the Pensionado, Rentista and Inversionista programs must be filed in the applicant's country of origin.
Note that country of origin is the country where the applicant resided at the time the residency application is filed, which may not be, necessarily, the applicant's country of birth. For example a person born in Australia, who later became a legal resident of Canada, would file the application in Canada if that is where the applicant lives at the time the application for Costa Rican residency is filed.
Applications for residency under the Vínculo Program can still be filed directly with Migración in Costa Rica.
- Qualifying Income Requirements: Most changes to the income requirement affect primarily married applicants for residency under the Rentista Program.
- Rentista - Unmarried or Single Applicants (Article 77): No changes made to the income requirement, which continues to be unearned income (interest, dividends or withdrawals from savings) of at least US$1,000 per month, guaranteed for 60 months, or US$60,000.
- Rentista - Married & Dependants Applicants (Article 79): There is a substantial increase in the income requirement for applicants who are married and/or have dependants. Under the new law, the married applicant must show proof of income in the amount of US$1,000 per spouse (US$2,000 per couple), plus an additional US$500 per month per qualifying child/dependant. Thus, a typical family of four, consisting of husband, wife and two children, are now required to show proof of income of US$3,000 per month guaranteed for 60 months, or US$180,000.
- Pensionado Program (Article 77): No changes made to the Pensionado income requirement, which continues to be a pension of at least US$600 per month. The same requirement of US$600 applies if applying as an single individual or as a married couple.
New 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 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.
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 -called an "apoderado"- to act on your behalf, as your representative, with the Departmento de Migración (Migración, for short).
What is an "apoderado"?
An apoderado is an individual, an attorney or a non-attorney, 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 for the sole purpose of processing your application for residency. Residency in Costa Rica uses a very narrow and specific limited power of attorney valid exclusively for our representative in San José. The power of attorney allows us to communicate and correspond about your residency application with Migración in Costa Rica.
Can my apoderado gain access, or obtain information about my checking, savings or other accounts in Costa Rica?
No. The limited power of attorney is very specific and narrow in scope. It can only be used to communicate and correspond about your residency application with Migración in Costa Rica. It is not valid for any other purposes in Costa Rica and it is not valid for any purpose whatsoever outside of Costa Rica.
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 must now be filed abroad, 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 in Costa Rica for at least one day prior to Migración's review of your application.
Important: Please note that applications filed without proof of fingerprinting are automatically denied as a matter of law.
How is my application filed?
- For U.S. Applicants - Only: RCR can file the residency application on your behalf with a Costa Rican Consulate in the U.S. Or, if you prefer, we can provide you with all the documents needed and you can file the application yourself in person at the consulate.
- All Other Applicants: RCR will coordinate your appointment with the local consulate for you to file the application in person, and will guide you step by step as how and where to file the application.
- Vínculo Applications: RCR will file the application on your behalf directly with Migración in Costa Rica.
Why should I use RCR to help me with the application process?
RCR has the experience, knowledge, and contacts to properly handle your application. We are familiar with the intricacies of the application process, the types of supporting documents required by law, and 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 a key resource to most clients, and is one of the main 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.
All supporting documents are required to be translated into Spanish by a certified translator. As part of our service, we coordinate the translation of all supporting documentation on your behalf and make sure the translations are accurate and acceptable to the Costa Rica authorities.
For most clients, an additional benefit of using our services is our ability to easily and fluently communicate in English or Spanish and thus decreasing the possibility of miscommunication, and allowing us to provide answers to your questions in a more efficient and timely manner.