Residency and Citizenship

How to obtain Residency and Citizenship in Costa Rica

For travelers who decide to live permanently in Costa Rica, there are a few ways to go about the process of obtaining residency. Usually, the majority of travelers from North America and Europe can stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days before they have to depart from the country. To legally stay in the country longer than that, one must qualify for legal residency.  There are three ways to obtain residency in Costa Rica:

o   The Retirement Law (under Law No 6982) states that a foreigner may acquire residence in Costa Rica if he can show a sufficient income  (USD $600 p/month) whether from investments or from a pension and irrespective of whether the income is sourced locally or abroad. These residents can work in Costa Rica only in positions that a Costa Rican resident cannot fulfill. They must also remain in Costa Rica for at least 4 months out of the year.

o   The Residence Law places no restrictions on the sorts of economic activity that a resident permit holder can engage in; however it is very selective process and usually granted to only businessmen and professionals.

o   The General Law of immigration became effective on March 1, 2010 and it establishes 5 types of residencies for immigrants:

§  Pensionado-Residents under this category must have proof of USD 1,000 per month from permanent pension or retirement fund. The benefits are that they can claim spouse and dependents under 25 years of age or older with disabilities; own a company and receive an income. The disadvantages are that they cannot work as an employee and cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 2 consecutive years.

§  Rentista- Residents need proof of USD 2,500 per month in income guaranteed by a bank. Benefits are that they can claim a spouse and dependents 25 years of age or older with disabilities; owning a company and receiving income. The disadvantages are that they cannot work as an employee and cannot be absent for more than 2 consecutive years

§  Inversionista-Residents must invest USD $200,000 in any Costa Rica business or a specified amount of investment in certain Costa Rica government approved sectors. They can also claim a spouse and dependents under 25 years of age or older with disabilities in addition to claiming income from investment projects. Can own a company and receive income yet, cannot be absent for more than 2 consecutive years

§  Representante-This residency is open to directors, executives, representatives, managers and technical employees of companies meeting certain requirements. Their income must be greater than Costa Rican minimum wage by at least 25%. The benefits are that they can own a company and receive income. The disadvantages are that they cannot be absent for more than 2 consecutive years

§  Permanent-To qualify for permanent residency one must be related to a Costa Rican citizen through marriage or having a child. One may also apply for permanent residency after successfully completing 3 years in another residency. The benefits are claiming a spouse and dependents under 25 years of age or older with disabilities, working as an employee, owning a company and receiving income. The disadvantages are that they cannot be leave Costa Rica for more than 4 consecutive years.

Citizenship in Costa Rica

Citizenship is based upon the Constitution of Costa Rica and can be acquired by birth, descent, and naturalization. The National Registrar (2009) stated that around 400 foreigners are granted citizenship every month in Costa Rica. Citizenship can never be lost nor renounced.

By birth:

A child born in Costa Rica regardless of parent nationality

By descent:

A child with at least one parent as a Costa Rican citizen, and is born abroad.

By naturalization:

Naturalization can occur in several ways: Naturalization by legal stay is achieved by a person having resided in the country for 20 or more years. Naturalization by marriage occurs when a person has been married to a Costa Rican citizen for two years and has physically remained in the country for that same time period.

ATTORNEYS IN COSTA RICA

Whether you’re merely traveling, looking to open a business, claiming residency, or buying property, there may be a time where you need to rely on a trusted source to handle your situation. Finding someone who is well educated on the Costa Rican legal system and who can navigate you around the obstacles that foreigners face, will help substantially. With about 8,000 people practicing law throughout Costa Rica, there are a variety of attorneys and lawyers to choose from, but it is best to do your research thoroughly before trusting someone to handle your case. The average cost for a lawyer is between $30-$60 an hour.

Things you should know: Costa Rican legal system is Napoleonic or Roman law, which means, in a criminal case, you are guilty before proven innocent.

There are 3 primary forms of legal aid in Costa Rica.

1.) Defensores Publicos (Public defenders):
(506) 2211-9800
defensapublica@poderjudicial.go.cr
Address: Streets 11 and 13, 2nd avenue, San Jose

Public defenders provide services and legal representation for those who cannot afford to pay the necessary costs of a lawyer.

2.) Casas de la Justicia (House of Justice):
Various phone numbers depending on location

An office that provides free mediation services to the general population and conflict resolution without formal complaints in the courts. The house of justice is in charge of the National Alternative Dispute Resolution (DINARAC), which carries the same force as an official court decision. They manage matters relating to neighborhood conflicts, animal problems, waste and pollution, and consumer disputes. Locations are spread throughout Costa Rica, according to the demands of the population. Some regions included are San Pedro, San Ramon, Alajeula, Liberia, and Guanacaste.

3.) Oficina de Atencion y Protection de la Victima del Ministerio Publico(Victims office at the Public Ministry)
2295-3000
victimadelito@poder-judicial.go.cr
Address: located 50 meters southeast from Fundacion Omar Dengo, Barrio Francisco Peralta, avenues 10 and 12, street 25, San Jose

Created by the Public Minisitry to be responsible for protecting all people, domestic or foreign, who become victims, witnesses or participants in criminal proceedings. The main goal of this office is to avoid re-victimzation of involved people through assisting with interdisciplinary and coordinating institutional services.