Costa Rica is one of the most desirable places in the world to retire

A Quick Overview of Retirement in Costa Rica

What to expect when you are planning on a Costa Rica retirement
Costa Rica has always been a popular tourist destination because of its ideal location, weather and geography, but not many are aware that it is also a highly sought after location for American, Canadian and European retirees.

It is not hard to see why Costa Rica is considered one of the prime choices for retirement. Aside from its touristy qualities like having plenty of cultural attractions and attractive natural surroundings, this Central American country also offers just about everything that one would like for a comfortable life. The people here are very happy, ranking first among all countries based on surveys by Happy Planet. The crime rate here is also very low and the health care system is of superior quality.

Requirements for Setting up Temporary Residency as a Retiree

If you are already retired and are seriously considering a Costa Rica retirement, you must meet the following conditions for your application for residency to be approved.

First of all, you need to be receiving a pension or a lifetime annuity amounting to at least US$1000 per month, and you should be able to submit proof of this. It is very important that the pension is continuous for the retiree’s lifetime. Any kind of pension from the federal, provincial, state or local government of almost any country is considered valid for this purpose. Some of the most commonly submitted pensions are from the US Social Security, Railroad Retirement, Canadian Old Age Pension, 401K plans, Keogh and IRA distributions, and pension benefits from private companies.

A married couple, along with their children who are younger than 25 years old, may apply for residency if at least one spouse can show proof of a monthly pension. The remaining spouse and the children shall be listed as dependents. Same-gender marriages are recognized in Costa Rica and the partner without a pension shall be listed as a dependent.

Once you are granted temporary residency, you are obligated to reside in Costa Rica for a minimum of one day per year. This status shall last for up to 3 years, after which you can apply for permanent residency.

Required Documents for Temporary Residency Application

There are a few requirements that you need to secure and submit if you want to finalize your residency for your Costa Rica retirement.

Letter of Application

You can write your own letter of application but we can also provide you with a template. You just need to enter the pertinent information like your complete name, your nationality, your date of birth, as well as the complete names and the nationalities of your mother and father.

Application Form

Costa Rica’s immigration department, the Formulario de Filiación, provides these forms and requires the same information as you will write in your letter.

Birth Certificate

When applying for residency in Costa Rica, you need to secure a copy of your birth certificate, issued within the last 6 months by your birth country. The original birth certificate that you have will not be recognized. It must be a recent copy that has either been legalized by a Costa Rican consulate or has an Apostille.

Criminal Background Report

You need to obtain this report from your country’s national police within the last 6 months. The issuing agency will vary depending on the country. You need to request it from the FBI if you are a US citizen, from the RCMP if you are Canadian, from the ACRO if you are from the UK, and so on. Before submitting this report, you should have it legalized by a Costa Rican consul or make sure it has an Apostille. A criminal background report is require for all Costa Rican residency applicants that are 12 years or older.

Certification of Marriage

This is only required for retirees that are applying for residency in Costa Rica as a married couple, including same-gender marriages. The certificate must have been issued within the last 6 months by the country where you got married. As with the previous documents, it needs to have an Apostille or be legalized by a Costa Rican consul in order to be considered valid.

Certification of Income

As mentioned earlier, only pension holders or beneficiaries of lifetime annuity are qualified for a retirement in Costa Rica with official residency. You must secure an income certificate from the agency that grants your pension. Government pensions may be obtained at your country’s embassy in Costa Rica, in which case there is no need for it to have an Apostille. The certificate needs to be recent, issued within the last 6 months.

Copy of Passport

You need to submit a full certified copy of your passport. This should include all the pages of your passport from front cover to the back, as well as all the blank pages. The copies should be legalized by a Costa Rican consul within the last 6 months. Alternatively, you can have it legalized by the Costa Rican State Department but in this case, you should also make sure it has an Apostille.

ID Pictures

As part of your application for temporary residency in Costa Rica, you must submit 4 recent passport-sized photographs. This is also needed for the fingerprinting procedure.

Embassy Registration

Your country’s embassy in Costa Rica will give you this document after you complete your registration. You can do this personally by heading to your country’s embassy but some countries also offer online registration. US citizens can sign up at the Smart Traveler Enrolment Program, while Canadians can search for Registration of Canadians Abroad. You don’t need to submit this requirement if your country does not have an embassy in Costa Rica.

Limited Power of Attorney

As your representative in facilitating your application for residency in Costa Rica, we will need a limited power of attorney so that we can efficiently represent you at the Immigration Department and make the application process go more smoothly.

Application Fee

All applicants for residency in Costa Rica are required to pay US$290 to the Immigration Department and your name must be on the receipt. This finalizes your application and your name will be place on the official list of applicants. The Immigration Department will issue you your own file number of numero de expediente.


Once all your requirements have been duly submitted, you will have to go to the Ministry of Public Security for the fingerprinting process. This is required for all residency applicants who are 12 years or older.

Procedures to Complete upon Approval of Your Application

You will receive a notice as soon as your application has been approved. Your Costa Rica retirement is ready to officially begin but first, there are still a few procedures that you must complete.

Social Security Registration

Now that you are an official resident of Costa Rica, you must register with the local Social Security at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro social. Here, you must pay for your health insurance coverage, or present a receipt and letter if all your dues are already settled.

Approval Fees

There are still a couple of fees that you need to settle with the Immigration Department before you can officially call yourself a Costa Rican resident. These are the US$300 government guarantee bond and the US$128 processing fee for residency. Both of these fees must be paid only to the department’s account with the Banco de Costa Rica.

ID Processing Appointment

As an official resident, you must have the DIMEX card so you must request for an appointment with the Immigration Department so that this card can be processed. You can choose the most convenient location for the processing, which can be at the Immigration Department, at any of the Bank of Costa Rica branches, or at the post office or Correos de Costa Rica.

Enjoy Your Retirement in Costa Rica with Official Residency

Now that all the procedures have been completed, you can finally enjoy your retirement in Costa Rica without any worries. You can now experience all the benefits of residency in Costa Rica, like the excellent standard of living, the happy culture, the incredible natural surroundings, the superior healthcare, the great quality of life, and everything else that retirees all over the world have been gushing about.