Costa Rica Residency

Obtaining legal residency in Costa Rica has become big business here.

When I first arrived some years back, there were maybe two organizations offering assistance for this process.  Now, I see ads for many companies offering their services.  As I have first hand knowledge of only one, I don't believe it fair that I express an opinion on these newer companies.  I also do not wish to give "hearsay" commentary.  I am sure most are reputable and will represent you adequately.  I am also fairly sure there are a few that may be less than reputable. 


Seems like at least once a year, and maybe more often, the local bulletin boards and forums get busy discussing some problem with some attorney, person or company they hired to assist them in obtaining their residency.  These people or companies may have disappeared or are not replying to emails nor returning phone calls.  Maybe they had all the person's documents and now those people have no idea what is their status nor where are their documents!

Be careful who you use!  Once you have found an organization that you think you would like to use, get busy on the local bulletin boards and forums and ask for some first hand opinions from people who have actually used them, received their residency, and now live here.  Good companies never have a problem supplying references, but remember also, nobody gives a reference unless they are not pretty sure that reference will say positive things about them.  That is why I suggest the user groups.

Do I need help?

That is a question I get asked all the time: "Do I really need to hire someone to assist me with Costa Rica residency?"

Technically, no.  In reality, yes, very likely you do. 

Why?  Because hiring either a good residency attorney or a good company or organization that has good residency attorneys on their staff can make the whole process go a LOT smoother.  The immigration system here is complex and can be very frustrating to foreigners who do not understand it or have no patience in dealing with it. You will find that regardless of the residency type you seek, you will have to submit a lot of information and documents.  Some information is pretty simple to obtain.  Other documents can take weeks or months. 

Example:  Husband and wife wish to retire here with Pensionado residency.  The husband was born in Pennsylvania, the wife was born in Germany (pre-World War II).  They met during the war, and were married in Hawaii!

You will need all the birth and marriage certificates to apply for residency.  But what happens if the husband's or wife's birth records are not available or if they are, can copies be gotten? If so, how easily? Who needs to certify these documents? Many required documents must be presented to the Costa Rica Consul in your home country for certification.  Others may need to be presented to a Costa Rica consul in the country where the record was made.  So, in the above example, who certifies the wife's birth record?  The husband's?  The marriage certificate? The police report?  You may be shocked at the answers!  What happens if one person's birth records are no longer available?

Is the above an bad or extreme example?  No.  It happens ALL the time, and you need to know exactly what you will need to do regarding every piece of paper you submit.

I could continue, but I think you get the point.  There are a ton of rules that must be followed and the rules (or how they are interpreted), change all the time!  So can you do it all yourself?  Sure!  However I would not recommend it!  Trying to fix a problem in another country after you have physically moved here can be daunting or impossible.  I also cannot imagine doing this if you are not completely fluent in Spanish!

Perhaps the only exception would be if you were applying for residency and were married to a Tico.  That process could be handled easily by the Tico spouse.


So how do I choose?

This is more difficult than you would think.  Even if you browse the local forums and bulletin boards, you may be told someone is good, but maybe there are problems brewing.  Recently, there was a woman here who legitimately helped a number of folks get residency.  One day last year, she just disappeared leaving a bunch of people in deep problems. Documents were missing, some applications had not been presented, etc.  I can see no way these people saw this coming and they were not to blame in selecting her.  A bit of investigation AFTER she disappeared, uncovered a few interesting facts:  1. She was not an attorney as many people thought, 2. She was not even Costa Rican and 3. She apparently is still in Costa Rica, but cannot be found.  All documents disappeared.  Residencies delayed.

Often, you may hear conflicting stories about a company or person. I guarantee that NOBODY in the residency business makes everyone happy all the time! Often, that is because the person applying for residency simply does not do as they were told.  Look for trends however.  One bad story you can ignore.  Ten bad stories and you are asking for trouble.

There are no laws, rules, organizations or groups who certify these residency experts.  It's like real estate here... just hang your shingle and you're in business!  In fact in May 2006. there were several scams discovered where people passed themselves off as attorneys.  Some promised residency without the hassles.  Others promised speed.  One  North American was arrested recently after 4 years of supposedly having a real cedula (ID CARD) when in reality it was bogus.  He is fighting to stay here.

This is just NOT the time to try for the best deal!  Shopping for discount Costa Rican residency is about as intelligent as shopping for a good cheap heart surgeon.   That does NOT mean to overpay!  It means be cautious.  See COST below.

Here is a short checklist of things I would look for when selecting someone to assist  you in getting residency!  It is not all inclusive!

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. Where are they located?  If not in Costa Rica, that may be a problem unless they have an office here as well.
  3. How many years of residency experience do they have?
  4. Do they use attorneys to process the paperwork?  An attorney is not required to do any of this, but often is a good idea.
  5. Is this person an attorney themselves?  If not, do they hire attorneys or do they have lawyers on their staff?
  6. Are these licensed Costa Rican attorneys?
  7. If your expert hires attorneys, who is responsible if an error is made?  The company or person...  or the attorney?  Will you have direct access to that attorney?
  8. Will they provide a list of clients they have helped?  Remember though, NOBODY is going to give you a reference on someone who will NOT say nice things!
  9. What do the local bulletin boards and forums have to say about this company or person?  Remember... look for trends.  One bad comment is meaningless...

I do not say all this to scare you!  As I mentioned above, I believe most of these organizations are legit and helpful and can help you obtain legal residency, but DO your due diligence!


This always amazes me and leads me to believe that people do not check before they retain the services of a residency expert.  I see a HUGE range in prices for exactly the same services! 

Example:  Applying for Costa Rican Rentista Residency, I have met people who paid (or are paying now) $870.00 to $2,500.00.  Wow! 

As the residency process is exactly the same for each person, why the big difference?  I truly do not know, but I would do some price comparisons and ask why someone is more expensive.  Maybe there is a good reason.  Again, do your homework!  Sometimes it may be OK to pay a bit more if you really like a person or company and feel they will do a great job for you.

In general you can expect to pay:

Attorney Fees: $900.00 - That is what the attorneys charge to do the paperwork, translations, application, power-of-attorney etc.

That does not include the government fees as laid out in our package of:

  • $40 per Document that was sent through the Consulate
  • $30 Application fee for each individual
  • $300 Guarantee Deposit per person (in case you are deported. Pays for your airfare.)
  • $58 per person Cedula fee
  • Courier fees to send it from the Consul to Migracion (and to the consul where requested)

So you are looking at $1,400 - $1,500 or more for everything.



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