Retiring in Costa Rica. Immigration to Costa Rica

Costa Rica's political stability, high standard of living, and well-developed social benefits system set it apart from its Central American neighbors. Through the government's sustained social spending - almost 20% of GDP annually - Costa Rica has made tremendous progress toward achieving its goal of providing universal access to education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and electricity. Costa Rica's poverty rate is lower than in most Latin American countries, but it has stalled at around 20% for almost two decades. Costa Rica is a popular regional immigration destination because of its job opportunities and social programs. Almost 9% of the population is foreign-born, with Nicaraguans comprising nearly three-quarters of the foreign population.

Costa Rica

The immigration law in Costa Rica

The immigration law in Costa Rica allows foreigners to obtain temporary residence if they fall into the following categories: a "foreign income earner", a "retiree" or "investor". The temporary residency is given for two years. It is possible to renew the residency, however process is long - the immigration authorities generally take from ten months to one year to issue a final decision.

Here's a short overview of the ways to obtain a temporary residence in Costa Rica. There are three options depending on the applicant's income:

Retiree or Pensionado in Spanish

  • To apply as a Retiree, the applicant must prove that he/she receives a minimum pension of one thousand dollars guaranteed for life. This should be confirmed by a letter issued by an entity or authority paying the pension. If the retirees come from the United States, this letter may be issued locally by the US Consulate in Costa Rica.
  • A married couple needs to show proof of only one monthly pension of at least $1,000.00 USD for both husband and wife to qualify to apply for residency. The pension recipient can be either spouse.
  • Retiree residency is given for 3 years and can be renewed.

Foreign Income Earner or Rentista

  • To apply as a Foreign Income Earner, the applicant must prove that he/she receives at least two thousand five hundred dollars per month of unearned income from any source for 24 consecutive months (2 years). The simplest option would be investing US$ 60,000.00 in CD’s (interest-bearing certificates of deposit) or similar with the bank in Costa Rica or abroad, with instructions to automatically deposit US$ 2,500.00 per month in an account of the applicant. Other sources of unearned income include income from savings, renting property or dividends.
  • The same US$ 2,500.00 will be required for a single applicant, for a married couple or for an applicant with dependent children. 
  • Income in the form of salary or wages, or any form of employment does not qualify as unearned income and it cannot be used to apply for Income from salary or wages, or any form of employment does not qualify as unearned income and it cannot be used to apply for Foreign Income Earner status.


  • Investor's Residency is applicable for foreigners who have invested a minimum of US$ 200,000.00 in Costa Rica. The funds can be invested into any other business in Costa Rica or into any type of property, commercial or non-commercial.
  • It is important to understand that all these categories of residents are not allowed to work in Costa Rica. A work permit can be obtained only when the applicant receives permanent residency. Permanent residency in Costa Rica can be obtained after having temporary residency for 3 years.

Legal Fees (for your information only, the exact quotation will be sent on your request when we know all the details):

  • Applicant US$ 1,700.00, dependents US$ 1,400.00 per dependent. Immigration Expenses US$ 750.00 for each applicant.

Please get in touch with us if you plan retiring in Costa Rica or moving to Costa Rica as an investor or foreign income earner. We will be happy to assist in your relocation to Costa Rica.

Some useful links: