Since we were committed to living in Costa Rica and were considering starting a business here, we knew we would need to apply for residency.
We started this process while still living in the United States by gathering the required documents such as certified copies of our birth and marriage certificates. These were easily obtained online. Afterwards, we had to acquire another level of certification called an “apostille” which takes more time and money. During this process, we obtained state and federal criminal background checks, also required in this process. All in all, the document acquisition and authentication project took several months and hundreds of dollars. Then, we sent all the documents in a Fedex envelope to our attorneys to start the formal residency application process.
Since that time, we have seen local attorneys offering to acquire your documents and apostille for a flat fee. Our situation was complicated by our need to hire a separate Nicaraguan attorney to acquire and authenticate my birth certificate as I was born in Managua. In addition, the residency application process requires all new documents to be acquired and older issued certificates will be rejected, even if new notarizations and apostilles are affixed.
We chose to immigrate under “investor” status as we were building a home worth more than $200,000.00. We also qualified as a “rentistas” due to our financial holdings, but we did not want to divulge this information. We could not qualify under “pensioners” as we were too young. We were also not qualified to apply as a “family relation” or “company visa.”
Prior to leaving the US, during our trip to Costa Rica to survey our property and pick out finishing goods for our new home, we made a stop at a San Jose police station and were finger-printed.
The process is anything but short despite our hiring local attorneys whose practice focuses on immigration applications. From the time we sent our documentation to the immigration attorneys to the time we were informed that our paperwork was approved, nearly nine months had elapsed. It sounds like a long time, but I have heard from local people who had been waiting nearly two years as they were using other lawyers or trying to do it on their own (really not recommended).
Following submission of our residency applications, we no longer were subject to the 90 day tourist visa stay restriction. Unfortunately, Costa Rican law suffers from many inconsistencies and we had to make two “border runs” to cross the border to Nicaragua and return to maintain our tourist visa in order to keep our driver’s license active. Each run took half a day and we paid a tour company to take us as they knew how to get through the process quickly. For this reason, I called this incongruity of Costa Rica law the “Tour Company Relief Act” with many ex-pats using this service. For some, it was just easier to make the border runs and avoid the expense of the residency application.
Following the initial approval, we had to submit yet more documents to prove our local residential address and bank accounts and wait another month to get our first interview.