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How Many US Citizen Expats are Living in Costa Rica?

July 6th, 2006

pp.jpgI must have been asked this question about 4,000 times since I moved here. Odd as it may be, nobody seemed to know… until now. Finally, immigration has announced the figure. Of the 289,237 legal residents (foreigners) living in Costa Rica, only 8,400 are US Citizens.

I have very mixed reaction to this number. First, I thought it would be higher. MUCH higher. However, this low number also explains why so few banks and other institutions here in CR are equipped with English speaking employees or web sites in English to accomodate those English speaking (only) expatriates. There is simply not sufficient demand for these services.

Also interesting is that I constantly hear from the ex-pat community how proposing laws such as international taxation will kill the golden goose (implying that the Costa Rica economy is heavily influenced by Gringo spending, and if they do THAT, all the Gringos will leave thus doing irrepairable harm to the country).

Well CLEARLY, if that number is even CLOSE to being accurate, Costa Rica could do quite well even if every every Gringo packed his bags and moved tomorrow. With almost 5 million residents, the piddly 8,400 Gringos probably aren’t making much of an impact on Costa Rica’s GNP.

Other interesting goodies:

There are more Columbians living here legally than there are Gringos, a bit over 10,000 to our 8,400.

The vast majority of foreign legal residents living here are Nicaraguan, at about 200,000. Now their exit would have a profound effect on the economy or CR.

Just another one of those things that make you go hmmmm!

14 Responses to “How Many US Citizen Expats are Living in Costa Rica?”

  1. Greg on July 6, 2006 9:36 am

    I just recently tuned in to your blog and I must say congratulations! I find it very informative, funny and downright entertaining.

    With regards to the recent numbers released by the immigration department, I was wondering if you could tell me how many Canadians are living in Costa Rica.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  2. Tim on July 7, 2006 2:05 pm

    Ugh… I can’t. I am guessing a couple of thousand. The Canadian Club might be able to pprovide a better answer.

  3. Lissa on July 9, 2006 2:54 pm

    Yes, 8,400 living in Costa Rica. How many come to visit your beautiful country from the U.S. each year.
    I Iove CR infact I’ll be coming there July 16 for a month. I also think you are a cool guy and love this site. However, it is more likely that CR makes more money off its gringo tourists than its gringo expats. So maybe there is a point that if CR keeps upping the taxes U.S. tourists will find some other piece of paradise to visit. Not myself of course I can still affored the taxes.

  4. Tim on July 10, 2006 10:00 am

    A huge number of Gringo and Candians come here as tourists. The new taxes will not affect tourists though… or at least minimally. The new taxes, if passed, will affect mostly those who live here.

  5. Aimee on July 11, 2006 8:09 pm

    I can’t believe those figures. I really thought there were many more, considering that many of the hotels and tourist sites are owned/ run by gringos. I’m pleasantly surprised to know that the place isn’t overrun by them (us) yet.

  6. Jerry Myers on July 13, 2006 8:26 am

    Seems almost impossible to believe that 8400 people from the US could have such an impact on the culture of Costa Rica… Many live here as “perpetual tourists”, that I know… but still this number is too small to be realistic..

    Surely immigration must be wrong.. but is that possible in Costa Rica.?? :LOL

  7. Terry on August 15, 2006 6:39 pm

    The figure quoted above is as mysterious and arcane as the complex of tico systems and sub-systems that control the social structure of the country.
    As an employer of expats here, I think we need to define the terms of residency. There are many people who live and work here for years simply by renewing their travel visas and being paid as private contractors, which of course is perfectly fine with immigration. My long standing impression is that if the ‘Caja’ is satisfied, then no waves are made. This is perfectly logical given the fragile and overrun state of the local health care system.
    Thus, the figure of 8400 would seem absurdly low, simply because immigration has its own political reasons for keeping it that way.

  8. Mikayla on September 21, 2006 5:23 pm

    Thanks for the site and the info. 8,400 sounds about right to me. I’ve “lived” part-time in Costa Rica for 2 years traveling back and forth. I love Costa Rica. It’s simple and complex at the same time.

  9. Art on September 26, 2006 5:12 pm

    I’d venture that the reason the number seems low is that many, or maybe most, haven’t become residents (rentisita, pensionado, etc) but just live here on the 90 visa. Most of the US, Canadains and even Germans I know are here on the 90 day program. That includes many who have been here for years and own land, work (legally) and own businesses.

    Now if Costa Rica changed the 90 day visa program that might have a huge impact.

  10. Buck on October 24, 2006 9:30 am

    I agree with Art. I’ve lived in the Dominical area for 4 years now (still waiting for my residency) and I’d say the vast majority of gringos I know in the area do the 90 day thing and therefore are not included in the numbers.

  11. Loy Pacheco on October 25, 2006 12:16 am

    The 90 day visa – how does that work?

  12. Emely Castro on October 24, 2011 5:32 pm

    Is there an updated number on this?

  13. Tim on October 25, 2011 4:00 pm

    As about 55% of those who move here leave within a year… the number is about the same.

  14. sonny burnet on December 19, 2011 9:24 pm

    I have to agree with Art. I dont think the question is how many Gringos live in Costa Rica as pensionados or residents, but how many actually own property. I would venture to say that at least five times your number of americans are vested in Costa Rica. So to say that only 8400 Americans have an impact on the economy is somewhat missleading. For the record I own property there and am one of the “90 day Dudes”