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Costa Rica Residency Renewal – Revisited

July 2nd, 2009

Residency CedulaLast year, I blogged about the process of renewing my residency. Those interested can read the posts here and here.  For no good (logical) reason that I can see, renewals are for one year only and even though I did not GET my residency card until 4 months after the process began, it is now time to again renew the *%*(&$**  thing.

This year, though, things have changed!  OK… I know better than to say such a thing. Let us just say that the process has changed, and we shall see if  “things have changed”.

What are the big changes? Well the biggie is that this year, it seems, that I will not need to make the trek to immigration.  The other stuff will be gravy. So here is the new process:

Making that trip to immigration has always been a pain. While the vast majority of dealing with any branch of the Costa Rica government is a lesson in inefficiency, any sojourn to migracion is the premier example on how NOT to deal with the public.

The changes? For starters, renewal can now be done at any of thirty-two branches of the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR).  In fact, they have even devoted a web page to those who will be renewing residency at that bank. It is, of course, in Spanish as bank web sites in English are still not common.  I will, however, be happy to do some translating of the more important goodies!

Before I do… one alert reader commented that there is a link ti the English version. Either I missed it or they have added it.  I am getting olde… I probably missed it… Either way, you now can click the link above for GringoSpeak!

  • BCR promises that the process can be finished in twenty minutes.  The operative words here are “can be”.  I will, of course, report on the accuracy of that semi-commitment.
  • BCR offers this service for renewals and for lost residency cards (cedulas)
  • They are staffed to do this at any of thirty-two offices throughout the country (see list below). I am guessing that they may add more in the future, but these seem to cover just about the whole country so nobody need travel a great distance.
  • Cost is $48.00 and is paid at the BCR branch at the time of renewal (but see below!)
  • They provide a number for making appointments.  It is toll free, 800.227.2482. It is answered in Spanish, and when I called, the person was not multilingual. English speakers may be available though, I did not ask.
  • You will not get your cedula at the time of your appointment. It is promised to be sent to you by la  Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (immigration) no more than 25 calendar days after your appointment. No mention of how it is delivered.

That’s it!  Seems simple enough. So here is how it worked for me.

I called the toll free number, was placed on auto-hold for maybe 3 minutes until a nice  lady answered. I was given an afternoon appointment in mid August at the BCR branch in the Mall Internacional not far from the San Jose airport. I was told to bring my cedula and my passport.  That’s it!  Now you will all have to just wait to find out if the above promises bear any semblance to reality.

Oh… and I saved the best for last!  If my Spanish did not fail me, this renewal will be for TWO YEARS!!

Here is a list of the 32 branches set up for renewing or replacing cedulas.

BCR Offices Offering Services

  • El Carmen
  • Oficinas Centrales
  • Vasconia
  • San Rafael de Escazú
  • Guadalupe
  • Desamparados
  • San Antonio de Coronado
  • Aranjuez
  • Paseo Colón
  • Cubujuquí
  • Cenada
  • Mall Internacional
  • San Ramón
  • Cartago
  • Turrialba
  • Uruca
  • Villa Ligia
  • Ciudad Neilly
  • San Vito
  • Puntarenas
  • Quepos
  • Cañas
  • Nicoya
  • Liberia
  • Santa Cruz
  • Limón
  • Guápiles
  • La Agonía
  • Heredia
  • Oreamuno
  • Ciudad Quesada
  • Grecia

28 Responses to “Costa Rica Residency Renewal – Revisited”

  1. Tamar on July 3, 2009 10:18 am

    Hi Tim,

    I’ve just recently renewed my cedula and although I didn’t use the BCR route and ran into some weird problems (Migracion said I left the country for more then a year, which was not true, and therefore lost my right to hold a cedula) the delivery of my cedula was swift and without any pain.

    In the new process you can tell them at which branch of correos de Costa Rica you would like to pick up your cedula. There is no need to hold a apdo. there. The people of EMS bring it to your selected branch and you can pick it up by flashing your ID. Your cedula is trackable through the website of correos so you know that you won’t go to the post office for nothing.

    For me this worked out pretty well and I received my new cedula 8 days after my application.

    Let’s hope your renewal will work out well too.

    – Tamar

  2. Bob Furlong on July 3, 2009 10:24 am

    Tim, First part of process was fine, appt 3 days after call, 20 minutes for picture a few questions and index fingerprints, wasn’t asked for money changing receipts, had availiable. Cedula to be sent to my post office, Sabanilla, Due here on 26th of June, Today 3 July still checking. I’ll let you know. Bob

  3. kow on July 19, 2009 4:04 pm

    The web site for renewing has a conversion to English in the top right corner.

  4. Tim on July 19, 2009 6:02 pm

    Nice! Either I missed it or they added it. Either way… thanks for the comment!

  5. John Goold on October 6, 2009 4:38 pm

    Well, maybe it worked for a while, but trust greed, bureaucracy and incompetence to break something that works. The only reason for having to renew a cédula (or birth certificate!) is as a tax. At $48 a time, it is not going to break the bank, but the inconvenience and waste of time is appalling. Why not simply have a one-time $500 charge? This “renewal” thing is just stupid (I cannot think of any other way to put it… well, I can, but it’s crude).

    I don’t think you want to know all of what I have gone through; however:

    The BCR web site now gives a 900 number (300 colones a minute) to call, rather than a toll-free 800 number. One has to “activate” 900 service in order to make 900 number calls. This means a visit to an ICE office.

    I did this. Now the message I get on the 900 number says the call cannot be completed because the line is blocked.

    By the way, one cannot make an appointment by going into a BCR branch (one of the ones that supposedly does the renewals), they require you to call immigration’s 900 number. The service person in the branch was nice (and I didn’t have to wait in line as one could have shot a cannon off in the branch without hitting anyone). She checked the 900 number and said it was correct.

    900 00 34639 if anyone is interested.

    I’m leaving the country in 3 weeks time, probably for more than 6 months. Of course, my cédula will expire while I’m in Canada. I wanted to try and renew it early, but they probably wouldn’t have let me anyway.

    I find it particularly frustrating as it took well over a year to get my permanent residency. Now my cédula is going to expire and who knows whether I’ll be able to renew it when I come back.

    Maybe I won’t come back.

  6. Scott Gordon on October 28, 2009 5:29 pm

    New info to keep in mind:

    I called 900 number for an appointment today, October 28.

    Soonest available appointment is February 9 – that’s over 3 months away. New price is $58 + 2.600 colones (another $5 or so, totalling $63)

  7. Tim on October 28, 2009 8:28 pm

    Yeah but I think that is for TWO years.

  8. Jeremy on November 2, 2009 1:24 pm

    Hey Tim, thanks for the info. I haven’t gone the BCR route, but I am due to renew in 2011, so it is good to know.

    I did however renew this last May via the pain in the rear immigration route. Same ol same ol, but they did give me the 2 year renewal for an extra $10. I think it ran me $58 total.

  9. Dana on June 10, 2011 12:55 pm

    Ok, as easy it sounded as everything in Costa Rica it is not. Now you need to be paying ” Seguro Voluntario” in order to be able to renew your residency card. It does not matter if you have private health insurance with INS you still have to pay this one even though you won’t be using Caja Hospitals, it runs about $27/month.

  10. Dana on June 10, 2011 12:56 pm

    And also for those having trouble calling that 900 number, just buy ICE prepaid phone card ( 199 ) and use that to call, no need to activate the 900 service o your phone.

  11. Tim on June 10, 2011 3:54 pm

    Nothing new.

    This was made part of the 2010 immigration law and is reasonable. $27.00 per month for full health care coverage including prescriptions? A good deal in anybody’s book.

  12. Dana on July 5, 2011 10:22 am

    Yes, you are right, but since after hearing about other people experience with Caja Hospitals I would never go to one, it is just extra $27/month that we have to pay for no reason. We have International health insurance trough INS and our payment is $120/month for 2 adults and 2 children and covers us in all private hospitals in Costa Rica. But still it is better then have to pay for 3 airplane tickets and have to leave every 3 months.

    After we got our “Seguro Voluntario” I called the 900 number and got appointment for next day ( Santa Cruz, Guanacaste ).

  13. Dana on July 5, 2011 5:43 pm

    Just to update cost of residency. I just got back from BCR and the cost is $130/person for card that is valid for 3 years plus the cost of the “seguro voluntario ” which is $27/month.
    The process was fast once we got our Seguro Voluntario I called the 900 number ( 900 0034639 ) and got appointment at BCR branch for the next day, it took 10 minutes in bank to take a photo, new fingerprints and pay, the new 3 year card should be available for pick up at our local post office in a month.

  14. TrueINK on July 24, 2011 8:29 am

    I’ve had my residence for about 6 months now but have not started the seguro voluntario yet mainly because they gave me a form to fill out asking me for infomation regarding income, how much I pay for rent, how much is my electric bill, etc. etc. and my concern is that the cost will be based on income? Is the cost a fixed $27/month or is it based on income? Do we need to fill out this type of information to get the CCSS coverage….I’m lost on how to proceed, any advise would be appreciated

    Thank you

  15. James on August 3, 2011 4:22 pm

    I can’t seem to get anyone to answer the 900 number. It is wednesday 3:40pm. I waited on hold for 15 minutes then it went to a busy signal. at 300 colones a minute, am i getting charged for waiting on hold and never getting help. this is really pissing me off. I have tried calling several other times and never get an answer.

  16. James on August 4, 2011 10:43 am

    called again today at 10:30 am, first call on hold for 30 seconds then goes busy. Called back 4 more times not able to get connected. What is up with this renewal crap. I can’t even get my renewal which has been past due because i cannot make an appointment.

  17. Tim on August 4, 2011 3:19 pm

    Same thing happened to me… but not as much time. That 60 cents per minutes adds up… figured i spent >$20 for the call.

  18. Cara Huckabay on September 24, 2011 6:43 pm

    What does one need to take to show that you are paid to date with the seguro voluntario? Also, can you renew at BCR if the residency card has expired?

  19. Casey on December 4, 2011 3:33 pm

    Cara, you need just the most recent receipt showing you made your monthly Caja payment.

    To others, the Caja payment is on a sliding scale based on income and expenses. We pay $70/month, two adults, one teenager. It sounds cheap but you will spend a lot of time waiting for services and even longer in line to get a prescription, which will only be for a max of 30 days. More complicated services, such as surgery you may wait for months or years.

    – Casey

  20. daniel on May 17, 2012 4:08 pm

    I went to the BCR website but was unable to find any information in spanish or english referencing the residency card renewal.

  21. Tim on June 11, 2012 7:26 am


    Is the link

  22. Evan on August 21, 2012 5:13 pm

    I will be getting my residency renewed via BCR tomorrow. I will post about my success or failure and hopefully provide some lessons-learned. FYI…. I called the BCR 800 number and they gave me an appointment right away. I need to bring my current residency card, $100 + 3,000 colones for transport. Talk to you soon.

  23. Richard Huntt on October 20, 2012 1:12 pm

    I married my wife in 1984,( of Costa Rica )in the U.S. In 2000 we can to Costa Rica, I became a resident under the “Vinculo” Program. In 2010 I went back to the U.S. The CAJA told me I have to pay six months,for the time I was gone to renew my residency. In 2011 I went back to the U.S. and came back July 2012. I have been told by the CAJA that I am a Forener and the six months back payment is for CRs only I must pay 14 months back to renew under Articulo 78 of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. The price to live in Costa Rica is far more then the U.S. for food,houseing and everything but sex!

  24. Karen Kennedy on July 23, 2013 12:08 pm

    I just went to renew my residency at BCR and cost me $68 dollars and had to get seguro voluntario which cost me 180 dollars a month, Have I been ripped off!!!

  25. Tim on July 23, 2013 1:03 pm

    You were probably not ripped off. Your just needed to obtain normal CAJA via ARCR.NET

    I am not sure why you did the seguro voluntario but contact ARCR and you can probably save money.

  26. Michael Edwards on September 12, 2013 6:51 pm

    Pensionado renewal. BCR will not issue you a renewal, unless you have an account with them. They said if I had my pension funneled through their bank, I wont have a problem. Heading to Migracion Liberia, hope it all works out, if not, time to kiss Pura Vida Adios

  27. Tim on October 4, 2013 9:08 am

    That is not possible and would be illegal. Check with another person at BCR

  28. John on February 4, 2016 8:51 am

    I have made about three payments to the caja in 2 yrs of having my residence card for birth of a son on CR. It is set to expiring next month..Do I need to pay up current for the last two yrs to get a renewal ?