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Costa Rica Modifies Rentista Residency

May 20th, 2012

Last Thursday, 17 May 2012, various new immigration rules (reglamentos) were published in La Gaceta, the magazine used to publish various legal notices and also where all new laws must be published before they actually become  enforceable, active laws. These reglamentos (rules) clarify the actual underlying law and also state publicly how a law, (in this case immigration law) will be enforced. Should you wish to read this reglamento, click here.

I waited until I gad a chance to read the new rules myself as often what is published very quickly in CR  papers may not be 100% accurate. If you wish to know more about the new Rentista form of residency, read on!

Sadly, the new rules did not address the long term question about perpetual tourism (the incorrect belief that one may legally live in Costa Rica, exiting every 90 days to “renew” their right to live here) as many had hoped.  You can NOT do this (perpetual tourism) legally, regardless of what you may have read elsewhere.  There simply is no such law permitting perpetual tourism. What they DID do is redefine the word “tourist”, and with that, I can see tough times ahead for those scofflaws who think they can live here without residency. More on this later.

Costa Rica has, perhaps, the most liberal residence laws of any country in the world. Their philosophy is simply.  You are welcome to live here forever, but please prove that you have the finances to do so.  In English, this means no mooching! I often think that is just ONE president of the US had simply had the leadership to provide some legal and reasonable routes to legal residency and citizenship, the US would not have the horrible immigration issues that they have today.

But I digress…

Costa Rica  has numerous forms of legal residency, but the two that interest most people from North America, Europe and other foreign countries are pensionista and rentista.  Pensionista is simply.  Show you have a guaranteed and permanent source of funds equal to or exceeding $1,000 US per month.  This can come from US Social Security, state or government pensions, the military, an annuity etc. Got that and you get residency.  Easy and clean. You also cannot be a felon, fleeing or otherwise… a not unreasonable rule.

The other major form of residency is Rentista. Until last Thursday, Rentista required that one deposit $150,000 into a Costa Rica bank and withdraw $2,500 per month and convert that money into Costa Rica Colones.  This permitted you to live in Costa Rica legally for a period of five years. Note:  You did not have to spend that money, you just had to do the conversion. Still,  it proved to the government that you came here with adequate funds to live here for those five years.  Rentista residency included the person filing for rentista status, any spouse, minor age children and even adult children if disabled.  I always thought this odd, as you sort of got a much better deal if you were married with kids.  More bang for the bucks.  Everyone paid the same whether single or if you had ten kids.  Odd. Anyway, at the end of five years, you had to pay another $150.000 to get a five year extension.  As the law allows one to upgrade to Permanent residency after 3 years, most folks simply upgraded residency to avoid this.

So what’s new?

Putting together $150,000 was, for many people, a tough thing to do.  Yeah, it was their money, it would remain their money and would be used to pay their living expenses to be here… still, 150 large is not often easy to come by.

The new rules still require the $2,500 per month but one may now apply for a TWO year rentista residency, paying only $60,000 into a local bank account.  They must still do the monthly withdrawal/transfer of $2,500 per month. After two years, they can pay another $60,000, then near the end of the second two years, they can upgrade to permanent residency which requires no proof of income nor any deposit.  This should make it a bit easier  for families who might want to move here to simply try out Costa Rica before making a permanent move.

What is a Tourist?

The new rules define tourist very narrowly.  A tourist is a: “Foreign person who is authorized to enter the country solely for rest or recreation and which (who) has sufficient means of subsistence for the period of authorized stay.”

This interpretation will allow broad enforcement of those who feel they may come and go at will. As incorrectly reported elsewhere, this should not have any affect on those living here legally but telecommuting or working for companies in foreign countries. This is perfect legal so long as you DO have some form of legal residency.  If you do not, then it not legal and has always been illegal and subjects the person to deportation or refused re-entry. For more info on working here in Costa Rica, read this.

For more info on Costa Rica residency, read this.




27 Responses to “Costa Rica Modifies Rentista Residency”

  1. Lynn on June 10, 2012 6:09 pm

    My husband and I are planning to retire to CR this year from the US. We want to connect with organizations that could help us. What do you know about the reputation of ARCR, a Canadian company? If it is good we are thinking of joining.

  2. Tim on June 11, 2012 7:13 am

    They are excellent. I used them for my residency many years ago and I refer people to them regularly.

    As a disclaimer, I am the forum master for their open forum, http://forums.arcr.net

  3. Erika on June 20, 2012 3:15 pm

    Thanks for this information. I have a question about proof of income for rentista status. Can the income come from paychecks (e.g., telecommuting) or does it need to come from investments?

  4. Tim on June 26, 2012 6:13 pm

    Please read the web site on residency. Tim

  5. Dennis on July 28, 2012 5:23 pm

    We have been doing a lot of research on the possibility of moving to CR. While it all seems very attractive, we have not seen much for persons with disabilities. Both my wife and I require assistance moving around. We currently have an electric chair and electric scooter. How are the facilities in CR as going out to eat, lodging, shopping, etc. This is critical to us.

  6. Tim on August 2, 2012 9:02 am

    This topic is discussed on the web site.

  7. luiza on October 16, 2012 2:32 pm

    i m 62 year old portug. living in texas. I can NOT enfazise enough how your web pag had/is helping us (my husband is from montana) to get ready to move to that heavenly contry. we spend some tours of 3 months here and there from liberia to carabeen coast, i leaved all over the world , being last residency in chine.
    and “your” contry of adoption is the one i/we picked to sepend the rest of our lifes.

    please do not spot reaching out with the truth.i know that most of the expact community do not agree with you, but we can not blame them, they just ….dont konw better.

    once again thank you so very much for all de help


    ps. escuse the bad spelling…. i know it shouldn t, but……

  8. Tim on October 18, 2012 2:51 pm

    Actually, with a couple of exceptions (those who think perpetual tourism is legal… it is NOT) I know of few expats who disagree with me on most things. Enjoy

  9. Moni on November 14, 2012 2:58 pm

    I’m rentista for 8 years now and just made the paper to get a permanent residencia. Until now (4 month) I did not hear anything from the Migration. Will go tomorrow to check again 🙂

  10. peter trombetta on February 6, 2013 7:59 pm

    Does anyone know about using a Barnes and Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle or Google Nexus here in Costa Rica. Is it worth the investment to have one of these here?

  11. peter trombetta on February 12, 2013 7:15 am

    I am told that you can no longer have parakeets in Costa Rica as of Jan.2013 or face a 600,000 colones(about 1200.00 dollars) fine. Is there any truth to this?

  12. Nelson Butler on February 20, 2013 3:57 pm

    My wife and I would like to plan a semi-retirement and eventual permanent retirement to Costa Rica. We are interested in the pensionista option, but I was hoping you could provide some more clarity on what you mean by “guaranteed” source of income. I telecommute already for my place of employment and have been doing so now for about two years. I intend on continuing to work until about 2022 before fully retiring. Our incomes exceed the required 1K a month by a factor of 6 and some change. Would my employment as a telecommuter count as “guaranteed” income until we are positioned to petition for rentinista status?


  13. Tim on March 8, 2013 7:07 pm


    See web site under residency.

  14. Barry Bennett on April 7, 2013 10:28 pm

    I’ve always wanted to retire somewhere close to the ocean. Even if I had to ride my bike a few miles to get to the beach, as long as I could smell the ocean I would be fine. Costa Rica seemed to be a place I could make that happen. Since I prefer less population and would prefer living out of town I thought CR would be a great place. I was almost tempted to contact you to see if $2000.00 a month would be sufficient. I make over $3000.00 a month. But, the BIG problem, there is no way for me to come up with $60,000.00 to start and then 2 years later come up with another $60,000.00, not happening. How do people who don’t make half that much in a year stay qualified to live there? A nice dream but one to forget for me. Thank you for being a no-non-cense type of person to let people know the real story.

  15. Barry Bennett on April 7, 2013 10:47 pm

    $60,000 to be put in a bank. Two years later another $60,000.00 to be a resident. I only bring home a little over $3000.00 a month, about 35,000 a year. Out of that I have to come up with $60,000 every couple years just to be able to call CR home. I guess I won’t be contacting you. Thanks for being straight forward. The people who can afford that kind of money needs a straight shooter like you so they can make educated decisions. I guess the people and different articals I’ve read about being able to live there comfortably for about $1500 is bunk.
    Dead Dream

  16. Tim on April 9, 2013 6:40 am

    It is not bunk at all. All Costa Rica asks is for proof that you have sufficient assets to live here without mooching off the system. Very reasonable.

  17. Barry Bennett on April 13, 2013 1:34 pm

    Sorry Tim, a misunderstanding on my part. Two different ways of proof, which on one I more than qualify. For me though, I would need to be close to the ocean. I don, t know if 2000 a month would be enough. I make a little over 3000 a month but some has to be set aside for other things. Again I’m sorry about the mix up. Everything I’ve read about CR has been grand. It still is on my list of places to live.

  18. Willy Haagsma on September 12, 2013 6:21 pm

    Why don´t you say anything about the outrageous fees the Caja asks for their mandatory membership?
    I will have to pay nearly $ 600,– a month for a very bad service, which I never will use: long waiting times for an appointment with a doctor, 3 or 4 months waiting time for having an X-ray done, and 2 to 3 years waiting time for an operation.
    And even if you´ve got a private insurance you are obliged to join the Caja. This is a crazy law, and it is the reason why I will leave Costa Rica as soon as possible.

  19. Jane on October 2, 2013 5:54 am

    How can that be? $600 per month? My husband and I don’t pay anywhere remotely close to that amount and we are still even too young to qualify as pensionados. We pay a fraction of what we paid in the states and there we had a gigantic deductible. Also, we do use the caja services and have been very impressed with the quality of care and we almost always get right in. Maybe it makes a difference what town or city you live in? We actually dropped our private insurance and will save some of that money in case we want or need to use a private doctor or hospital at some point.

  20. Lelia on October 4, 2013 10:04 pm

    I’m confused about Barry Bennet’s post regarding $120,000 to become a resident. Everything I’ve read only had a monthly income requirement. Is there really a requirement to bank $60,000, then 2 years later bank another $60,000?

    Also, could someone expand on Jane’s comment about CAJA fees? Jane, how much do you pay for how many people? Are the fees fixed, or variable for some reason?

  21. Lelia on October 4, 2013 10:11 pm

    I apologize for my rentista question. This is my first time here, and somehow I managed to read the reader’s posts before reading the blog. I now understand about the $60k + $60k. Next time, I’ll be sure I’m at the top of the page!

    So now I only need to know about CAJA cost. Thanks!

  22. collin on July 1, 2015 7:01 pm

    This is where I’m confused. Do I need to deposit 30,000 once every year into a Costa Rican bank in one lump sum or can I do deposit 2500 a month? I’m assuming it is the lump sum. I can swing the 2500 a month part but not the 30k part. which is a big bummer. Could someone please verify? Thanks

  23. Tim on July 2, 2015 10:12 am

    The rentista deposit is $60,000, not $30,000. Read the page on residency. It’s pretty clear.

  24. Anna on August 18, 2015 5:31 pm

    I am looking into moving to CR in the next year or so and have a question regarding income qualification. I will have adopted two children by that time and will have a guaranteed $1200 per month government subsidy for the next 16+ years. I also have income from a telecommuting job. Can either of these income sources be used as verification to qualify for pensionista status?

  25. Anna on August 18, 2015 5:40 pm

    I am also looking for clarification of CAJA cost, various websites list a wide range of monthly fees to gain membership. What is the current fee schedule during the various phases of residency?

  26. Tim on August 18, 2015 7:22 pm


  27. Tim on August 19, 2015 7:47 am

    Not sure what you mean by phases of residency… but your question is far too complex for this Blog and requires much more interchange of info which I do not do. FYI I DO cover this in detail on my tour where privacy is assured, and it is a very critical issue for many.