The Residency Process in Costa Rica 2022

Share this article

By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica

What follows is a much-needed update on situations that stressfully impacted ex-pat migrants at the various stages of the residency process. We are emerging from two mutually exclusive events. The end of covid (sort of) and the installation of a new government handed a solid mandate to fix constipated bureaucracies here in Costa Rica.

Given that yesterday was July 1, I would like to extend a warm Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians and a Happy July 4 Independence Day to my American family, clients, and friends. After two years of covid, this weekend seems especially joyful. (I am writing this while in NYC with family.)

The issues:

Hacienda Hack:
A few weeks back, Costa Rica was rocked by the shock of Hacienda being hacked. (Our version of the IRS) creating a national emergency. It took a massive effort to restore service and proper security measures aided by expertise from Canada and the U.S. This was recently completed, and the system is back up and running.

CAJA Hack: (Costa Rica Universal Health Care System)
Emboldened by the Hacienda hack and the weak systems that the previous Costa Rica administration(s) refused to tighten up, CAJA was also hacked on May 31. Residency applicants who tried to fulfill the post-approval requirement to enroll were left waiting in frustration, as were all those trying to pay their monthly premiums to remain compliant as a requirement to receive other government services. (Everything is inter-connected.) Eventually, by June 13, CAJA service was restored. Those still waiting to complete enrollments should now return to their nearest CAJA offices to complete those required enrollments.

Inversionista Category Qualifier (200K down to 150K)

Covid did a lot of damage to Costa Rica’s economy. As a post covid initiative to bolster Costa Rica’s competitiveness in the foreign investment and retirement market, new, liberalized rules were introduced and approved by the previous president. Those were to have been put into place last September. However, the proverbial can was kicked down the road for this new administration to handle. The reason is that instituting this new initiative involved three government entities. Hacienda, Immigration, and Customs. A tenuous proposition at best. And in these times of government change, posturing and turf protection, even more so.

One of the highly anticipated changes was easing the financial qualifier for the residency category referred to as Inversionista. (Investor). The previous requirement was that the principal residency applicant provides proof of unencumbered investment in Costa Rican registered assets of no less than USD 200,000. The new requirement was reduced to a much more accessible USD 150,000.

As of June 6, that has been ratified and can now be counted on as in place, even though there are some final details to be ironed out.

There is also a new proposal in the works for the Rentista category. The delays are caused by the inevitable tensions between the more marketing (real world) savvy members of Congress and entrepreneurial lawyer groups vs. the rule-bound, reality-challenged DGME (Immigration) administration lawyers. Suffice to say; the negotiations are heated. According to a member of the group of lawyers pushing in favor of easing requirements, expectations are positive.

Just know that the USD 150,000 requirement is now in place, making choosing the Inversionista option more accessible and preferred over Rentista for many more prospective applicants.

Dealing. with the DGME (Immigration)

Having survived my own severe bout a year ago, I will again affirm that covid was an undeniably dangerous virus. Protections had to be put in place. But some of those responses were overkill for self-serving reasons that had nothing to do with health and physical well-being. Unique to the DGME (Immigration), an onerous appointment system was instituted. Such appointment initiatives are always susceptible to abuse. This time was no exception. Those distant appointments and travel restrictions, mainly from Canada, made for some extremely challenging logistics for residency applicants. This situation also led to questionable new rules and regulations that resulted in unjust rejections of residency applications centered mostly around dates – as opposed to document contents.

Also, as a means to continue submitting applications during the time the DGME was closed to IN PERSON submissions, a digital submissions program was hastily designed and called Tramite Ya! That silly name was a harbinger of its poor design and often poor administration.

When the new president was inaugurated in early May, his first mandate was to nix the mask mandates, still in effect way past what was needed. Further, he swore (and continues to do so) that he and his hand-picked new ministers will initiate immediate improvements to government-delivered services that had deteriorated during the time of covid (from their already poor levels before covid.)

That meant immediate changes at the DGME (Immigration) offices.

Overnight, the ordinarily hostile and autocratic front-line intake staff and guards at the DGME began to greet us with smiles and very pleasant deportment. It was as if they had gone through a crash course at Dale Carnegie or Miss Dorothy’s charm school. Then, I began receiving “How did we do?” survey requests (as promised by President Chaves). All solid indicators of serious attempts to change things for the better. Hopefully, all critical surveys will survive uncensored through the feedback loops up to those now in charge with the power to effect positive change.

In summary to this very condensed update, there are improvements and fixes in the works following the trouble in the Costa Rica paradise. Many of these issues are like those manifested in other countries, the worst being Canada and Australia.

“There is a new sheriff in town.”

See my article titled “Move to Costa Rica We all Love Tax Cuts”  thanks to the new President.

So, I encourage all those currently going through or contemplating the residency process or even coming to Costa Rica for the first time to be optimistic. Give these initiatives time.

As with all new government initiatives brought forward against the status quo of the Old Boys Club and a robust public union, there is pushback and resistance. It takes time to overcome those opposing forces in this democratic country. But there are also very skilled private lawyers’ groups that deliver adequate power with logic and common sense, very much attuned to the needs of foreign investors and prospective retirees with their eyes on Costa Rica.

If you are in need of immigration assistance Laura can be reached by clicking here, Toll-free at 1-833-733-6337, Locally at or by sending an email to [email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Popular Content