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Costa Rica: Country and Foreign Investment

Entry and Residence

All travelers must have a valid passport to enter the country for either business or tourism. 90 day entry visas are granted at the airport. At departure there is an airport tax of USD26.

Residence has traditionally been obtained in one of 2 ways:

  • Under Law No 6982 of 1984 (known as "the Retirement Law") a foreigner may acquire residence in Costa Rica if he can show a sufficient income (USD600 per month) whether from investments or from a pension and irrespective of whether the income is sourced locally or abroad. Residence obtained under this law allows an individual to work in Costa Rica but does not allow him to work in areas which would have the effect of displacing indigenous workers. A resident under this law is expected to reside in Costa Rica for at least 4 months in each calendar year.
  • Residence permits obtained under Law 1155 of 1950 (known as "the Residence Law 1950") carry no restrictions on the sorts of economic activity that a resident permit holder can engage in. However permits under this law are granted on a very selective basis and only to businessmen and professionals.

In March, 2004, the immigration agency (Migracion) said that the migratory situation in Costa Rica was “out of control” and that they would in future be restricting residency approvals to the minimum. Migracion has begun to apply an economic criterion, stating in some cases that an applicant 'would not add any input to the economy of Costa Rica or create employment for Costa Ricans'.

In August, 2006, a new immigration law (the General Law of Immigration) was passed by Costa Rican lawmakers aiming to crack down on illegal immigration from neighbouring countries, particularly Nicaragua, by, among other measures, imposing tough penalties on businesses that employ, or individuals that harbour, illegal immigrants.

The law also set out new income and investment limits for rentistas, but was ambiguous. Previously, rentistas were obliged to show a minimum monthly income of US$1,000 per month, or a lump sum of US$60,000 in a foreign bank account. Under the updated law, it seemed that both the primary applicant and the spouse must pass the US$60,000 test, while an extra $30,000 would be required for each dependent. However, it seemed that two separate sections of the legislation contradict each other and confusion reigned.

The new Costa Rica Immigration Law (Ley General de Migración y Extranjería) was published in the official Costa Rica government newspaper La Gaceta on September 1, 2009. The law became effective as of March 1, 2010, but was not retroactive - i.e. pesionados and rentistas who applied for or been granted residency prior to this date fell under the old immigration regime.

The new law creates 5 residency types as follows:

Pensionado

  • Must have proof of USD1,000 per month in income from permanent pension or retirement fund;
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 25 years of age or older with disabilities;
  • Cannot work as an employee;
  • Can own a company and receive income;
  • Cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 2 consecutive years.

Rentista

  • Must have proof of USD2,500 per month in income guaranteed by a bank;
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under 25 years of age or older with disabilities;
  • Cannot work as an employee;
  • Can own a company and receive income;
  • Cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 2 consecutive years.

Inversionista

  • Must invest USD200,000 in any Costa Rica business or a specified amount of investment in certain Costa Rica government approved sectors. Since 2012, the specified amount may also include the cost of real estate to be used as a family home, or land for future development or preservation.
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under25 years of age or older with disabilities.
  • Can claim income from investment projects
  • Can own a company and receive income.
  • Cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 2 consecutive years.

Representante

  • Open to directors, executives, representatives, managers and technical employees of companies meeting certain requirements;
  • Income must exceed Costa Rica minimum wage for specified position by at least 25%;
  • Can own a company and receive income;
  • Cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 2 consecutive years.

Permanent

  • Must be related to a Costa Rica citizen through marriage or having a child, or may apply after 3 years in another residency;
  • Can claim spouse and dependents under25 years of age or older with disabilities;
  • Can work as an employee;
  • Can own a company and receive income;
  • Cannot be absent from Costa Rica more than 4 consecutive years;

It is important to note that under the new residency law, all residency types must participate in Costa Rica's national social security and healthcare insurance system, know as “Caja”. Proof of participation and payments for the entire term of residency are required for renewals.

In terms of work permits, since May, 2008, the General Directorate of Immigration authorized an expedited procedure for the regulation of companies and their personnel. There are sub-categories within the migrant category of Temporary Residents for executives, representatives, managers and technical personnel of corporations established in the country, as well as their spouses and children, professional scientists and specialized technicians. The categories are as follows:

  • Classification A: those that are operating or will begin operations under a special export promotion system and temporary admission for inward process.
  • Classification B: those that are operating or will initiate operations outside the special export promotion systems, but their commercial nature continues to be exporting goods and services from Costa Rica to worldwide markets.
  • Classification C: those that are operating or will initiate operations in the tourism sector of Costa Rica.
  • Classification D: those that are operating or will initiate operations in the financial area of Costa Rica, and are supervised or registered as entities of the banking sector and non-banking financial institutions.
  • Classification E: those no- exporting companies, whether local or foreign, that are operating or will initiate operations Costa Rica. (Pending the implementation of this category until requirements are established).
  • Classification F: those multinational companies that do not pertain to the previously described classifications, and are characterized by having a name or brand whose track record is recognized worldwide; where the home office has decided to establish a subsidiary in Costa Rica, whose operational line is developed in the areas of production and marketing of goods and services.
  • Classification G: companies under category G are those national or foreign companies operating in Costa Rica that give services to the government through the process of “contratación administrativa”.

The benefits of Circular DG-2663-2008 include:

  • “Fast-track” process to export companies: residencies and visas.
  • Decrease of the number of days to get a resolution from Immigration.
  • Existence of a unique window for export companies.
  • Submission of documents in Costa Rica not in Consulates.
  • General recommendation of the Ministry of Work for 2 years (normally one year).
  • Granting of resident status to both, the employee and his family.

 

 

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