Residency In Costa Rica – 2 Years in the Making

If you have been following this blog for the past couple of years, then you know we started the process for our residency in Costa Rica, a couple of days after Isabel was born.

There are a few different forms of residency that foreigners can apply for in Costa Rica, and they all require different things. There is a Pensianado (Retiree) residency program, a Rentista (Legal Residency) program for individuals that are not yet retired, but do not need to work in Costa Rica. Then there is the Inversionista for the Business/Investor and finally the Vinculo program for those with Costa Rica family members. Since we had a baby in the country we went ahead and applied for vinculo residency, which is the type of residency that you can get if you were to marry a Costa Rican, or have a baby in Costa Rica. The terms are a little different, but basically it is filed under the same title.

Before moving to Costa Rica we went through all of the steps that we needed to take to make sure that we had all of the correct paper work to begin the process of starting our residency. This included getting getting certified copies of our birth certificates, marriage license, high school transcripts (we needed this to get our daughter a US passport once she was born), and police records. All of these documents needed to be appostilled by the correct state departments to show the Costa Rican authorities that they were indeed authentic documents.

January of 2012

This was a little work considering my wife had to get her birth certificate from Oklahoma, and then appostilled in Oklahoma, I had to get mine from California, then appostilled in California, the same with our son. Then our marriage certificate had to come from Nevada, our police records from San Diego etc etc etc. Once we got the proper documents and then appostilled in the correct states, we had to get them all officially translated with certification stamps in Costa Rica before we turned them in. We did this in Costa Rica, by finding a great translator on Craig’s List. We also needed complete copies of every page of passport, with a stamp certification that they were legit.

A friend of ours told us from the get go that we didn’t need a lawyer to get residency. He also helped us along the way, by filling us in on all the steps that would need to be required to began the process of vinculo residency. Just to error on the safe side we met with a lawyer to see if they could help, but they just wanted a lot of money for the steps that we had already taken. When I asked them straight up, “What do we need you for,” she answered, “nothing, at this point I would just drop off everything at the immigration office to start the process for you.” Which is something that we could do, and save around $5,500 if we did.

May of 2012

At the time the only thing that we were missing was the birth certificate from our Costa Rican baby, and to register with the official Police Department in Costa Rica. As soon as we had these two items we started the process. This was back in May of 2012. We waited in the long line at immigration for a moment until someone let us know that because we had a baby with us they put we could use a special line which was much faster than than the actual line. You have got to love how Ticos treat pregnant and new mothers, always rushing them to the front of the lines. We turned everything in, checked off all of our boxes then got copies of Tramisete. This is a form that states that we started the process of residency so that we would not have to leave the country every 90 days to renew our tourist visas.

We waited, then waited, then waited longer for our acceptance, after about a year I started to get a little curious of why it was taking so long.

July of 2013

Around July of 2013 I was having lunch with a friend who had just got his acceptance for residency, he had applied for vinculo residency as well, having married a tica a few months earlier. I asked him when he applied and he told me around 6 months earlier. That is when some flags started to go off in my head. I asked him if he had an attorney and he said that he had a family friend who worked for an immigration attorney who was helping him along. Long story short, I got in touch with his family friend Lorena to see if I could get some sort of update on what was happening with our residency process.

Getting in touch with Lorena was the best thing that I could of done at the time since the resolution for our residency turns out was in limbo. Lorena informed us that immigration tried to contact us in December of 2012 for more information. We had turned in everything that we needed except, certified translated copies of every single page of our passports. We turned in certified copies of our passports, but we didn’t turn in translations because our U.S. passports already had both Spanish and English on each page. This was not enough and the immigration department wanted each page translated in Spanish alone. The immigration office said that they tried to contact us by sending us a letter to the P.O. box address that we left for them, but we never got the notice. (We used a friends P.O. Box address in Atenas at the time because we didn’t know where were going to hang our hats permanently. Our friend checks the P.O. Box a couple of times a week and never got the notice.)

Now we had a couple of other issues to deal with because we had left the country in Dec. 2012 to visit family and introduce them to our newest member, Isabel who was born in May of 2012. Because we left the country, the immigration office was requesting that we get new police reports from the U.S. and then another one from Costa Rica. With a little fancy foot work and help from Lorena, we were able to fill out a form that basically declared under oath that we never received the notice for the Spanish translations of our passport. Therefore we never new that we couldn’t leave the country. We turned in three of these declarations, one for my wife, one for my son and one for myself. We also turned in a document giving Lorena power of attorney to check on our status, plus new certified copies of each page our passports, along with certified translations of each page. We had Lorena turn everything in for us, for a small fee, and then we sat back and waited.

February of 2014

This time we had a little more confidence knowing that we had Lorena checking on everything for us. She has to go to the immigration office a couple of times a week to do work for the attorney that she works for so it was not that difficult for her to check on our status at the same time. In February of 2014 we got a call saying that our son’s residency had been accepted, but they were still waiting on ours. We held off on setting an appointment to finalize the process hoping that ours would come through and we could set an appointment together.

June of 2014

After a couple of months of waiting for our resolution we were forced to set an appointment for Eli’s interview because we were getting close to running out of time. Last week we went into our appointment to finalize Eli’s residency. He is now an official resident of Costa Rica.

The very next day, after finalizing Eli’s residency, I got an email from Lorena informing me that both my wife and my resolutions came through. We have an appointment next month to finalize our residency and it it only took a couple of years.

Do you need a lawyer for Residency in Costa Rica?

Now one might be inquired to ask, “Would I use a lawyer if I were to do it all again?” My answer would be, “absolutely not.” But it might be nice to have something lined up just in case you get lost in the system. For us it was a friend with a friend. I have many other friends that have paid between 3-6k to a lawyer and they still did not get their residency finalized. This is process that can be done without a lawyer because most of the work you have to do anyway, acquiring the proper documents and appostilled certification in the states.

Be Careful

There is a time frame on everything. Your appostilled documents are only good for 90 days or something. You have to have them submitted to Immigration in that time frame or start all over again.

Make sure that you follow every step required, for every document. We missed one simple step, that was a mistake on our part. I would recommend checking your work, crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s as one would say. Maybe don’t be as laxed as we were thinking everything is alright, but check on your status every couple of months so you are not left in the dark.

Next month we will all be residents, we will be allowed to work legally and will get to pay into the Caja. I am not to excited about paying for an insurance that we will probably never use, but I understand the reasoning behind this. It is small price to pay to be able to be a legal resident in another country.

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