Moving to Costa Rica Guide

Summary: Moving to Costa Rica has become more popular among expats. Making this choice requires a lot of research to ensure the expat experience you hope for will be realized. Expats that live there stress that it should start with a trip there before any major decisions are made.

Expats moving to Costa Rica have a wide variety of options to consider when choosing a town or city, and they all have their pros and cons. However, there’s much more to moving to Costa Rica! Expats will find that there is a lot to learn about how to successfully move to the Central American country, knowledge that will prevent unnecessary and costly mistakes.

Costa Rica Visas

Moving to Costa Rica will involve a great deal of paperwork. Here are Costa Rica’s Visa applications in English (scroll to bottom of page where it reads “Visa Instructions in English”).

Expats in Costa Rica point out that it’s important to start the visa process in the United States, and to bring all of your critical documents with you. Obtaining new ones from Costa Rica is expensive and time consuming.

It is important to carefully research what you would need if you plan to do business in Costa Rica.

An Tico [Costa Rican citizen], unless the children are already registered in [Costa Rica]. There are government fees for this, but under this status no additional financial information is required. Your application could still take up to a year or more and during this time you will not be covered under the CAJA health system.”

Regarding permanent residency, one expat advised that when expats apply for permanent residency in Costa Rica, one expat advises not to be afraid of the interview by Costa Rican immigrant officials.

Another expat wrote that “A few years ago, permanent residency was automatically given to the immigrant spouse but due to many getting ‘married only for convenience’ this was cancelled. And they now have to wait 3 years and then apply like ‘regular’ temporary status applicants.”

More Information about Costa Rica Visas

Planning a Move to Costa Rica

An expat who moved to San Jose advised expats to go to Costa Rica first, “travel around the country and find a place/local people that suit your tastes. Everyone in the country is generally friendly.”

The U.S. embassy offers a list of lawyers in Costa Rica that may be helpful, though they do not officially endorse any one.

He made a comment on someone who had made comments about moving to Costa Rica:

“I don’t know why the other guy seemed to have problems making friends with Costa Ricans. Perhaps he is the type of foreigner who has difficulty adjusting to different cultures/places and ways of life. Costa Ricans are not ‘in your face’ friendly or over the top outgoing by any means. They are, however, genuinely friendly if you’re respectful and considerate of their space, culture, customs, etc.”

As for financial considerations, the expat wrote that Costa Rica is “cheaper, undoubtedly. Unless you want to live in the most expensive/foreign-overrun areas of the country or unless you insist on staying in the same level of housing that you stay in back in the states. Costa Rica is not the USA. It’s Costa Rica. Learn to live more simply, you probably won’t miss it in the long run!”

Another expat advised that: “Costa Rica is an expensive country. You will in any case be fleeced as a foreigner, but if you haggle (use as much as 2-3 weeks if necessary) you might reach an almost fair level. There are far too many houses for rent, so be patient.”

This is a personal decision for every expat. The areas near the coast and other expats will tend to be more expensive, and may not have as “authentic” an expat experience as areas away from the coast near fewer expats. It’s an important part of the planning process and should not be ignored. Careful research and consideration is critical. Remember the obvious – an expat experience that is affordable for one expat might not be so for others!

Moving to Costa Rica

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More Information about Moving to Costa Rica

Health Care in Costa Rica

Here is Expat Exchange’s Costa Rica Health Care Guide, which includes tips such as:

National health care may not provide a sufficient safety net – it may require a long wait for medical procedures. Private health care [coverage] is recommended, but coverage for “pre-existing conditions” is generally not available except through national health care.

The U.S. embassy also offers Travel Health tips.

Expats living in Costa Rica interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get quotes our partner, International Citizens Insurance, a trusted expat health insurance broker. They will provide you with comparison quotes from some of the biggest expat health insurers: Cigna, Aetna and GeoBlue.


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