Get a 'Pensionado' Visa to Retire in Costa Rica

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If you’re looking to obtain a pensionado visa in Costa Rica, the main criteria necessary for acquiring one is that you must have a pension or pension-like instrument income to lean on during your retirement. According to 2017 law, your pension income must amount to at least $1,000 per month and be exchanged from U.S. dollars into Costa Rican Colónes (CRC). You must also work through the Department of Immigration and provide a bevy of documents for review. Pensionado visas need to be renewed every three years.

Types of Visas for Retiring in Costa Rica

Several types of visas are available to prospective retirees in Costa Rica. The pensionado is the longest-running visa program and remains the most popular, even though many of its benefits have been reduced over time.

The pensionado visa focuses on those with fixed retirement income. If you do not have a fixed retirement income with at least $1,000 per month guaranteed, you cannot apply for a pensionado. You should apply to the rentista program instead. The income requirements for the rentista are set at $2,500 per month, provable over at least two years, or a $60,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank.

How to Look Like an Attractive Applicant

According to the Costa Rican Department of Immigration, applicants are favored to the extent that they “can demonstrate that they will provide a financial benefit and contribute to create employment for Costa Rican citizens either in the form of direct or indirect investment.”

An investment is direct when it comes as a financial security investment in a Costa Rican company or other entrepreneurial activity. Indirect investments are the retirement funds that are converted into colónes and spent in the Costa Rican economy. Costa Rica prefers those with disposable income for their visas, as do most countries that court expatriates.

What Documentation Is Required?

To acquire a pensionado – or any other retirement visa in Costa Rica – you need to provide an income certificate that proves your legitimate pension. Social Security income can be substituted for pension income if you have the documentation to prove it.

Costa Rica also requires a birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable) and a police certificate of good conduct. This can be acquired from your local police department; it states that you have been a law-abiding citizen and that you do not pose a threat to the residents of Costa Rica. The police certificate of good conduct must be provided for each applicant, spouse and any children ages 15 to 25.

The certificate of good conduct expires six months after it is issued, so be sure to have all your other documentation ready before requesting the certificate or it could expire and you will have to request a second one. Once in Costa Rica, all temporary residents have to be fingerprinted for an Interpol background check.

All financial and non-financial documents required by the Department of Immigration for a pensionado visa must be valid for at least six months past a potential visa issue date. The documents provided must be written in Spanish and the Costa Rican consulate must do any translations from other languages to Spanish.

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