Costa Rican Congress Overhauls Immigration Laws.

Costa Rica is a popular expat destination, particularly with Americans and Europeans who look to this country as a potential retirement destination. However, Costa Rican congress has recently altered residency laws in a move to limit the numbers of people who are gaining full residents status and to stem the potential for human trafficking. Potential residency applicants will need to be aware of the new rules in order to ensure that they meet requirements.

The new law, which will take effect in 2010, requires applicants for the full residents status to prove a higher monthly income than that previously required. This monthly income required for aspiring residents varies according to the type of residency they apply for:

Pensioners/Retirees (Pensionado): Applicants will be required to prove a monthly pension income of $1000 USD, which constitutes a rise of $600USD from the amount currently required. The retirement income can come from any government or private source but must be deposited into a Costa Rican bank account. In order to qualify for residency pensioners must also prove that they spend at least four months of the year in Costa Rica (not necessary continually).

Small Private Investors (Rentista): Previously those in the rentista category were required to prove an income of $1000USD. It is anticipated that in the year 2010, this will rise significantly to $2500. As with the pensionado category, applicants must spend at least four months of the year in Costa Rica and must deposit the monthly income into a Costa Rican bank account. However, it is possible to live in Costa Rica as a rentista for two years and then withdraw all the monies from the Costa Rican bank account once your status has been approved.

Large Investors (Inversionista): At present investors who make an investment of $50,000 or more in a sector that has a government awarded priority status they can be awarded temporary residency. Details of priority business sectors can be found here. Investments in non-priority areas need to be in excess of $100,000 and will vary according to nature of the investment and the sector within which it is made. Inversionistas are required to demonstrate presence in Costa Rica for at least six months of each year.

In addition to the new laws governing the amount of monthly income required by potential residents there is also changes to the residency-through-marriage rules and an introduction of a fine system, which will charge those who remain in the country without a suitable visa up to $100USD per day.