Expats seeking to legitimize their current immigration status may want to take the opportunity the Costa Rican Government is currently offering. 

For a limited time only, Migración (Costa Rica’s Immigration Department), will grant a special type of residency provided the individual is unable to qualify for any of the currently existing classifications of residency.  The program, motivated by humanitarian reasons, will impact about four thousand expats living in Costa Rica.  These people are commonly referred to as “perpetual tourists” and are required to exit our borders, on average, every ninety days.

But not everybody will benefit from this limited “amnesty program.”  It includes only those who are:

  • over sixty five years of age

  • minors or adults with disabilities

  • adults (25 years old or less) who entered the Country while they were minors and were not able to become legal immigrants under any of the existing conditions as stated by Costa Rican Immigration law. 

All applicants seeking amnesty will need to substantiate the fact that they have been living permanently in the Country for at least the last five years.

In addition, legal residents (permanent or temporary) who have not renewed their resident cards (Cedula) since the year 2003, will be able to do so, provided they comply with the renewal requirements and make good on all past due payments, including fines.

This is a tremendous break for those senior expats living under social security,  that for whatever reason, do not meet the necessary income levels to become “Pensionados”, or “Rentistas”.  Also for youngsters that are currently working here illegally or for the disabled expats (regardless of age) that have not applied for the same or any other reason.

This amnesty period will expire on November the 17th, 2012.


Example #1:  A gringo, age 68 (needs to be over 65) who receives $880 a month in Spocial Security benefits (less than what current law requires of $1000 income for pensionado).  He has lived in CR for 10 years, leaving every 90 days.  Never had a cedula. (Residency card)

  • Step 1 - Obtain the birth certificate and police statement in good standing, duly apostilled by the Secretary of State of the State of origin. 

  • Step 2 - Ask for an appointment at US Consulate in San Jose, in order to record yourself as an American citizen living in Costa Rica and applying for residency. ($50,00) 

  • Step 3 - Record your fingerprints before the Security Minister office.

  • Step 4 - Pay $250 Application fee, and submit all previous requirements, along with two passport size pictures, and a complete copy of your passport (includes copies of all blank pages). Affiliation form and query along with documents stated in steps 1 through 3.

Example #2:  Same situation as Example #1, except it is a disabled person, no matter what age.

  • Need to fulfill Steps 1 through 4 of previous case and also

  • Provide a medical statement that shows he has a type of disability.

Example #3: Young child expat that has lived in Costa Rica for over 5 years, and is currently 25 years of age or less.

  • Need to fulfill Steps 1 through 4 of case number 1, and

  • Submit proof of original entrance to the Country.

Example #4: It is a Gringo, has an expired cedula since 2005 and has not left the country since receiving cedula in 2003, or later.

  • Need to submit payment of outstanding Immigration fees and fines, and submit query asking to renew his residency card.

Adrian Fernandez-Madrigal is a partner in Consultoría Jurídica Empresarial CA/ ABOGADOS. You can reach him at phones (506) 2280-9692 / 2225-9322 Or email him.