In November, there were changes to the immigration process in Costa Rica; the immigration department of Costa Rica (known as DGME – Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, or often just as Immigration) put into place some updates to the residency application process. These changes are intended to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary paperwork.

Why Did Immigration Make These Changes?

According to their resolution (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here (in Spanish), starting on page 138), the system has been strained by a significant increase in residency applications. Prospective residents have not received responses to their applications promptly. Immigration has been subjected to constant court rulings for unconstitutional requirements and never-ending appeals, putting even more strain on its resources.

As a result of this situation, Immigration has been looking for ways to streamline the application process. As a result, they’ve decided to review the requirements, remove those that don’t have a significant legal impact on the residency application, and tweak others to make the process more flexible for the applicant.

The changes include:

  • Proof of legal presence in the country. Immigration will no longer ask for proof of legal presence in the country but rather check their own records for such information.
  • Criminal background checks. In countries with multiple legal jurisdiction levels (such as the USA, Canada, or Mexico), applicants must provide the criminal federal background check document duly apostilled or legalized, depending on the country. Suppose the federal record shows arrests or pending legal processes. In that case, the applicant should also provide a certification from the local jurisdiction to show the end result of that process.
  • Birth certificates. These documents no longer need to be under 6 months old as long as they are in good condition, display the required information, and are apostilled or legalized, depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Passport. Copies of every passport page are no longer required — only the photo page with the personal details, the page with the entry visa (if necessary), and the page with the entry stamp.
  • The residency categories requiring proof of economic solvency have been reduced to only one (1) documentary item, depending on the residency category.

The following items are NOT needed anymore to apply:

  • Proof of fingerprint registration with Costa Rica police. This requirement has been moved to after the application has been approved.
  • Consular registration
  • Application form
  • Guarantee letter from employer to Immigration. A job offer or contract will suffice instead.
  • Certified copy of the company’s constitution in categories that have required it.
  • Any requirements that can be verified online. This includes items such as acts registered in the Civil Registry (such as births and marriages), current status with the Caja (CCSS) for those directly insured, and copies of any identification of Costa Rican citizens or residents, which Immigration can acquire on its own.

While this is a good sign that Immigration is acknowledging some of the onerous requirements that can make residency applications difficult, these changes by no means make it an easy process.


-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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