COSTA RICA IMMIGRATION & MOVING EXPERTS
Frequently Asked Questions
1.) Q. The cost of living is our main concern.
Is it very expensive to live in Costa Rica?
Here's a breakdown of different segments of day-to-day life which reflect the cost of living in Costa Rica. . .
a. Automobiles: Either purchased here or brought with you, the rate of duty is approximately 55%. So, it is safe to say that automobiles & trucks will be more expensive than you are used to. The flip side to that equation is that the duty portion of the price/cost does not depreciate. Thus, when you eventually sell your vehicle, you will be pleasantly surprised at the price you can demand for it.
b. Food: Imported food, as you can well imagine, is quite expensive. But local food (and remember this country is really one giant food basket), is extremely fresh, extremely well-priced and readily available. At the local outdoor markets, ¢10,000 (approximately US$20.00) will purchase enough fruits and vegetables to feed a family of 5 for a week. Supermarkets carry a diverse selection of both local and imported foodstuffs. Almost any item is available nowadays in Costa Rica.
Walmart is even here now and they carry their "Equate" brand!
c. Clothing: Prices vary from high to moderately priced. The fact is that due to the almost-perfect weather we enjoy in Costa Rica, we are never shopping for the next season. The same flip flops, same shorts & same baseball hat can be used year around.
d. Housing: Across the board, every level of pricing, every level of amenities and every type of location is available. Because individual tastes vary so much, the general rule that we use is that if a couple has their home and auto paid for and have a monthly income of US$2,000, they live like Kings & Queens.
2.) Q. What type of weather can be expected?
A. There are 22 microclimates all stuffed into our little country. There can be sunshine in one area of the country day after day while 20 kilometers away, rain will fall almost every afternoon. There are basically 2 seasons here. . .Dry (brown) Season, where you can pretty well count on 4-5 months of no rain and. . .
Green (wet) Season, where you can pretty well count on investing in (and wearing out) a couple of umbrellas. Both seasons have their individual beauty. The ongoing discussion here is not so much politics or economy, but rather discussing the merits of each season and defending the choice of seasons one chooses.
In the Central Valley, high temperatures will typically be in the mid 20’s (celsius), lows in the high teens.
The beach areas would add on an average of 10 degrees to the
Central Valley’s averages. The humidity is more intense as well.
It is recognized that Costa Rica enjoys the world's most favorable weather. Quite a claim. . .but one in which this writer agrees!
3.) Q. What constitutes a family from the perspective of the
Costa Rican government's immigration policy?
A. The adult and spouse must be legally married or their application for residency will be considered as having been submitted individually. In other words, the government does not recognize common-law marriages nor same-sex marriages. Children of the married couple will have their application(s) submitted at the same time as the adults. A child is considered, by definition, as an individual under the age of 25 if still a student or physically dependent on parents. If your son or daughter is older, they will have to submit their own application and qualify as an individual.
4.) Q. Do I need an official legal status in Costa Rica in order
to purchase a home?
A. Without a legal status, you remain a tourist. As a tourist, you can live here, purchase a home, drive a car and enjoy pretty much everything that a Costa Rican or legalized expat does. You must leave the country before your tourist visa expires. Typically, you must leave every 90 days, but varies depending on your country of origin. You can spend as little time as a couple of hours outside of Costa Rica and your visa will be renewed typically for another 90 days. This is commonly referred to as, "taking a border run".
5.) Q. After submitting our paperwork to Immigration and while waiting for the official receipt of our cedula, can you work?
A. After 36 months, you can apply for a Permanent Status, which upon receipt will allow you to work here in Costa Rica.
6.) Q. When I first apply for residency, what type of status am I applying for?
A. Typically you would have applied for Pensionado, Rentista or Resident Investor Status. All three statuses are considered "temporary". After you have your status for 36 months, you would apply for, and expect to receive, Permanent Pensionado status, Permanent Rentista or Permanent Resident Investor status, which allows you to operate your own business and compete with other Costa Ricans in the local work force.
7.) Q. Is it wise to remain a tourist if you really intend, eventually, to obtain
a legal status?
A. We refer to the “Perpetual Tourist” as the brother-in-law staying in the 3rd bedroom of the family home. When the homeowner decides it is time for the brother-in-law to leave, then off he goes. No recourse. He is out of there. As a tourist, you do not have any legal status and as a matter of convenience, if for no other reason, you could be asked to leave by Immigration.
There is no course of appeal.
8.) Q. What are the odds of Immigration asking a tourist to leave?
A. Slim, but here is an example of what can and does happen.
The tourist gets involved in some altercation with a local Costa Rican. The tourist’s car hits the Costa Rican’s dog on the street. In the tourist's eyes, he has just gotten rid of a noisy problem in the neighborhood. To the Costa Rican, he has just suffered the loss of his prized family pet. The problem comes to a standstill. The tourist won’t pay and the Costa Rican wants justice for this dog being killed. The Costa Rican contacts immigration and the problem is solved.
If you have overextended your stay, you may be told to leave the country immediately.
9.) Q. Can I ship my household furnishings. . .
my stove, fridge, television, paintings, etc?
A. Yes. Our international moving agent will advise you of the appropriate forms and declarations that must be completed for customs purposes.
Save time and energy. . .allow us to help!
10.) Q. Can I bring my car, my boat or airplane with me to Costa Rica?
A. Yes, of course. Just make arrangements first to find out the approximate amount of duty that is going to be applied. The duty calculation is a pretty standard calculation, but one will never get an exact figure. . .a very close approximation, but never exact. The actual cost could be slightly higher or slightly lower than quoted. We have expertise in this area and would love to assist you.
11.) Q. What do the letters, "S.A." mean after the corporation's name?
Costa Rica is not in South America, is it?
A. It is surprising how many times we are asked those 2 questions. First,
Costa Rica is located in Central America and secondly, "S.A." stands for,
"Sociedad Anonima", which for all intents and purposes translates or is equivalent to, "LTD." elsewhere in the world.
Costa Rica Maps
Costa Rican Embassies Around the World
Costa Rica Annual Rainfall & Other Weather-related Information
Juan Santamaria International Airport Information
Colones to ?
12.) Q. Is medical treatment expensive and is it good?
A. We have 2 medical programs in Costa Rica, but the one most people at retirement age should concern themselves with is our "medical social security system". The main reason we say this is that with the latest change in the immigration law, it has been mandated that all people will participate in this system. In fact, when you apply for your residency card (cedula), you will show proof of participation. The cost is extremely reasonable and is based on your declared income. The more you declare as income, the more you would pay. The quality of care is excellent (excellent not only at the S.S. clinics, but throughout the country).
One of the most positive reactions we receive from people using the S.S program is how efficient, pleasant and personable the doctors and staff are. Are all clinics knockoffs of the Mayo clinic or John Hopkins? No but they function well, serve the people well and provide good service on site or via referring patients to the large S.S. hospitals for major problems. Hospital Mexico, located here in Costa Rica is a S.S. hospital and is famous in Central America for its heart transplants (free transplants if the individual cannot afford the operation).
The other medical system is called the "INS" which provides another level of service. By using this system, there is a rather large annual premium to be paid and approximately a 70% renumeration for treatment. The big benefit of INS is that you can expect the same doctor to treat you on every occasion that you make an appointment. Nicer facilities also, but at a cost.
The additional consideration regarding medical: the quality of the medical services here in Costa Rica is recognized to the extent that the country is becoming a mecca for the international medical tourism business. Basically, every procedure and treatment that is available in your home country, plus many that are not available, are standard procedure here. A typical example is the M.S. procedure which has proven to be such a benefit to so many people. At any given time, we have 50-100 patients from around the world, mainly Canada and the USA, here for treatment. Plastic surgery is very popular and recognized as "world class". Dental work is of such high quality and low cost that we have people arrange for a vacation/dental exam/treatment. This is very popular and cost effective to the point that the vacation is basically free based on your real savings.
13.) Q. When we make the decision to make the move to Costa Rica,
how do we get our “stuff” down to our new home?
A. Actually this is quite a simple procedure. When you know exactly what you want to bring to Costa Rica, you provide us with a list of items with your estimated value of these items. This list, plus your, believe it or not, postal code gives our professional people the information they need to quote you a very accurate approximate cost for your move. More details on that upon request but suffice to say that after a couple of hundred moves, perhaps even more, our people don’t get surprised too many times anymore.
14.) Q. Should we bring our car?
A. It's a personal decision, but we can only advise as follows. If the type of car you have is popular here, thinking about repairs and parts, is in good condition and has a low resale value if you were to sell it in your current home country, then we would recommend that you consider shipping it. Further details upon request, but if we have certain information regarding the car such as age, options, VIN #, age and model, our team can give you a very accurate amount of duty that will need to be paid. The additional consideration is that basically if it fits into your container, consider it shippable. Same criteria applies to boats, jet-skis, motorcycles, etc. (for our friends in the northern climates. . .don’t bring down any snowmobiles)!
15.) Q. If we are coming to Costa Rica and plan to submit our paperwork for our legal status, can we purchase one-way tickets only to Costa Rica?
A. Prior to your application being made and your status received, you must produce a printed copy of your round-trip ticket and present it upon arrival in Costa Rica. Your ticket should indicate that your planned stay in Costa Rica does not exceed 90 days which is the amount of time typically a tourist is granted. I would suggest that when you are at the check-in counter at YOUR airport in your hometown, ask for a printed itinerary. Have it ready to present to the Immigration officer here in Costa Rica if requested.
16.) Q. Do we have to insure our goods when shipping them to Costa Rica?
A. The shipping companies have a basic insurance which would cover the loss of your total container or shipment. For example, if the ship is lost at sea. The shipping companies do not cover you for misc. breakage or damage.
If you use a professional packer to pack and load your shipment, you may want to enquire with then regarding the costs of insurance.
If you pack your own goods and load your own shipment, then you should check with your current homeowners insurance policy to see if you can obtain insurance for your personal items.
Duty payable is predicated to some degree on the value of the shipment. Insurance, if arranged, becomes part of the value of the shipment.
If you declare a value of your items. . .for example, using garage sale values and proceed to insure the value for a much higher value, this will come to the attention of the customs agents. Duty will be applied on the higher value.
Insurance. . .a personal decision. We can state that a very high number of shipments arrive without any damage or with very slight damage if it had been packed correctly. At times, there are damaged items. CRIME is not responsible for any damage incurred.
17.) Q. Why does the Government make bringing in refrigerators so difficult and other appliances come in so easily?
A. One word…Freon. A number of merchants were bringing over container loads of old refriderators and refurbishing them here and them selling them for a huge profit. No problem that but so many of these fridges we on their last ice cube that within months, they gave up the cooling spirit and were hauled off to the landfill. Thus an overabundant number of “dead” fridges giving up their freon as a parting gift to Costa Rica. Now, there is a new requirement just issued requiring that all refrigerators, freezers, etc., need to have an import license before the item will be released by customs. We need age, model and serial number of each freezer, fridge or such appliance well before the arrival of your shipment here so we cn have the import permit issued.
18.) Q. How can I become a client of
Costa Rica Immigration & Moving Experts?
A. It is a matter of comfort level. We encourage people to ask questions regarding any of our services. When you are satisfied, we present you with a written quote/invoice, covering all costs for our services offered. Typical payment is done via bank wire transfer. Transfer instructions will be attached to your quote/invoice.
19.) Q. What happens if the the Costa Rican Government changes the requirements: For example, Immigration?
A. Whichever rules that are in effect the day we make the application to them on your behalf are the rules that apply to your application. If requirements regardng shipping of household effects change before your container arrives in Costa Rica, then those new rules apply.
20.) Q. What happens if we have not received all our documents back from the various government agencies by the time we leave for Costa Rica?
A. This will happen from time to time. It is not a major problem. We provide you with our address in the USA and you can advise the Government agencies to direct that document to you at that address.
We receive it and include it with your other documents and submit it to Immigration. Officially that is the start date of your Immigration application.
21.) Q. Does the shipping company provide answers to my questions?
A. Yes. Typically, we advise the mover's management team that we have individuals who are interested in moving. We arrange to have them physically visit you at which time they will provide recommendations to facilitate your shipping requirements. They will also provide you with an accurate estimate of costs from your current address to the appropriate port here in Costa Rica. At that time, our man, who the shipping company will designate, takes over and arranges the delivery of your container to customs, oversees the unpacking and inspection and ultimately pays the duty, inspection fees, etc., and then arranges delivery to your new address here in Costa Rica or to a private storage facility if that is required. This is all done for you.
22.) Q. Are there any restrictions as to what we can move?
A. Yes. The following is a list to use as a guide. If in any doubt about additional items, you can discuss it with the moving agent.
-Golf Carts w/ batteries - if shipping a golf cart with a battery, the battery must be disconnected & the shipper must get a MSDS (material data safety sheet) from the manufacturer & fill out a hazardous shipper's declaration sheet.
-Gas, propane, kerosene
-Used gas tanks, used propane tanks, used kerosene tanks
-Scuba diving tanks (unless they are completely empty)
-Car battery (unless it's in the actual car)
-Portable air tanks (unless they are completely empty)
torches, tiki torches, bernzomatic torches (welding torch).
23.) Q. Are there any extra charges for specific services needed, such as obtaining
a drivers license, shopping at local malls, cell phone purchases, etc?
A. Costa Rica Immigration & Moving Experts is very pleased to assist in many ways to ensure that your transition to Costa Rica and your new lifestyle is a total pleasing experience.
Whether it be a case of needing assistance to obtain your
Costa Rica drivers license or to obtain a suitable cell phone or
to be taken to one of our major shopping centers or shopping clubs, we are here to accompany you & assist you in every way we can. Although this extra service is gladly offered, in some cases it entails the use of additional people / man hours.
Our standard hourly rate, including car, of $30.00 per hour will apply.
24.) Q. When we come to Costa Rica, are we entitled to drive?
A. Yes, if you have a valid drivers license from your home country, then you can use that license while here as a tourist. If you have no plans to establish a legal status here, then you must leave the country every 90 days in order to obtain a new tourist status which in turn keeps your home-country drivers license valid here. If you apply for a legal status and you are waiting for the status to be approved, you must maintain your tourist status by leaving the country for a matter of a half hour or so only from the perspective of driving with a legal license. The Immigration dept. does not require you to leave every 90 days, but traffic law states you must be driving on a valid license, thus keep your tourist status updated to keep you home drivers license valid.
25.) Q. Why is my former countries drivers license no longer considered valid?
A. Because you are now a legal resident of Costa Rica and as such must have a Costa Rican drivers license.
26.) Q. When I get my legal status, can I continue to drive on my
A. It is imperative that you obtain your Costa Rican drivers license once you have your legal status. You are officially no longer a tourist here, thus your drivers license from your home country which was valid while you were a tourist is no longer valid.
27.) Q. Is there a written or oral test required to obtain my Costa Rica drivers license?
A. No. If your home country’s license is still valid, then it is a simple matter of an eye exam, blood test and the payment of the required fee, usually around $15.00.
A seamless transition for you & your family is our goal.
Our services can be fine-tuned to fulfill your needs.
Residency in Costa Rica.
How to Retire in Costa Rica.
Moving to Costa Rica.
We are the Experts!