Many Americans move to Costa Rica each year and the number of Americans living in Costa Rica is growing. This means it is easier now than ever before to make the move, whether you are planning on retiring to Costa Rica, buying your dream vacation home, or simply wanting to live abroad for a year, the possibilities for Americans moving to Costa Rica are almost endless. If you have visited Costa Rica before or never set foot in Central America, there will be some things that can take some getting used to. This is a quick guide to help you prepare for living in a new culture and how to best enjoy it.
First off, language. Some Americans speak Spanish and some don’t. Depending on how much Spanish you know, you will have a different experience than someone who speaks no Spanish at all. If you are unfamiliar with the Spanish language, you may want to take a course before you move to Costa Rica, or find a language program near to where you will be living in Costa Rica. Spanish is the national language of Costa Rica and while you may end up living in an American community where you don’t need to speak Spanish, you will find speaking even a little bit will make your new home that much more enjoyable. Speaking Spanish will be important if you are planning on starting a business in Costa Rica, but it will also allow you to make friends more easily.And simple things, like asking for directions or ordering food, will seem like less of a chore. Please visit our translation and interpretation page to see how our bilingual staff might be of help.
Next, think about where you would like to live. Costa Rica is a small country compared to the United States, but it offers a variety of climates and regions. Whether you are moving to the metropolitan San Jose area, the mountains and cloud forests of Monteverde, or the Pacific or Caribbean coasts, you will find a multitude of housing options. You will want to decide if you would like to buy a house, buy property to build your own house, or rent a house or an apartment. Send me South has a full team of realty specialists to help you find the perfect home, for any length of stay, in any budget. If you have visited Costa Rica and know which region you want to live in, you may decide to buy something. If you are new to the country, you may find that renting something first can be a good way to help you figure out where you would like to live. There are many furnished homes and apartments all over the country, so have fun looking at what’s out there and take time finding something that’s right for you. The team at Send me South includes expats that have lived in every part of the country, so feel free to contact us with any specific questions.
The last big ticket item you need to be aware of is your visa status. Upon arrival to Costa Rica, all foreign visitors receive a 90-day Tourist Visa. If you are planning on staying longer than 90 days, you will need to look into applying for residency. There are a few types of residency that you may qualify for. A Pensionado Residency applies to a person receiving a lifetime pension such as Social Security, state retirement benefits, or a military pension, in the amount of no less than $1,000 (US) per month. The Rentista Residency requires a deposit of $60,000(US) into a Costa Rican bank which is paid back to the depositor over the course of 2 years at a rate of $2,500(US) per month. After the two years, you must either make another deposit of $60,000(US) or leave the country. This option allows you time to see if you really do want to move to Costa Rica. If you are an investor with more than $200,000(US) invested in Costa Rica, a person associated with a foreign government assignment or international mission, or a representative of an executive of a company doing business in Costa Rica, you may also qualify for residency. After two years of any of these temporary residency options, you can apply for full residency. If you are planning on working in Costa Rica, please keep in mind that residency is required and you are not allowed to work on a Tourist Visa. Please visit ourimmigration services page for more info.
There are a growing number of “Permanent Tourists” who do not hold residency, but simply leave the country every 90-days and receive another Tourist Visa when re-entering the country. This can work if you plan on simply spending some months out of every year in Costa Rica. If you plan on living in Costa Rica year round, this method of leaving and re-entering is not recommended as you may not always receive a 90-day visa when crossing the borders between Costa Rica and Nicaragua or Costa Rica and Panama. For these reasons, as Americans moving to Costa Rica, you should decide how committed you are to living in Costa Rica year round or living in Costa Rica a few months out of each year.
Of course there are other things to consider when deciding to move to Costa Rica. Do you enjoy warm weather almost year round? It can be quite hot in parts of the country, while the mountains do offer some cooler days. There is also a lot of rain in Costa Rica. Think about the environment you enjoy most when deciding where to live. The food in Costa Rica is great and more populated areas offer a variety of eateries. Grocery stores usually have imported food as well, but if you have any dietary limitations or preferences, you will want to learn about your options for food in your desired location. Many restaurants cater to Americans living in Costa Rica and you can find some of your favorite dishes all around the country. Also, think about your hobbies and the past times you enjoy, like golf, baseball, or going to the movies. Be sure to see what activities are available in your surrounding area before you decide to live in a place permanently. Please visit our scouting trips & orientation page for more info on how we can help you choose the right area to suit you.
Make sure and have some fun while researching Costa Rica. Remember, each year there are more Americans moving to Costa Rica, which means there are many great resources to help you with your move. The more time you spend finding a place in Costa Rica that suits your needs, the happier you’ll be with your decision to move and the more you will get out of your new home.