A little on banking

Now that you have your Cedula card you can actually start getting things in your name.  Recently they just passed a law that if you want a bank account there you have to have a Cedula card.  You can now get phone, internet, and your utilities all in your name.  Without the card you cannot do any of this.  One of the first things we did to establish credit in Costa Rica was that we went to a rent to own place and bought two pieces of furniture.  We did a program that we had it paid off in 4 months.  It sounds kind of silly to do, but it a great way to start.  This will help with any loans in the future.  When we bought our house our interest rate was really high at 12.25%.  But do keep in mind that that also includes our homeowners insurance.  Also, if anything happens to my husband, the house is paid for and it’s mine.  Of course I don’t plan on him going anywhere for a long time.  They do take care of their people down here.  Also, a word to the wise, never go to the bank on Mondays or Fridays.  Everyone gets paid on Friday so the banks are a mad house, and those who didn’t make it on Friday will be there on Monday.  Most banks have short hours also, opening at 9am and some closing as early as 3:45pm.  So always make sure you know your banks hours.  They are not open on the weekends either. 

Getting your Cedual card

Now you are ready to receive your Cedula card, well almost.  You still have to make a couple of more deposits and start paying into the Social Security.  The Social Security for Costa Rica is your health insurance, it pretty much covers everything.  All of my x-rays have been covered, my doctors visits, prescriptions, physical theropy and chiropractic care.  If I have to have a surgery, it is covered.  There are no co-pays or deductables to meet.  The only thing I might have to pay for is $5-$10 for my frames for my glasses, I think I can handle that.  The insurance is based off of your income.  I pay $30 a month because I technically have no income, my husband pays $63 a month based off of his pension. This is a new law that was passed a couple of years ago that everyone must pay into the Social Security, before it was optional.  You need to pay that and make sure you keep your receipts and make copies of them as well.  Next you will have to go to the Bank of Costa Rica and make your deposits, ours was around $455 a person total.  There are a couple of different deposits that you have to make, keep your receipts and make copies.  Next you will take all of those receipts and the paper showing where you have paid into the Social Security to the immigration office.  You will have your picture taken and be given a form to take to the post office and a temporary copy of your Cedula card.  You will have to give the post office around $6 for them to send it off and for you to receive it back.  This takes about a week to get your card back.  Always keep copies of everything, I even made a copy of my temporary card just incase.  After one week, go back to the post office and pick up your card.  Now you are a temporary resident!  You have to be a temporary resident for at least 3 years before you can switch over to permant residency.  Good luck.

Copies and police registration

You will need copies of everything and usually in triplicate, this way you will have a copy for your records.  Also, you will need to be registared with the police department in Costa Rica.  For ths you will need a couple of passport size photos and they will finger print you.  You will also need another passport size photo for submitting your paperwork to immigration.  Get at least 4 photos, 6 just in case, this way you always have extra if you need it.  You will have to give your orginals to immigration and a copy of everything as well, including a copy of your complete passport.  The reason I say to have three copies is because you would be surprised of what can be lost.  Again, at the immigration office, at least the one I went to, they do not speak English.  I used the one in San Carlos AKA Ciudad Quesada, it was much quicker than using the main one in San Jose, and the people were super friendly there and really worked with us.  Once you get your paperwork submitted they will give you a paper showing that all your stuff has been submitted so you don’t need to leave the country.  But be prepared to put out more money when you go to get your actual card.

Submitting paperwork Part 1

After you get all your paperwork back from the consulate you still have to have everything translated into Spanish.  You can go to the Yellow House, Casa Amarilla, and find a translator there.  They have a complete list of them and phone numbers for you to call.  They lady that I used was very nice and had lived in the States for several years so she knew everyday English and not just text book.  Then go back to the Yellow House and they can tell you how many stamps you need to put on your papers.  After that, go to the INS building, which is just around the corner, go up to the second floor and to the Bank of Costa Rica.  You make your deposits there for the stamps and also for your deposits.  As of right now the deposits per person are $250 US.  After you have made your deposits you go back to the Yellow House.  You will give them your receipts and they will affix them to the papers and stamp them.  Make sure everything is signed where it is supposed to be.  You don’t want to have to make a trip back down there for one signature like I did.  Now your papers should be ready for the immigration office.  I know it sounds like a lot of back and forth, which it is, but you need to make sure on how much your deposits are before trying to submit your paperwork and plus you have to have the appropiate account numbers to make the deposits.  Also, they do not speak English at the Yellow House.  So if you are still learning Spanish I suggest you take a friend with you.

More immigration requirements

When it comes to paperwork, it can be a little tricky.  None of your paperwork can be more than 6 months old when submitting it to the consulate for authentication.  Everything must be notarized from where you received it from, then sent to the State it came from to have it authenticated, to make sure the notary is legit and then sent to the consulate of Costa Rica for the state you live in to have it authenticated that the state authentication is legit.  Sounds confusing but it really isn’t.  Just goes from the city to the state and then to the consulate.  There are fees also to have all of this done, city and state are very cheap.  The consulate charges are not that bad.  Then once you enter into the country, your paperwork is only good for 90 days.  So you better get it submitted within that time or you will have to start all over, and the mail system down here is something to be desired.  You will need a post office box if you want to receive any mail.  Also, you can’t get anything in your name until you have your residency card, so I recommend getting it as soon as possible.  After we submitted all of our paperwork it only took us 6 months to get our actual cards, which is not a long time.  I will post more about the process of getting your paperwork in later.

Picking a place to live

When you start looking for that special place to call home you have to remember three things; location, location, location.  The closer you are to the beach the more it is going to cost.  The closer you are to tourist attractions, the more it is going to cost.  We found a small house in a small town about in the middle of the country.  There are very few tourist places around.  We paid $30,000 US for our house.  If you were to put our house on the beach, or even close to one, at least double the price.  My house is only 613 square feet, it has three bedrooms and one bathroom.  You think that is tiny, but there are only two of us living in it and how much space do we actually need?  Not a lot.  Plus, there is less to clean!  I can spend my time doing other things that I enjoy.  Also, utilities are cheaper in more rural areas and so are groceries.  But there are some things that are still costly, and dairy products is one of them.  Sorry.  Fruits and veggies are dirt cheap.


If you are retired and make $1000 per month from a permanent pension, you don’t need an attorney to do your paperwork for you.  My husband and I did it all on our own.  It can be a hassel, and it took us a lot of trial and error, but in the long run it saved us a few thousand dollars. 

Hello world!

I am trying to start my own little blog here to help others.  My husband and I moved to Costa Rica from the United States in June of 2011 to retire.  We did all of our immigration paperwork on our own, no attorneys needed, and now have our residency.  Just trying to help others who would like to do the same and also to help others to understand the daily cost of living here as it changes a lot.  Hope you enjoy.