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How to Lose Your Residency

Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is difficult and costly. There are a lot of documents required to obtain residency which also cost money; the processing time is lengthy and it can become frustrating, and the

Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is difficult and costly. There are a lot of documents required to obtain residency which also cost money; the processing time is lengthy and it can become frustrating, and the costs are high when you add up the government fees, legal fees and expenses. So, try not to lose your residency.

Losing your residency is as difficult as obtaining it in the first place. The simple rule is: do not break the law. Naturally, the next questions will be: what does the law say? Well, there are three simple scenarios under which people can lose residency:

  • Commit a felony;
  • Being gone and not renewing for too long;
  • Not complying with your conditions.

To be more specific, section 129 Immigration Law 8764 sets for the grounds for cancellation of status in Costa Rica, which includes:

  1. Not complying with the conditions under which the immigration status was granted, or not being able to comply with the requirements under which the residency was obtained.
  2. Not paying taxes when required.
  3. Entering or leaving the country illegally and not through an Immigration Port of Entry.
  4. Under the grounds of Section 70 of the Immigration Law.
  5. Permanent residents who left the country for more than four consecutive years, unless there is force majeure related to health, school, and family.
  6. Temporary residents who left the country for more than two consecutive years, unless there is force majeure related to health, school, and family.
  7. Obtaining residency through false statements or false documents.
  8. Having a criminal background that represents a risk to public security.
  9. Not renewing the document within three months from the expiration date, unless there are superseding circumstances.
  10. People who obtain residency through a sham marriage.

Let’s review these items.

Not complying with conditions.
Under section 129.1 we can think of the following scenarios:

  • A person obtaining residency under marriage and gets a divorce or the tico spouse passes away.
  • The person under the investor category loses the investment such as selling the house under which obtained residency.
  • The employee who obtains residency through the employer and gets later fired.
  • Obtaining the residency through your own business; closing the business means losing the residency as well.

Not Paying Taxes.
I have never seen a case of person being deported or losing residency because they do not pay taxes. It is nevertheless included in the law, but not common at all.

Entering or leaving illegally. Obtaining residency with false documents and statements. Sham marriages
These situations are very self-explanatory as they represent a blatant violation of immigration laws, so we’ll not comment on it.

According to section 70 of the law.
This section states that people who committed a felony will have their residency cancelled and will be removed from the country. The felony does not have to be committed in Costa Rica. If the foreign resident committed a crime in their home country while being a resident of Costa Rica, this can result in the cancellation of residency.

Permanent Residents being gone for more than four years. Section 129.5 of the law and 214 of the regulations.
Under this section, the Immigration Department will initiate the cancellation process once the foreign national has been gone for more than four years. This section can be conflicting with section 129.9 which establishes that the residency will be cancelled if the DIMEX (ID card for residency) is not renewed within three months from the expiration date (section 213 of the regulations). The first time a person obtains residency it will be valid for two years. In this case, if the person is gone for three years, the ground for cancellation is effective three months from the expiration date. This situation could certainly create a nice case for court.

While being gone for four years is rare, we have had instances in which the client is gone for longer than that.

Temporary Residents being gone for more than two years. Section 129.6 of the law and 215 of the regulations.

Not renewing within three months.
For people under any category of residency, the cancellation process will initiate if the DIMEX was not renewed within three months of expiration. This rarely happens, but it is there in the law. As noted in the two previous sections, if may be conflicting with the cases for people who have left the country for more than two and four years. There is an exception if the foreign national can demonstrate superseding circumstances.

What is the minimum amount of time I need to be in the country?

While section 129 sets forth a maximum length of absence of two years for temporary residents and four years for temporary residents, we tell people that they must be in the country for at least one day per year. This requirement stems from the requirements to do a renewal.

Renewing the residency
As noted in section 129.1, it is required to maintain the eligibility requirements under which the person obtain residency in the first place, whether it is through marriage, parenthood, pension, investment, etc. The simple requirements for renewing the residency is to pay the government fees and to produce evidence of the main eligibility requirements (pension, investment, marriage, job, etc). However, people who are gone out of the country for more than one year, must produce a background check from the country where they remained for that period of time.

Our advice? Avoid being out of the country for more than one year.

I hope this information to be helpful. Please feel free to reach us with further questions or comments.



Attorney and Entrepreneur with more than 15 years experience in: immigration law in the US and Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama. In addition, Rafael has extensive experience in Business Law, Estate Planning, and Real Estate. Lastly, Rafael has developed experience in people management, talent development and business development.

Review overview
  • Avatar
    Victoria Torley September 17, 2017

    Who can bring an action against someone in violation of residency requirements?

  • Avatar
    David Maddox September 17, 2017

    I legally lived in Costa Rica for 20 years and had a cedula. I was told that part of the fee that I paid to be a resident was for a one-way ticket out of the country (should I have been expelled). I recently moved to Medellin (less sicarios here) and my residency expired in mid-July. Can I get a refund?

  • Avatar
    Lisa December 8, 2017

    I just want to be sure I understand this… I’ve been married 10 years and received my residency 9 years ago through by way of marriage. If my husband dies, I would have to get a new cedula and go through the process again?

  • Avatar
    Andrea V. March 31, 2018

    In order to keep my PERMANENT residency I’ve been complying with my entry to the country once every yr (4 day stay) for the past 3yrs However my dimex card will expire in the next 2 wks when I will no longer be in CR to renew (Hence I was unable to take care of this due to holiday closings). My ? is: When I come back it WILL be past the 3 mths allowed after exp date to be able to renew. Am I going to loose my Perm. Residency due to this?

  • Avatar
    Alexandra May 14, 2018

    Hi there, I obtained my Permanent Residence many years ago. My last day in CR was March 29 2017 (have no been back since) and my Dimex expired on March 15 2018. I am planning on returning before the 3 month deadline (before cancellation proceedings “begin”) in early june. I know I will have to pay a fine to renew dimex but will I have to present anything else? My logic is I was in CR a few days in the 12 months before my dimex expired BUT it will have been more than 12 months when I go to renew. Very confused. Thanks.

  • Avatar
    Kurk Sumins November 4, 2018

    We are waiting for our permanent residence card. But I am assuming do to the strike rhere has been a delay. My spouse needs to leave CR and her tempory residency card has expired. Our lawyers has advised us to wait for the permanent one instead of spending money on a temporary. Wilk she be fined when reentering CR due to the expired ceduka even though our lawyer has recommended we wait but she has to keave for a couple of weeks

  • Avatar
    David Yeats November 30, 2018

    Our cedulas are due to expire in mid February. .We have transferred the required amount of dollars into a dollar account at BCR over the last two years, but have not converted all of it into colonies. Will that be a problem when we renew, or are they just looking to see that the full amount was transferred from a US Bank to BCR? Thanks, Dave

  • Avatar
    Felipe February 27, 2020


    If I get a temporary residence while working with a company in Costa Rica, do you know if the gone for more than 2 years rule applies. I’m probably would like to spend 2-3 months in CR and the remaining months outside of the country.

    Thanks, Felipe

    • Jeffrey Zamora
      Jeffrey Zamora February 27, 2020


      Thank you for your question! Anyone with any category of Temporary Residency will lose it if they are out of the country for more than 2 years.
      If you are in Costa Rica for only 2-3 months per year you will be safe, you do not risk losing your work-related Temporary Residency.

      Best regards,