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Residency Through Marriage With a Costa Rican: How Does It Work, and How Long Does it Take?

Residency for spouses is valid for one year but can be renewed annually. After three years, foreigners can apply for permanent residency

You can get a residence by marrying a Costa Rican

There are many ways foreigners can get a residency permit in Costa Rica. They can do it as investors, as retired people, or as people with fixed incomes, to mention a few. However, residency can also be obtained through marriage to a citizen of Costa Rica for those blessed to find love in this country.

If you are in love with a Costa Rican, and you are married or have plans to get married, you’re halfway through your residency process in the country. The marriage has to be registered with the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) for this to work, and there are also some other requirements to be met.

Below, we will review the requirements for a temporary residency for a spouse, how is the process of applying, how long it takes to get the residency, and what options foreigners who do this have after getting their residency approved.

Requisites for residency through marriage

To apply for temporary residency as a spouse at the Immigration Department of Costa Rica you need to meet these requirements:

  • Write a letter to request your application to this residency category.

  • The letter should include the reasons you’re opting for this residency, in which you include your complete name, nationality, occupation, age, current address, and an address for notifications.

  • Deposit $50 to an account number that will be given to you. Also, deposit an amount for each page of the affiliation document you’ll be presenting. The cost per page goes from $1.25 to $2.50.

  • Present two passport-sized photographs taken recently.

  • Present your birth certificate, authenticated. Generally, the document should not have been legalized or apostilled for more than six months. However, there is a transitory law that accepts birth certificates issued longer than six months if they are in good shape and have the same name as in the passport.

  • Present your background check from the country you have been living in for the past three years. This also has to have no more than six months since authentication.

  • Marriage certificate issued by or registered in the Civil Registry.

  • Present original and photocopy of your foreign passport.

Interview with the Immigration Department

The main requisite you will face for this residency is that the couple will be interviewed sometime during the process by the Immigration Department. As happens in many countries, the purpose of this interview is to confirm the legitimacy of the marriage and to make sure that there’s nothing questionable about said residency application.

DGME, the Immigration Department of Costa Rica

DGME, the Immigration Department of Costa Rica

Application process

Once you are sure about applying for residency through marriage with a Costa Rican, you will need to fasten your seat belt, because these things take time in the Tropics. But not also in the Tropics: to gather all the documents you need locally and from abroad, you should think about some three months of waiting.

Since foreign documents need to be authenticated and issued within six months of applying for the residency, our legal experts need time to gather them in order to have them all ready before starting the process. This way, you also make sure that the officer at the Immigration Department doesn’t have any excuse not to proceed.

The affiliation form must also be filed before the tourist stamp on your passport (usually valid for 90 days) expires. The three-month timeframe we usually give our clients is based on this and is the realistic way to form expectations around this. After this, it’s all in the Immigration Department’s hands, and how long it takes depends on them.

See, the Immigration and Immigration Directorate (DGME) has in principle only 90 days to process the application. Nevertheless, they usually take between 9 and 12 months to do so. We have several methods to accelerate the government’s bureaucracy, and there are people who hire other firms for whom the process usually takes much longer.

After an approval notice from the DGME arrives, there are some payments that need to be taken care of before you can register with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CAJA or CCSS), which is the last step before requesting your DIMEX (the ID for foreign residents in Costa Rica). When the DIMEX arrives, you’ll officially be a resident.

How long does it take?

Taking into account all the steps and requisites mentioned above, and judging by our experience assisting foreigners get this residency in Costa Rica, we can say that a foreigner married to a Costa Rican will have to wait between 12 and 15 months to get their DIMEX card and become a resident in the country.

What happens after?

The temporary residency under the Marriage category is valid for a year and renewable annually for the same period if the couple is still married. After three years, temporary residents can apply for permanent residency, which once you get won’t require you to remain married to the Costa Rican.

If you want to get more information about residency through marriage with a Costa Rican, we’re here to help. Contact us and we’ll guide you through the process.

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