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Retiring in Costa Rica: The Path to a ‘Pensionado’ Residency

The temporary residence for retired people is one of the easiest ways, receivers of a pension or a lifetime benefit, can relocate to Costa Rica. Costa Rica is known as one of the best places in

Retire in Costa Rica

The temporary residence for retired people is one of the easiest ways, receivers of a pension or a lifetime benefit, can relocate to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is known as one of the best places in the world to retire. The 2022 Global Retirement Index, published by the International Living magazine, placed the country in second place because it “remains a beacon of stability, democracy, and that sought-after laid-back lifestyle.”

Many retired people from all over the world have already decided to spend this time of their lives in Costa Rica, and many more are currently thinking about it. They all should know that the country offers a residency category for them, but this doesn’t mean that this is the only option they have.

One of the temporary residency categories available in Costa Rica is the “pensionado” one. “Pensionado” means retired person in Spanish. This is a residency category that does not have too many requirements and, if you meet the criteria, it is relatively easy to get.

In this article, you will learn about the requirements for the “pensionado” residency category, the best ways to do it, and the alternatives available for those people who wish to do more than retiring in Costa Rica.

Main requirement for the “pensionado” residency

The biggest requirement is that the beneficiary or their partner has to receive a monthly pension or lifetime benefit of at least $1,000 USD. The principal applicant can also apply for residency for a spouse and their children as dependents.

If a couple wants to apply, the recommended thing to do is to look at who has a pension of $1,000 or higher. This is because the rates they’ll pay for social security and health care will depend on their income, the higher the income, the higher the rates they’ll have to pay to CAJA (the Costa Rican Social Security Fund).

The primary applicant can be a husband or a wife, there’s no difference. When applying as a couple, it is advisable to use the pension of the spouse who makes the lower income.

Retire in Costa Rica

Other requirements for retired people

The rest of the requirements are similar to the ones for other categories. Applicants will have to show vital documents and background checks, as well as fill in their application documents. They will also have to produce the information of their partner and children, if they are coming with them.

The application process for this category takes between nine and twelve months, according to our experience. This depends on the processing time of the Immigration Department (DGME in Spanish) and Outlier Legal Services has mechanisms in place to get the residency as quickly as possible.

It is important to say that retired people will need to show letters in Spanish that prove that they receiving social security or some lifetime benefit. If the letter is in a language other than Spanish, then it should be translated. The translation should be made in Costa Rica as foreign translations are not permitted according to regulations.

In Costa Rica, the US Embassy provides the letter from the Social Security Administration, which comes already in Spanish and can be delivered in less than a week, due to their agreement with Immigration.

Is this the best residency for you?

This is an important question to answer. The short answer is “it depends.”

If a foreigner wants to retire in Costa Rica and they also have real estate in the country, they should probably take a look at other options, such as the investor residency category. There are notable differences between these categories, and they should analyze them before making a decision.

From our experience, we can say that if you own real estate in Costa Rica, or if owning property in the country is part of your plan, the investor residency category might be your best option. Specially if your pension is much more higher than $1,000 USD, since that would mean that you have to pay higher rates to CAJA.

Our immigration, business and real estate experts, advise that you ask us before applying for a “pensionado” residency in Costa Rica, so that we can recommend the best option for your specific situation. Contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.



She serves as the Journalist at Outlier Legal. Maripaz Soto has a Degree in Communication Science with a major in Journalism from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). She has worked with UNOPS and GIZ. Empathic, creative and determined, are some adjectives that fit her perfectly.

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