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Immigration and Residency Services Overview

Obtaining residency in Central America ( Panama and Costa Rica) can provide you with numerous benefits and should be the path for everyone wanting to stay in the country for a longer period of time. Residency enables you to get access to affordable healthcare, local driving license, local banking products and much more.

 

Panama Immigration Services

Panama also offers multiple options for people to gain legal immigration status. The two most common are the Friendly Nations Visa for people from one of 50 Friendly Nations who can demonstrate a professional or commercial reason for residency and the Pensionado Visa (residency for retired people). You can read more about the immigration options in Panama further below.

Costa Rica Immigration Services

The immigration laws in Costa Rica offer numerous options for people to gain legal immigration status in the country. There are opportunities for retirees, people on fixed incomes, investors, spouses or parents of a Costa Rican, self-employed persons or entrepreneurs, and employees of a company. You can review the most popular categories further below.

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Expert Attornies

Applying for residency is a meticulous process that touches many law-related fields, creating room for many possible issues. Our Experts will assure that all processes are followed as required by local law.

Fast Support

We are always available for any immediate support that you might need. In addition you'll get access to our app and online tools, through which you'll be able to track your progress until the day you'll receive your local ID and after.

Affordable Cost

We believe that the immigration service should be available to everybody at affordable costs. Through streamlining of our processes, services and equipments we are able to give very competitive pricing, while delivering results to high satisfaction.

Panama - Residency Categories

Foreigners who receive some type of retirement or pension from a foreign government, an international agency or private company, who enter Panama with the intention of relocating and who can demonstrate that they have the resources and financial means to cover their expenses and those of their dependents.

This option is available to people who are currently retired and receive a pension of at least $1,000 USD per month.

Foreigners who enter Panama, who are retired from active life and receive a minimum income of eight hundred and fifty dollars ($850 USD) per month exclusively from interest from fixed-term deposits in Panamanian government banks, free of all encumbrance or guarantees of any nature, for a minimum period of five (5) years.

Foreigners citizens of any of the 51 countries listed as friendly to Panama (have friendship and collaboration agreements), who can prove their economic or professional ties to Panama.

The applicant must make an investment for a minimum amount of three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000 USD) from a foreign source, which may be in a personal capacity or through a legal entity, in which the applicant is always the final beneficiary of the shares of the legal entity that holds the investment.

This permit may be requested by the foreigner who invests the minimum amount of three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000 USD) in real estate or fixed term deposit or a combination of both, and proves that the funds come from abroad. In case dependents must demonstrate an additional solvency of two thousand dollars ($2,000 USD) for each one.

This permit may be requested by foreigners who have one or more Panamanian children of at least five (5) years of age and there is a need to preserve family unity and to guarantee the rights of the minors.

This permit may be requested by foreigners who have contracted a marriage with a Panamanian marriage and that they live together in conditions of singularity, stability and continuity.

This category is available for people who desire to work for themselves or to open their own business in Costa Rica. There is no minimum amount of money required, only to have a business. There are a couple of options for self employed people. One the one hand, people who have a particular skill or area of specialization qualify for a Residency for Skilled Workers, and thus it is required to demonstrate what your skill is. There is also a residency for people who just have a brick and mortar business such as a hotel or restaurant.

Costa Rica - Residency Categories

This option is available to people who are currently retired and receive retirement income of at least $1,000 per month. The income can originate from a pension from the Social Security System or Pension System in your home country. This residency is also available for people who receive income for dissability. Then it is possible to sponsor spouses children. 

Under this option, it is required to demonstrate that you receive at least $2,500 per month. There are multiple ways to demonstrate this income. One option is to deposit an amount equal to two years of income which is $60,000 USD in a bank abroad or in Costa Rica. Another option is to certify your income from abroad or to open a trust.

Recently, the Costa Rican government lowered the minimum investment amount to $150,000 USD in Costa Rica. The investment can be in a business, or in assets such as real estate.  You can read more about the requirements as well as the costs involved.

The marriage category is available to foreign nationals who marry a Costa Rican. After two years of being married and residing in Costa Rica, it is possible to obtain citizenship.

Foreign nationals who have children born in Costa Rica are eligible for residency.

This category is available for people who desire to work for themselves or to open their own business in Costa Rica. There is no minimum amount of money required, only to have a business. There are a couple of options for self employed people. One the one hand, people who have a particular skill or area of specialization qualify for a Residency for Skilled Workers, and thus it is required to demonstrate what your skill is. There is also a residency for people who just have a brick and mortar business such as a hotel or restaurant.

There are options for companies to hire foreign workers. Whether they are executives, managers, technicians or consultants, the Costa Rican regulations allow for multiple options to hire foreign workers.

General Immigration Requirements

The following list outlines the general requirements for any application for residency.

  1. Verification of the main requirement. Depending on the category you will be applying for, documentation will be required to confirm eligibility under that category. For instance, people applying under the retirement category must produce a letter providing confirmation of the retirement income; people applying under the investment category must provide certifications of the investment regardless of whether the investment is in real estate or in a business; people applying for residency through marriage must produce a marriage certificate.
  2. Background check. This document should be issued by a national authority. In the case of US nationals, for instance, it should be from the FBI. In the case of Canadian nationals, it should be issued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the case of UK nationals, it should be issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
  3. Birth certificate. A new copy of your birth certificate is required, not over six months old.
  4. Application form. We complete this for our clients.
  5. Cover letter. We complete this for our clients as well. It contains certain information about you.
  6. Fingerprints. Obtained at a police department. We will coordinate with you in order to receive these, assisting in San José or Liberia by driving you from our office to the location concerned and handling the corresponding forms.
  7. Certified passport copy. We certify your passport copy.
  8. Consular registration. Registration with your country’s consulate is required, we also complete this for our clients.
  9. Passport-size photographs. 
  10. Government fees. Initially, it is required to pay application fees. At the end of the process, it is required to pay an additional set of USD in government fees.

Important Notes About The Documents

  • All documents in a foreign language must be translated into Spanish. The costs for the translations will vary depending on the original language.
  • All documents from abroad must be authenticated for its use in Costa Rica / Panama. Documents from certain countries require an apostille.
  • Documents from other countries require a legalization. To learn more about apostilles please click here.
  • The birth certificates and the background checks (and any other documents from abroad) must be issued within six months prior to filing the application. Therefore, the original birth certificate issued when you were born will not be valid for immigration purposes in Costa Rica or Panama.
  • Background checks must be from the countries where you lived legally in the past three years. Living legally excludes people who were living as tourists, it is only applicable to people who were legally residing in a foreign country.

Processing Time

The application process for residency has three stages. Namely, document procurement, Government Analysis and Decision, and Registration. Please review below the description of these three stages as well as the corresponding timeline applicable to each stage.

StageTimeline Description
Document Procurement8 weeksWe will dedicate this period of time to make sure that you get the documents you will need to bring to Panama or Costa Rica, as well as preparing the rest of the documents required for the application. Generally, it takes about two months to obtain all the required documents.
Analysis & Decision by the DGME6-9 monthsOnce the required documents have been obtained, we will file the application with the Immigration Department (DGME) By law, the DGME should process the application within 90 days. However, based on recent processing times, the DGME is currently taking about 12 months for processing an application.
Registration4 weeksOnce the application has been approved, We will proceed with your mandatory registration with the Social Security and Health system. In addition, we will obtain the ID for foreigners (DIMEX aka cédula). This last step completes the process.

Important Notes About The Processing Times

  • Once the application is filed, the DGME will issue a Receipt Notice, a paper, which demonstrates that there is an application pending. This document in conjunction with your passport will function as a valid ID and will allow you to stay legally in the country without the need to leave.
  • As noted, the Immigration department takes about 9 months for reviewing the application. The law allows you to remain in the country while the application is pending. Thus, the applicant is not required to leave the country to renew the 90-day visa.
  • A local driver’s license cannot be obtained until your residency is fully approved and your local ID (DIMEX) is on hand. Applicants who want to use a foreign driver’s license during the waiting period are required to leave the country every three months to obtain a renewed 90-day visa stamp in their passport. This seems to conflict with the note above but it is the result of different government departments having different rules. The department in charge for driving licenses in the country unfortunately has no connection to migratory processes.
  • If you leave the country during the application waiting period,  you may be required to produce a return ticket when trying to reenter the country at a border or airport, since you’ll still be officially entering as a tourist. This stands until you’re a legal resident. Whether a bus ticket or a plane ticket is required will depend on whether you are arriving at an airport or through a border crossing.

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