Change is in the wind for Costa Rica residency
by guest blogger Ticonuevo
As of this writing, there have been several changes in Costa Rican policy and law that affect the financial wellbeing of long-term visitors, including those applying for one of the three immigrant resident categories.
The changes happened just before our arrival and we were not informed of them until the first full day we were in Costa Rica when we went visit our “domestic” lawyer (we also have an “immigration” lawyer).
So, we were not unexpectedly quite surprised.
Allow me to summarize the two changes that have the most impact:
1. A visitor’s visa and along with it the driver’s license from your home country is now generally valid here for 90 days. If you plan to buy or lease a car for longer than 90 days you must leave the country and get another 90-day visa stamped upon re-entry into Costa Rica (and with it re-validation of your driver’s license). It used to be that if you applied for residency status within that first 90-day window, your residency application took precedence over the visa requirement and your driver’s license would remain valid without ever having to leave the country.
The other thing that is married to the visa and driver’s license is your Costa Rican automobile liability insurance. So, if you don’t leave every 90 days, your permission to drive (your driver’s license) AND your auto insurance will be voided until your visa is renewed. You really don’t want that to happen as Costa Rica is very, very intolerant of driving without a license and/or insurance and there are numerous and frequent random traffic police road stops set up to make certain everything is in order.
If you get caught without or are in an accident without, the consequences can and do involve nasty consequences. Don’t mess with a bad outcome. However, if you’ve applied for residency and only use taxis and public transportation you have no problem. Right now visas and residency applications don’t match up and it sounds like maybe one ministry here isn’t talking to the other.
2. Non-residents are no longer allowed to have a bank account. There are exceptions and we are exploring them now. However, you can imagine what a shocker that was for us upon arrival and how it might tend to rain on your parade. However, you can work around it if you’ve anticipated the unexpected.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.