No, you don’t. Anyone can purchase a home with their passport or local identification (cedula). However, living here on a tourist visa can be a hassle as you have to leave the country each 90 days and then return on a new tourist visa which is normally automatically renewed for 90 days for North Americans or Europeans. Unfortunately, it is up to the agent at the counter for the length of renewal and you might assume you were renewed for 90 days and then look at it later and see only a 60 or even a 30 day renewal. The government is also always threatening to crack down on “perpetual tourists” which are those that constantly enter and leave on a tourist visa. It hasn’t really happened yet, but it’s always good to be prepared.
There are a few different ways to qualify for residency. In my case, I was married to a Costa Rican and qualified in that way, but if you are not, then you have the “pensionista” or “rentista” options in which you must show a monthly income of $2500 per month or you can be an “inversionista” which means you have invested at least $200,000 in the country. This can be in a business or by buying a home. As I was writing this, a new Tico Times post just popped up on Facebook with the same general topic, so I’ll share the link here.
Applying for residency requires some patience, but it’s much less stressful if you bring the needed documents in advance and if you have a trusted lawyer to file it all for you. You will need your birth certificate, your marriage license, and a police report which need to be apostille or certified by the State Department office in your area or certified by the consulate.
Finding a great lawyer is a must in Costa Rica because basically all documents and processes require a lawyer in some way, including every property transaction. You can also set up your own Costa Rican corporation which is very beneficial if you aren’t currently a resident. For other processes, you might not need a lawyer, but having someone to represent you who speaks the language can make these tasks, such as opening a bank account, a lot easier. Once you have gone in and tried to understand the logic and requirements in opening an account, you will understand completely.
Tristan & Newton Real Estate is always glad to help with all of the home purchasing and selling decisions and make everything go as smooth as possible. Any questions you might have about real estate or living in Costa Rica in general, just email Tina or check out the website for more information. For any legal or residency issues, Cecilia Tristan with Tristan & Newton and the law firm, Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan, is always available and enjoys guiding people through the process. Both are bilingual (Spanish and English) and can help you in whichever language you feel more comfortable.