Residing in Costa Rica

Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.

Choosing to reside in a foreign country is an exciting prospect for many U.S. citizens, and thousands have already made the choice to make Costa Rica their second home.  The U.S. Embassy exists to protect U.S. citizens abroad, and we hope that you have a smooth transition.  However, the Embassy is limited in its ability to assist with local laws and regulations and cannot intervene in personal matters involving business or legal transactions.  We offer the following sources of information for those wishing to reside long-term in Costa Rica, but we recommend that whenever possible, you consult with local government offices and seek local legal counsel to help you navigate Costa Rica’s residency requirements and legal systems.

Register with our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Enrolling will help us to better assist you in an emergency.

Read our Country Specific Information (CSI) for the basics on Costa Rica:

Review our lists of local lawyers and local medical care options.

Research how our Federal Benefits Unit may be able to assist you in Costa Rica.

Visit the Costa Rican government services website for points of contact and information for all branches of the Costa Rican government (in Spanish, updated and maintained by the government of Costa Rica).

Check out the State Department’s Tips For Living Abroad.

U.S. Citizen minors who also have Costa Rican citizenship must comply with departure requirements specific to Costa Rican children under the age of 18, called a Permiso de Salida. Please direct any questions regarding departure requirements to Costa Rican Immigration.  Contact Information for the main offices of Costa Rican Immigration:
Call Center:(506) 9000-7672
Address: Contiguo a la Dirección General de Aviación Civil, Uruca, San Jose

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.  For more information about the legal ramifications of dual nationality, please click here.

Tourists traveling short term in Costa Rica are allowed to use their valid U.S. driver’s licenses. If you are residing long-term, you will need to request a Costa Rican driver’s license. The Costa Rican Department of Transportation requires valid identification, valid U.S. driver’s license, medical exam, completion of a driver’s safety course and driving test, and a small fee.
For more information please visit the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section of our Country Specific Information

The Government of Costa Rica (RITEVE – RTV) requires emissions testing for all vehicles, regardless of whether they are driven or shipped into the country, and regardless of whether they are being imported permanently or for temporary use.

U.S. citizens wishing to drive or ship a car or motorcycle into Costa Rica are strongly encouraged to contact the nearest Costa Rican consulate for more information, and to delay shipping or driving a vehicle to Costa Rica until they are certain they have complied with the requirements

U.S. Citizens should be aware of the risks of purchasing and/or developing property in Costa Rica.  The Embassy has received numerous reports about American Citizens involved in property disputes in Costa Rica.  Unfortunately, substantial judicial process delays and/or unfavorable decisions are not uncommon in the Costa Rican legal system.  Please note that the assistance that U.S. Embassy San Jose can provide to American Citizens in case of fraud is very limited.  Federal government assistance to U.S. citizens involved in commercial disputes abroad is generally confined to helping the citizen navigate the host country legal system.  For example, we provide a list of local attorneys on our website and can share general information about the judicial system and dispute resolution procedures in Costa Rica.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is an excellent resource for general questions about travel with pets.