Living in Costa Rica


Citizens of the US, Canada or Western Europe entering Costa Rica without a visa are given a 90 day tourist permit.  Under this permit you are not allowed to work and must leave the country within 90 days.  You may renter the country again and receive a new 90 day permit if you are out of the country for at least a 72-hour period.  If planning to live in Costa Rica permanently or work in Costa Rica it is suggested you apply for residency.

Types of Residents:

Resident by bond with Costa Rican – person with Costa Rican spouse, children, parents etc.
Resident as a technician of a company
Retiree (Pensionados)
Dependent minor of current residents
Religious and/or political asylum

Each type’s requirements are different but all must provide:
•    Birth Certificate* – Original document and an Official Certified Translation to Spanish
•    Marital Status Certificate* – Original document with an Official Certified Translation to Spanish
•    Police Report* – Certificate issued by the Police Department of the applicant’s town of current residency.  It must be issued no more than three months prior to the time you present it to the Costa Rican Consulate or Immigration Authorities. This document must also be accompanied by an Official certified Translation into Spanish.
•    Formal Letter – Requesting residency, stating reasons and residency type requested
•    Passport Sized Pictures – 4 photos
•    Copy of Passport pages – certieifed by Costa Rican Notary Public
•    Costa Rica Fax Number – for notification purposes
•    Fingerprints – taken at Costa Rican Police Archive
*Documents must be notarized by the Costa Rican Consulate in the country of issuance.

All categories of residency application must be presented to the Costa Rican Consulate with jurisdiction over the place of current residence of the applicant (except Resident by Bond, Dependents and Political Asylum applicants which must be presented to Immigration Authorities in San Jose Costa Rica).

Healthcare System

The United Nations has ranked Costa Rica’s public health system in the top 20 world wide and number 1 in Latin America.  Life expectancy is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that of the US.  Healthcare costs are about a third of what you would pay in the US.

Costa Rica’s Government-Run Health Care System – With a government-sponsored network of more than 30 hospitals and more than 250 clinics throughout the country, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) has primary responsibility for providing low-cost health care services to the Costa Rican populace. Although sometimes overburdened, this system has worked well for Costa Ricans for the past 60 or so years. Open not just to Costa Rican residents, the CCSS provides affordable medical service to any foreign resident or visitor. Foreigners living in Costa Rica can join the CCSS by paying a small monthly fee–based on income–or they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS), valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in the private sector. In 2010, the government made it mandatory for residency applicants to become members of La Caja. The agency has been slow to work out the exact fee structure, but the average price is generally less than $50 a month.

Costa Rica’s Private Health Care System – Many of the country’s highly trained physicians and some dentists work in the mornings for the CCSS and operate their own offices and clinics in the afternoons and evenings. While private health care in Costa Rica is more expensive than that offered by the same doctors and surgeons through the CCSS, the price is still far below that of the average office visit in the U.S. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around $40-$60. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary, but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the United States. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S.–prompting a phenomenon known as “health tourism.” More extensive surgeries? A facelift averages $2,800 to $3,200 in Costa Rica, compared to $7,000 to $9,000 in the United States. A knee replacement may cost $11,000 in Costa Rica, but can be as much as $45,000 in the United States.

Pharmacies and Medicines

There are a numerous of pharmacies in Costa Rica and most of them stock most standard medicines available in Europe, Canada and the USA which cost up to 80% lower than those in the US. Pharmacists in Costa Rica are permitted to prescribe medicines as well as administer injections. Educated pharmacists are available to answer your questions and give free medical advice. Some pharmacies are open 24/7 and some even can deliver to your home.  Most have employees that speak English.

Applying for Healthcare

CCSS – National Social Security System
Foreign residents may opt for this insurance though most choose to use the private hospitals, clinics and emergency care as they are very good.

Coverage: Doctor’s visits, all medications, all examinations and hospitalization; Medical doctors are assigned to the patient; Full medications including dental and eyes.

Pros: May qualify you even if you do not qualify for INS insurance.  Very low premium.

INS – National Insurance Institute
Many foreign residents apply for this insurance.  Citizens may apply as well.
Many foreign residents apply for this type of insurance.

Coverage: Accidents, illness, hospitalization, office visits, lab work, medicines. Patient can choose the specialist. Also covers medical expenses in foreign countries but will only pay the amount of the same treatment in Costa Rica.  Medical expenses caused by an accident, sickness and maternity are covered up to $200,000 per year. For persons over 69 the coverage is reduced to $60,000.

No Coverage:
Any pre-existing medical condition; Dental or eye exams, treatments or glasses, preventive medical check-up; Illness or disorders related to female reproductive organs during the first 12 months of coverage; Birth of a baby during the first 6 months of coverage.

Pros: Elderly people do need to submit to a physical before they can get a health care insurance. Almost all surgical treatments are covered 100% with a small deductible.  As the medical expenses are very low in Costa Rica, this policy is more than enough.

International Health Insurance

The INS and other Insurance Providers offer an international insurance policy that covers your needs in Costa Rica and the rest of the world. The rates are higher but the coverage is still very reasonable.

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