Complete Immigration and Residency Update for Costa Rica: Where do you Stand?

By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica

Tensions are running high as we continue to endure COVID and its impact on tourists and those seeking legal residency in Costa Rica. Readers under stress are least capable of absorbing reams of information, so I will be as concise as possible in addressing or re-addressing some key issues.

March 2 visa expiry date:
Out of compassion for tourists and residency applicants in 2020, the Costa Rica government extended visa expiry dates several times throughout 2020. The final line in the sand was drawn for March 2, 2021. The history of and qualifications for this benefit was covered in previous articles, so I will only outline the responses required on your part for the sake of brevity. While the government has a habit of last-minute changes, this time, I would not count on any further extensions beyond March 2 and plan accordingly. If your visa was automatically extended between March and November 2020, you will not be able to apply for extensions. Depending on the category, some others can apply for extensions, but the process is arduous.

If you are applying for residency, proof of an appointment for submitting your applications to the DGME (Immigration) will get you past the March 2 visa expiry date. It is considered an act of good faith on your part, indicating your seriousness in pursuing legal status in Costa Rica. Once your application is actually submitted to the DGME (Immigration), you will be issued an Expdiente (proof of submission with case #). That then becomes the legal override of visa limits beyond that submission date and allows you to stay in Costa Rica indefinitely up to the date of your residency application approval. You will also be allowed to come and go – but – within COVID travel rules that include COVID insurance.

However, this visa override benefit does NOT apply to the validity of foreign driver’s licenses. Those remain tied to the visa stamp (duration) you receive upon your last entry into Costa Rica. Get caught driving without, and you are in for a terrible day: fines and license plates removal, just for starters.

Driver’s license validity:
I could fill this space with a lot of purple language I have heard about this infuriating situation. But as frustrating as this myopic policy remains, you will not be allowed to drive legally in Costa Rica past March 2 or any visa expiry beyond that date. There is a lot of pressure being brought to bear on the government from MANY quarters. Yet, no changes seem imminent as of this writing.

Land borders initially scheduled to open on February 1 have been delayed to March 1. That may also be delayed again. But assuming it holds, a run to the border on March 1 for a visa stamp might not be a good idea given the stampede likely on that day. And the place will plug up because many will not have complied with proper procedures. Though there is no required minimum stay of 72 hours, a border run will not be a simple in and out u-turn with a fresh visa stamp. All the COVID rules apply as outlined on the Costa Rica Tourism Board site: Best bets for refreshing visa stamps so you can drive: Flights out to Panama or Mexico or the U.S.

Canada has implemented overly draconian entry restrictions to the point that travel to there simply isn’t worth it before the end of April. The reason behind it is that last spring, there was a spike in COVID cases attributed to returning snowbirds and tourists from the Caribbean. These current entries or re-entry rules are designed to keep Canadians from leaving that country, given that their return will be so punitive. It will be a long winter. This will ease up by May 1. I mention this because some Canadian clients on tight budgets here in Costa Rica fear that they may not get back to see loved ones anytime soon in fear that these restrictions will hold throughout 2021. They will not.

Appointments for residency application submissions:
Pre COVID history regarding the Dactiloscopia (Fingerprinting Center) and the DGME (Immigration):

It used to be that we did not need to book appointments at either the Dactiloscopia (Fingerprinting Center) or the DGME (Immigration). It was a first-come, first-served situation at both venues, which allowed for same-day completion of procedures at each venue and done by 10 or 11 AM. Now appointments must be booked for both locations. This does not allow for same-day completion of both tasks. Applicants need to be as flexible as possible because this booking system and juggling client logistics and travel restrictions can get very complicated. Due to both these venues being closed most of 2020, there is still a backlog of applicants to be cleared who have been waiting since last March to have their application submitted. Most of those are now done.

Note: For those of you who wish to remain in Costa Rica but have just now begun your residency process or contemplating the same, be assured that in most cases, it is possible to obtain all required documentation while remaining in Costa Rica. And the cost of that added service is significantly less than you traveling back to do so yourself.

A white-hot issue. All incendiary comments to follow below aside, there is still a 50/50 split between those who desperately want the vaccine and those who seek to avoid it. Many U.S. clients have returned to the U.S. to get access to the vaccines. Those who remain here or are contemplating a move here are just as evenly split in their concerns. The emailed questions I get are evenly divided between: When can I get my shot? – and – Will it be mandatory?

I will answer the last question first. As of this writing, it will NOT be mandatory. But the official mandate is to vaccinate the entire adult population of Costa Rica. For ex-pat residents and those waiting on approvals or in the process of applying, it is going to be a long wait here in Costa Rica before access to it. The following is the prioritizing. (Not far off what I predicted in a previous article.)

Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes.
First responders, including health personnel.
Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up.
People with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease, and obesity.
Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP).
Imprisoned people and judicial staff.
Workers for the 911 service.
Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields.
People ages 40-57 without any of the above risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. This will include Laborers in agriculture, construction, service industries, etc.

For those who wait anxiously, I remind you that you’re in Costa Rica. It is a unique living environment with abundant, nutrient-rich foods grown in the richest soils on the planet. Take advantage of all that implies. Your immune systems will thank you for it. Costa Rica has always had a very robust vaccine program to protect our citizens. My family and I received them all. But the big piece contributing to Ticos being counted as some of the healthiest people on earth (with the most extraordinary longevity) is the traditional diet and outdoor lifestyle. Imitate that and get similar outcomes.

If you are in need of immigration assistance Laura can be reached by clicking here, Toll free at 1-833-733-6337, Locally at or by sending an email to [email protected]

How to Protect Your Assets Without Having a Corporation in Costa Rica

By Allan Garro – February 8, 2021

It has been a common practice for expatriates to buy real estate property and vehicles in Costa Rica and proceed by placing the title on a corporation created with the sole purpose of protecting said assets from possible liabilities, liens by creditors and other contingencies. Then these corporations do not generate any type of income and therefore maintain the status of inactive for tax purposes. At some point it was also a tool to avoid paying transfer taxes when selling a property, because instead of transferring the title, the shares were transferred.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, in recent times new regulations and obligations have been approved, causing owning an inactive corporation to be more expensive. Now it is necessary to pay an annual tax in the month of January, perform a stockholders report to the Central Bank during the month of April, and soon it will also be necessary to report on the amount of capital stock and the value of assets, as well as presenting annual tax returns, even when no tax is due. In addition, for about 7 years it has been mandatory to pay transfer tax when transferring more than 50% of the capital stock.

For all the above, some have decided to put the title of their property in their name instead of creating a corporation. Even so, the concern remains that the property may be prosecuted or encumbered by third parties when any type of personal liability arises. Something additional requiring being taken into account is what happens in the event of death, because it is very important to take precautions in order not to leave those loved ones with legal entanglements. In this article we mention a couple of little-known tools that may be helpful if certain conditions are met.

The first tool is called Patrimonio Familiar. Its main benefit is that real estate property with this type of lien cannot be pursued by creditors of any kind. For a property to have this benefit, it must meet the following requirements: 1. It must be a property used as a home for the owner and its family group. 2. The maximum size of the property is 1,000 square meters in urban areas, or 10,000 square meters in rural areas. 3. The affectation must be made by the owner in favor of the spouse, children or adults who have a disability or are over 65 years of age who are financially dependent on the owner.

To create the figure of Family Patrimony, it is necessary to appear in front of a Notary Public to request the preparation and subsequent registration of the document. Once registered, it will appear as a lien on the property title. The following should be noted: 1. The benefit does not apply to debts existing before the lien registration. 2. The benefit does not apply to the collection of debts with the local municipality for property taxes. 3. This type of lien does not replace a will or avoid having to initiate the Probate process in the event of the owner’s death.

The second tool is called Derecho de Usufructo or Usufruct Right. It can be used as rights of survivorship to guarantee succession of property to a loved one. To avoid probate some people just decide to transfer the property title to the chosen heirs while they are still alive. But that involves the risk that the beneficiaries will throw them out right away to use or sell the asset. But keeping the Usufruct Right, grants the right to live and enjoy the property for life, even though the title belongs to a different person. Basically, a donation of the property is made, but the right of usufruct for life is reserved.

Keeping the Usufruct Right grants that you will never be tossed out, not even in a tax foreclosure or any other type of legal action. The Tenancy Act even establishes that the Usufruct Right holder is the one legally authorized to even rent the property to a third party and receive the rent price over the title holder. When the usufruct right holder dies, the property title owner can request that the lien gets cancelled, being able to dispose of the property on any way, saving thousands of dollars on expenses and taxes for not having to go thru probate.

There are different ways to protect yourself and your assets in Costa Rica. Here you can see two that are rarely used but can be very effective and save headaches. In any case, when holding property in your name it might be a good idea to have some civil responsibility insurance policy and also a good insurance policy for your vehicle. Having a traffic accident can generate personal liability that can affect your other assets registered in your name

About the Author: Allan Garro was incorporated as a lawyer and public notary in 1996. He specializes in Litigation, Corporate, and Real Estate Law. He has also acted as an external legal consultant to Congress. He has been the author of more than 100 published English Language articles and can be reached at [email protected]

Costa Rica – Tax filing deadline for inactive companies changed again

Published Monday, February 1, 2021
Tax filing deadline for inactive companies changed again
By Garland M. Baker
Exclusive to A.M. Costa Rica
The deadline for inactive companies was March 15. The date has been moved to an undetermined future time. Tax returns will be due two and a half months after officials in La Dirección General de Tributación (the tax department known as the DGT) finally decide what they are going to do.
Expats are at their wits end. So are Ticos regarding all the indecisiveness. In six months the rules of the game have changed three times. At first, the form to file was the D-135. At the beginning of November that changed to the D-101, the same form active companies use. The understanding now is the new form they are working on will be named the D-101 Simplificado (that means simplified in English).
Really! Simple! None of all the news pertaining to the new tax regulations is straightforward. It’s all a bunch of gobbledygook. What is really going on?
Licenciada Xochilt Quezada, licentiate in public accounting, said in an interview “… people do not understand what they need to put on the required form. Most accounting professionals don’t either because what is recommended by the tax department is in direct non-compliance with generally accepted accounting principles and international financial reporting standards.”
In a nutshell, Costa Rica wants to the part of the OECD. That acronym stands for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. There are 37 members, with Columbia being the last to join. The invitation to Costa Rica to be number 38 in on the table, but to get into the circle the country must adhere to some pretty strict rules. OECD’s members and partners represent 80% of world trade and investment.
For admission to the OECD, Costa Rica need to get its tax house in order. The country seems to be trying to cut corners to do so, but tax professionals are calling foul.
Believe it or not, only a few years ago the tax department had absolutely no clue as to how many inactive companies there really were. Only the Registro Nacional had the information but not the fiscal authorities. They still do not know what they have in them.
The Registro de Transparencia y Beneficiarios Finales, known as the RTBF filing requirement, was the beginning of Costa Rica trying to get organized. Last year all companies needed to register their beneficial owners of all legal entities at the Banco Central on an RTBF form.
The DGT wants to link the information from the inactive tax returns, to the Registro Nacional. They will then cross-reference that information with the Banco Central to find who has what and how much it is worth.
The “how much it is worth” part is the problem. The tax people say they want the price of acquisition of assets on the tax return with no adjustments. Usually, to calculate the basis of an asset one takes the original investment, adds improvements, and subtracts allowable depreciation, casualty and theft losses.  Generally accepted accounting principles and international financial reporting standards both recommend currency adjustments as well among with other guidelines.
Many expats do not have a clue what they paid for their property because they came to Costa Rica years ago and have not kept good paperwork. Usually, the notary registering the deed of sale in the past used a fictitious amount to avoid taxes. Here is an example:
Bob and Alice came to Costa Rican in their 50s, around 20 years ago. They found a wonderful place on the beach, paid $100,000 for it, and put the property in a company called Paradise S.A. To save them money, Carlos, the notary for the transaction, put $10,000 on the transfer deed, so Bob and Alice would have to pay less transfer taxes at the closing and less property taxes each year. What is registered at the Registro Nacional is $10,000 still today.
The question is: What should they put on their tax form for Paradise S.A.? The legal paperwork states $10,000, but they have wire transfers for $100,000.
Why is this important? Capital gains!
Bob and Alice are in their 70s now and went back to the United States for better medical care. The property in Paradise S.A. is no longer their primary residence thus subject to Costa Rica’s new capital gains rules.
If they sell the place here for $100,000  — what they paid for it — will they need to pay tax on the $90,000 because their attorney lied on the initial deed?
Will they be legally liable because they signed incorrect paperwork?
All good questions. There are no definitive answers yet. Legal and accounting professionals are just guessing. Their opinions on the matter are all over the place.
There are an estimated 200,000 inactive registered companies that need to file the new required tax return. The fine for not filing the D-101 Simplificado — or whatever it is called in the end — is one-half of one Costa Rican basic salary or 225,100 colons (around $375 at today exchange rate). The statutes of limitations to question tax returns is four years, and 10 years for legal discrepancies.
What should expats do now?
Start getting their paperwork together, so they can work with an accounting professional to file the tax return correctly.
Keep reading to stay on top of the current events. This author is researching these Costa Rica’s tax matters that affect expats and Ticos alike. He will continue to do so until there is some clarity regarding the matters at hand.

Costa Rica Listed Among Nat Geo’s Best Places For Travel In 2021

Costa Rica appears in National Geographic Traveller magazine “Best of the World 2021” list, in which international editorial teams selected “35 incredible places to discover in 2021 and beyond”, under five categories: sustainability, family, nature, adventure and culture.

“The joy of travel comes from the unexpected. And while the pandemic was just that, brining journeys to a standstill, it has certainly not quieted our curiosity. With the new year comes the promise of a return to travel, and the eager to get going. The editors of the 16 editions of National Geographic Traveller around the world have lined up 35 of the very best places our planet has to offer for 2021 and beyond: superlative destinations that speak of resilient communities, smart sustainability efforts and unforgettable experience for port-pandemic explorations. The world is full of wonders – even if they’re hard to reach right now – so take this time to plot and plan your next journey and lay the foundation for that much-dreamed-about big trip.

The country appears headlining the sustainability destinations.

“Imagine a country that’s one-quarter national park, a place where you could hike in a rainforest in the morning and surf tropical waves in the afternoon. That country is Costa Rica. 2021 is the bicentennial of its independence, an anniversary it aims to celebrate by becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country. Already one of the greenest nations, conservation has been cultivated here since the 1970s, with drives to protect areas, close zoos and reverse deforestation. For a deep immersion, plot a course for the Osa Peninsula; an astonishing 2.5% of the Earth’s biodiversity is squeezed into 0.001% of its surface area.” (From National Geographic Traveller UK)


Munoz Global

January 26, 2021

In recent days we informed you that on March 15, 2021 the deadline for filing the Inactive Companies´ Tax Return (companies that do not carry out profitable activities in the country) expired and it was reported that these companies had to submit the Form D.101 that usually use the “active” companies to declare Income Tax.

However, on January 22, Resolution DGT-R-02-2021 was published in which the Tax Authority informs that the deadline for filing the Tax Return of Inactive Companies has been postponed and a new simplified form will be issued for these companies. so that they can easily declare their assets and liabilities.

The new term will be 2 months and 15 days after the Tax Administration publishes the new Simplified Form that will be used. In this way, the presentation is suspended until the Form is published.

The Resolution adds that the term remains in force for entities that at the end of the period (December 31, 2020) were inactive but did have taxable activities at some point during that period, in which case they must submit form D.101, Income Tax Return on March 15, 2021.

Similarly, companies can voluntarily submit form D.101, completing only the information related to their assets and liabilities.

Similarly, companies can voluntarily submit form D.101, completing only the information related to their assets and liabilities.

Dentons Muñoz has expert professionals in the field who can advise you and give you the necessary legal support to comply with your tax obligations. Do not hesitate to contact our Tax Department to obtain more information about the scope and implications of this new regulation.

The Cuisine of Costa Rica



Courtesy Special Places Management and Rentals Costa Rica

If you like to eat (and who doesn’t?), Costa Rica offers a cornucopia of gastronomic delights to choose from. Restaurants abound that offer all kinds of international cuisine, and some of these are justifiably famous.

But Costa Rica has its own unique “cuchara” (a word meaning “spoon” that refers to cuisine). Don’t come to Costa Rica without eating at least once at a “soda,” which is not a fizzy drink but a humble mom-and-pop diner with authentic food and low prices.

If you absolutely must have a hamburger, be aware that it’s usually spelled “hamburguer” on the menu, and it’s often served with a slice of ham on top of the beef — putting the “ham” back in hamburger.

But if you want to explore a cuisine that’s a bit more exotic, here are 10 need-to-know foods you must try when you’re in this country.

1. Casado. The classic Costa Rican lunch, with your choice of beef, chicken, pork or fish, served with rice, beans, salad, sweet plantains and usually a type of vegetable hash called “picadillo.” Often enjoyed with a “fresco natural,” a fruit drink mixed with water or milk. The word “casado” means “married” — the idea being that any working man who packs a lunch like this surely has a wife who made it for him.

2. Gallo pinto. The traditional Costa Rican breakfast of mixed rice and beans, usually served with eggs, bacon or sausage, toast or tortillas, fruit, coffee and juice. “Gallo pinto” means “speckled rooster,” a reference to the color of the rice and beans, and both Costa Rica and Nicaragua claim to have invented it.

3. Chifrijo. A bowl of “chicharrones” (pork rinds), rice and beans. A delicious dish invented in Costa Rica, chifrijo has inspired legal battles over whether the name is a trademark.

4. Olla de carne. Beef stew with vegetables, potatoes, yucca, sweet potatoes, corn and plantains.

5. Arroz con pollo. Shredded chicken and rice, or try “arroz con camarones,” with shrimp instead of chicken.

6. Ceviche. Raw fish and other seafood marinated in lime, ceviche is a succulent appetizer usually served with crackers.

7. Patacones. Green plantains, mashed and fried, a delicious snack virtually unknown in the United States or even Mexico.

8. Tamales. Corn-based dough with pork or chicken, plus rice and vegetables, wrapped and cooked in a plantain leaf, traditionally served for Christmas.

9. Rondón. A popular Caribbean stew with coconut milk, fish, crab, vegetables, yucca and plantains. It’s said to contain whatever ingredients the cook could “run down,” hence the name.

10. Tres leches. Sponge cake soaked in “three milks” — whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes dessert is better when wet.


5 Reasons Why Costa Rica is the Best Place to Retire in 2021

From International Living – Kathleen Evans January 20, 2021

It is no surprise, year after year, to see Costa Rica earning top spots on such lists as “Happiest Places on Earth”, “Greenest Countries in the World”, “Blue Zones” and “Most Biodiverse”. International Living has been reporting on the splendor of Costa Rica for over 40 years. And even after a challenging year like no other, the thousands of expats who call it “home” can share plenty of rationale why Costa Rica remains a winner. Here are some of our top reasons:

Straightforward Residency Process

Costa Rica has made it fairly easy for foreign retirees to become legal residents. Although you can apply yourself, even with a high fluency level of Spanish there is a labyrinth of government red tape to traverse. Therefore, we recommend a local Costa Rican residency attorney to guide you through the process. It typically takes 10 to 14 months from the time of filing.

The majority of applicants submit under one of three initial categories for temporary residency. Once you have completed your third year of temporary you can apply for permanent residency.  Your attorney will give you a checklist of all the paperwork you will need for filing. The options are as follows:

  • PensionadoProgram: This requires proof that you have at least US$1,000 a month in income from a life-long pension from some source recognized as a major entity, such as state teachers’ retirements, a corporate/military/government pension, or Social Security. Certain annuities may qualify, but 401K and IRA plans are not recognized.
  • RentistaProgram: is for people without fixed retirement income or too young to qualify for Social Security. It requires proof of US$2,500 monthly income for at least two years or a $60,000 deposit in a Costa Rican bank approved by immigration authorities.
  • Inversionista Program: If you want to invest at least US$200,000 in Costa Rica in a business, commercial or residential property (including your home or a vacation rental), you can apply for this option. *The Costa Rican government currently (Dec 2020) has a bill before the legislature to lower this amount to $150,000.

You won’t be able to legally work as an employee in Costa Rica until you have your permanent residency, but you can own a company and receive dividends from it.

Affordable Medical Care

By almost any standard, Costa Rica has some of the best healthcare in Latin America. There are two systems, both of which expats can access once they have legal residency: the government-run universal healthcare system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as the Caja, and the private system. Both options are constantly being upgraded—new clinics, new equipment, and improvements in staff training. Despite the advancements, costs are low in comparison to those in the U.S. and even some European countries. Costs are about a third to a fifth of what you’d pay in the U.S., depending on the treatment. Drugs are also less expensive.

In the private system, you can pay cash out-of-pocket or use local private insurance policies from well-known international companies. Even if you pay cash, costs are low. Doctors, for instance, rarely charge more than $75 to $85 a visit, even for house calls. And visits to see a specialist will run you $90 to $110. Tests like ultrasounds are $75.  And even major surgeries are half to a quarter of what they’d be in the U.S.

With a government-sponsored network of hospitals and clinics throughout the country, the Caja provides low-cost healthcare services to citizens and legal residents. Although sometimes overburdened, this system has worked since 1941. It is mandatory for residents to join the Caja. The monthly payment is 7% to 11% of your monthly income claimed on your application. A dependent spouse is also covered.

Safety in a Peaceful Nation

Costa Rica abolished their military in December 1948, cementing themselves as a peace-loving nation amidst an often politically turbulent region. Nicknamed the “Switzerland of Central America”, Costa Rica shines as a beacon of neutrality and overall safety. The largest democracy without an army, this republic is progressive in its politics—embracing green initiatives, requiring equality for all, legalizing same-sex marriage, and respecting religious freedoms.

It is a place where pura vida (pure life) is not just a saying, it is a lifestyle.

Ease of Fitting in

Costa Ricans are known to be warm and welcoming. If you smile at them and “hola”, you are sure to receive them in return.  Having local friends is truly a gift to broaden the expat experience living here. Not only will you enhance your Spanish and learn Costa Rican traditions, but they can help you navigate this unknown territory—making life easier.

Woven into the colorful fabric of the population, you will also find expats from every populated continent on earth.  Foreign pioneers have long since found the magic of Costa Rica. What that means to you is a built-in group helping you ease into life in this beautiful place. There are countless ways to make new friends and learn new hobbies. In fact, your social schedule may even become busier in retirement! It won’t take long to find your “tribe”.

The Weather

Living up to its tropical paradise reputation, Costa Rica’s precedes it and with sun, sea, and surf – its notoriety is well deserved. Though just the size of West Virginia, this country boasts a wide range of different climates, so you’ll find a comfort zone for nearly everyone. With its long coasts of Caribbean and Pacific beaches as well as mountainous highlands, thick rainforests, and abundant valleys there are many different climates from which to choose.

The coastal areas tend to be warmer with temperatures ranging from 75F to 95F. However, once into a higher altitude, such as the Central Valley, you will have little need for air conditioning or heat with a perfectly temperate spring-like climate ranging from 65F to 82F depending on elevation and time of year.

How COVID-19 Changed The Residency Process in Costa Rica

By The Costa Rica Star – January 12, 2021

By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica

Happy New Years Everyone

Costa Rica Entry Requirements…

For entry requirements and recently announced new restrictions within Costa Rica, please click on the links below and also read part one “How COVID-19 Changed Costa Rica Immigration in the Eyes of Residency Expert Laura Gutierrez” a recently published article on December 29th.

You might also want to bookmark the U.S Embassy site ( Or your respective country) and even the Costa Rica Ministry of Tourism website

Be sure to “Refresh” the site each visit to ensure you are reading the most current updates.

That leads me to the subject of residency processes, which have very much been impacted by COVID and the above entry requirements and insurance costs.

As a reminder, there are two parts to submissions of applications for Costa Rica residency. The first part is a required visit to the Dactiloscopia (Fingerprinting Center) in San Pedro (part of San Jose.) Before COVID, it was merely a first-come, first-served situation. In an out in 30 – 45 minutes for fingerprinting and an Interpol background check. (Nothing to do with FBI, RCMP, or EU background reports.)

The Dactiloscopia visit results in a signed & stamped background report in hand. That gets added to the Residency Application package to be submitted to the Department of Immigration. Those used to be presented the same day to the Department of Immigration, where it was also a first-come-first-served situation before noon Monday to Friday.

That first-come-first-served-practice at both the Dactiloscopia and Department of Immigration abruptly changed in March.

In March, both these entities were shut down. In late September of this year, it was announced that both would re-open on December 1, 2020, by appointment only. Those of us with clients we knew to be ready to go by December 1 began booking appointments a few days before October 19 as the system opened a few days earlier than scheduled.

There have since been changes and glitches to the systems at the Dactiloscopia and the Department of Immigration. Hawkers out on the street in front of the Department of Immigration are offering “…appointments for sale…” make it evident that abuses have also taken place in bookings.

The onsite staff has also told me that the current system at Immigration is not sustainable. The former 500 visitors per day capacities that have been drastically diminished for the sake of applicant and staff safely – have been overzealous, to put it mildly. There is enormous pressure being brought to bear on the Department Of Immigration to expand capacity significantly. We remain optimistic that those much needed changes with soon be forthcoming.

In the meantime, applicants will need to be as flexible as possible with their schedules for future appointments as they come up. Making any new appointments currently requires a great deal of persistence. The Call Center bookers are doing their best to accommodate.

What will make it difficult for some applicants, is that their planned stay in Costa Rica this “season” is much curtailed. The reason being that, in place of the automatic 90-day visa stamps usually received before COVID, those stamps are now limited to the duration of the amount of COVID insurance purchased. IE: If one only purchased 41 days of COVID insurance, they received a visa stamp for 41 days. Not 90. There are ways around this at the Department of Immigration, as there is the option of service representatives to submit applications digitally with no in-person requirements initially. Once the digitally submitted application has been reviewed and processed for a proposed approval (likely 12 – 18 months from the digital submission date) only then will the hard copies of all documentation be required to be submitted.

As for the Dactiloscopia (Fingerprinting Center), all applicants must appear in person will fill out applications and fingerprint submissions. The resulting Interpol report must be included in the residency application package submission to the Department of Immigration, whether those submissions are done in person or digitally.

Applicants aged 65 + may show up to the Department of Immigration without an appointment (with their representative), provided that they appear between 7:30 and 9 AM. The same goes for submitting applications for Permanent Residency or submitting previously requested additional documents from DGME earlier this year. So stay in close contact with your chosen service provider to coordinate things amid this challenging situation as the government struggles to deliver services while maintaining safe conditions for all concerned.

Approval Times you can realistically expect:

Since March 2020, when the front gates to the DGME were closed to the public and all legal professionals, the staff continued to work on clearing the backlog of overdue approvals. I received several approvals each month. One came through in an astounding seven months. Another took over 25 months. The average ranged between 13 and 16 months.

Based on work slowdowns throughout all governments in all countries, particularly in Costa Rica, I caution all new and future applicants to lower their expectations and adjust their plans accordingly. I strongly suspect approval times to lengthen out well past 24 months unless there is a significant increase in investment funds, staff, and computer systems at the Department of Immigration.

With the government recently announcing the acceptance of the $1.5 billion loan from the IMF, such resources may materialize. Tourism and retirement add very significantly to Costa Rica’s GDP, so there most certainly will be a lot of pressure brought to bear on just such initiatives. I know readers tire of hearing this, but trust that there is a lot of behind the scenes dialogue between the private business sector, the Congress, and the Presidency.

In the meantime, as I always suggest, stay positive, flexible, and resilient. I remain humbled by so many clients who exemplify those qualities. They brush aside criticisms by the doomsayers and remain fixed on their goal of a good retirement life here in Costa Rica.

With worldwide pressures on food supply and prices continuing to rise sharply, Costa Rica, with its unique environment, ability to grow food year-round in the most ideal conditions on the planet, remains one of the best places to live and stay healthy.

A Complete Guide to Opening up a Corporation in Costa Rica

By Allan Garro – January 14, 2021

Many expats coming to live or invest in Costa Rica decide or receive advice that creating a corporation is the best way to operate and protect their investment here. There are numerous reasons why they decide to proceed with that, but establishing a business, opening a bank account, or obtaining asset protection seem to be the most common ones. The initial process of a creating a new corporation is simple, but that does not mean people understand all details and extra obligations implied, and which is the right one required for their specific purposes.

The most popular and usual types of corporations are “Sociedad Anonima or S.A”. and “Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada or Limitada”. There are also other types of corporations that exist, which are: 1. Empresa Individual de Responsabilidad Limitada, 2. Sociedad en Nombre Colectivo, 3. Sociedades en Comandita, which are silent partnerships and 4. Sociedad Civil or Civil Company. These types of companies are seldom used because they do not differentiate between liabilities held by the company and those held by the stockholders.

One more type of structure that can also be used here is to choose the option of those owning an existing corporation outside Costa Rica, like in Panama, Canada or USA, to proceed opening a branch in the country. According to articles 5 and 226 of the Code of Commerce, they must keep the same name, have a Costa Rican corporate ID number and also to have a local appointed legal representative. The process of opening the branch needs to be performed through a Costa Rican notary public, for which is necessary to provide proof of the existence of the corporation on a different country.

The Sociedad Anonima or S.A. it is equivalent to a standard corporation in USA and similar structures in other countries. It can be legally used on any permitted activity in the country. One important aspect to know is that this type of corporation has rights and responsibilities separate from their directors or legal representatives. After the corporation is registered it is valid to transfer the stock to any other person or corporation by endorsing the stock certificates and place the required entry on one of the legal books, but this is now subject to a newer regulation as explained later.

To register a new S.A. requires a Costa Rican Public Notary (which in the country needs to be a lawyer also) to proceed creating the articles of incorporation on a public document. To start a minimum of two stockholders are necessary, as well as to proceed appointing at least four directors, which are President, Secretary, Treasurer and Fiscal. After the incorporation, the stock can become property of one only person if that is required; also amendments or changes to the articles of incorporation require the approval of at least 51% of the voting shareholders to become valid.

In some cases, it is possible to find S.A corporations with appointed directors that current stockholders do not even know who they are. The reason is because probably only one or two persons requested the creation for a corporation and the other extra directors were appointed using the staff of the notary public or similar. In such case it is important to ensure those other directors do not have any type of power of attorney. Stockholders can remove any appointed directors and name new ones, but changes require further registration at the Registry of Corporations.

Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada or LLC companies might be a better choice. This type of structure is often recommended because, apart from giving the same liability separation provided by an S.A., it does not need to have a set of directors, but only a Manager as minimum. That does not prevent from appointing more managers if required. On this type of corporation, the stock cannot be transferred by simple endorsement since the rest of stockholders have the first right of refusal in any stock transfer.

Limitada companies are easier to manage and any amendments require support of 75% of the voting shareholders to be valid. They may also grant separate powers of attorney to other persons, not just to directors or managers. Using a Costa Rican Corporation is also the tool used by non-residents to provide some services or run a business that they could not establish in their name without legal status. Many other only use it for the purpose of holding assets acquired with their savings and monies earned on a different country, so their corporation has the status on Inactive for tax purposes.

The basic procedure to get an S.A. or Limitada corporation properly registered is as follows:

1. The Notary Public creates the articles of incorporation, which include the name, legal address, identification of the stockholders and appointment of directors o managers depending on the type of corporation chosen.
2. The document is submitted for registration online on the site, where only an authorized Notary Public can submit the registration document. Also the registration taxes and payment for an official publication is completed.
3. Under normal conditions, the registration process takes 48-72 hours to complete, unless there are any corrections requested by the Registry of Corporations.
4. Once the corporation is registered, an electronic document is sent to the Notary Public showing the general information and the assigned Corporate ID number or cedula juridica and the specific number for the creation of the legal books.
5. In case of an S.A. three legal Actas books are created: a. Asamblea General or General Assembly, b. Stockholders Records or Registro de Socios and c. Board of Directors Minutes or Actas de Junta Directiva. Same applies for the Limitada except the third book Board of Directors Minutes is not required because they do not have a board.

After the registration takes place some extra obligations that need to be taken care of are:

1. Proceed registering the corporation as Active or Inactive in front of the Tax Authority or Dirección General de Tributacion.
2. Since 2017 there is a tax named Impuesto a las Personas Juridicas or Tax on Corporations, which is an annual tax imposed for the existence of the corporation. The amount to pay is approximate 69,000 colons (around US$125 at present time) for Inactive corporations. It increases for Active corporations depending on their annual sales. Not paying this tax for three years in a row will cause that the government proceeds dissolving it.
3. Since 2019 it is mandatory to perform a report named Final Beneficiary Report to Central Bank of Costa Rica. This report is to inform who are the stockholders of the corporation. In case the stock belongs to another corporation it is necessary to disclose who are the stockholders on that other corporation, until persons are reached. Next report is due April 2021.
4. A new regulation is taking effect on March 2021. About this one there are 2 aspects of importance to consider:
4.1 All Inactive corporations will need to file tax returns, and also report the amount of capital stock as well as any assets held by the corporation. This might sound illogic, because if the corporation is inactive the rent tax is zero. However, there is something behind this, it is a way to control capital gains. If an inactive corporation sells three lots that can be considered a business activity subject to capital gains and rent tax.
4.2 Most inactive corporations have a basic amount of capital stock, but also have acquired assets like real estate property with a much higher value, paid with capital contributions from the stockholders. In this case it is advised to proceed adjusting the capital stock according to the value of new assets acquired. This will help preventing tax authorities assuming that the differences in value might represent an “unjustified increase of patrimony”.

Due to the new regulations involved in having a corporation, many have decided to dissolve their inactive corporation in Costa Rica. But it must be considered that transfer taxes must be paid in order to pass the assets on behalf of the stockholders or a third party. It should also be considered that if the assets are held in a personal name it is important to have a will in Costa Rica, specific to the assets acquired here. Keep a corporation still offers advantages like protecting assets from potential personal liabilities or to grant powers of attorney by having stockholders’ meetings on a different country, which can also be held virtually now. That certainly helps to take care of any urgent needs that might arise when the owners are not in the country.

About the Author: Allan Garro was incorporated as a lawyer and public notary in 1996. He specializes in Litigation, Corporate, and Real Estate Law. He has also acted as an external legal consultant to Congress. He has been the author of more than 100 published English Language articles and can be reached at [email protected]

New Gun Control Law in Costa Rica

Courtesy Roger Petersen –

Modifications to the gun control law of Costa Rica brings new limitations and stiffer sentences for violations.

The Costa Rica legislature has approved changes to the Costa Rican Gun Control Law (Ley de Armas y Explosivos Ley 7530) to further restrict the use of guns in Costa Rica. In this article, I will review the new changes to the law.

What weapons are prohibited in Costa Rica ?

Article 25 of the Gun Control Law was modified and now includes all of the following in the list of prohibited weapons in Costa Rica.

“Article 25 – Prohibited firearms, ammunition and explosivesRegarding the entry into the national territory, nationalization, manufacturing, tenure, carrying, use and marketing, are firearms, ammunition and explosives prohibited, as well as their parts and components:

Article 25

  • a) Those that, with a single action of the trigger, fire successively (inburst) more than one round. included are semiautomatic long arms, whose ammunition magazine has a capacity of more than ten shots, except those firearms that use ammunition with ring ignition, as well as short weapons whose ammunition loaders, whether manufactured or adapted, exceed a total capacity of seventeen rounds.
  • b) Artifacts that fire projectiles or explosive charge, which explode through impact, by proximity to an objective, time device or by the effect of an external force.
  • c) All conventional weapons, their parts and components, including the categories of: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, systems of artillery, war aircraft, warships, missiles and missile launchers, according to the definitions given by the Organization of the United Nations (UN).
  • d) Explosive or incendiary devices.
  • e) Any type of weapon classified as mass destruction and weapons prohibited, all based on international conventions or prohibited by international law, and any device designed for the dispersion of these.
  • f) High explosives
  • .g) Puncturing, tracer, incendiary and explosive ammunition of any caliber and shot silencers on any firearm.
  • h) All devices are capable of emitting electromagnetic pulses disabling, causing permanent damage.
  • i) All devices are capable of emitting sound waves or luminous disabling beams, which cause permanent damage.
  • j) The firearms contemplated within the prohibited platforms.

What are the penalties for possession of use of an illegal weapon ?

According to Article 89 of the law, the penalty for possession of an illegal weapon is 4-8 years in prison.  This applies to anyone  who “possesses, acquires, markets, transports, stores, enters into the national territory, nationalizes, exports, hides, fabricates, assembles, transforms, performs national or international brokerage or use of weapons prohibited by this law”

How can I legally own a gun in Costa Rica

In this section, I will review the requirements to legally own a gun in Costa Rica.   This does not automatically include the right to “carry” that weapon. That has additional requirements.

Article 24 of the Regulations to the Gun Control Law spells out the requirements to own and register a gun in Costa Rica.

  1. Fill out the application online at

2.    Provide a copy of your identification document

3.    Proof of no criminal convictions

4.    Provide proof of fingerprinting

5.    Pass the psychological exam showing mental fitness

6.    Provide all documents related to ownership of the gun

7.    Pass the gun handling examination

8.    Payment of the application fee

You must have Permanent Residency and a digital signature card to apply for the registration of a weapon in Costa Rica.

What if i own or possess a gun that is not registered ?

If you are found to be in possession of a weapon that is permitted by law but which is not registered with the Department of Weapons and explosive you could be subject to a 3-5 year prison term according to Article 88 of the Law.

What if my weapon is registered but I don’t have a carry permit?

If you are found to be carrying a legally registered weapon but you do not have a carry permit then you could be subject to a 2-4 year prison sentence.  If your carry permit has expired you will be subject to a fine of approximately 500,000  (a month Base Salary of Public Employee)

Restriction on the use of ammunition

The new law also places a restriction on the purchase of ammunition.  The owner of a registered weapon may only purchase ammunition for that specific weapon.

What if your gun is lost or stolen ?

The new law imposes the affirmative action to report the theft of loss of any firearm.  Article 88 TER of the law imposes a duty to any gun owner to report to the OIJ (Criminal Investigation Organism) and the Department of Weapons and Explosives the theft or loss of any weapon.

The owner has five business days (5) to file that report.   Failure to file a report when required to do so will result in 10-60 day fine.

Finally, the law has a transition period of six (6 )months to allow the owners of firearms permitted by law and which are not registered to start the registration process without payment of fines and penalties.