Which is best: Costa Rica Residency or Visa Border Runs?

Which is best: Costa Rica Residency or Visa Border Runs?

So here’s the deal, my wife Jasmine (Jas) and I have decided to pack up our lives here in San Antonio TX, and move to Costa Rica. Following our decision to reside in Costa Rica, we had to determine how to remain legally in this country. Can we simply do the perpetual tourist thing, or should we go down the long road to Costa Rica residency?

After announcing our move to Costa Rica on social media, we decided to document our experience on Blogging Moneys Life’s YouTube channel. We started a series called Moving to Costa Rica Update. In addition, we are producing monthly videos detailing each step we’ve taken. Then, on one of the early videos, we received an intriguing comment from a viewer.

He wrote that as an avid traveler, he does not recommend for us to pursue permanent residency in Costa Rica. He went on to say that we should wait until we have lived in the country for at least a year. But other than stating that “most ex-pats only last about a year or two in any foreign county…”, he didn’t offer any other explanation of why he felt this way. 

Now, of course, his comment left us with some questions. Who is this guy? What does he know about moving to Costa Rica that we don’t know?

What did we miss in our research? And what would living in Costa Rica with just a 90-day renewable tourist visa be like? 

Costa Rica has a long-standing relationship with deep ties to the United States. Because of this strong relationship, U.S. citizens are not required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica.

So to get in, all we have to do is present our passports to immigration, along with a ticket to show that we will exit Costa Rica within 90 days. Once they stamp our passports, Jas and I will be legal tourists for the next three months.

But for us, this just isn’t going to be enough time to get our “Pura Vida” fix. When we only have a passport stamp, we have to leave within 90 days, even if we return right away.

Girl walking across a bridge: pura vida moving to costa rica

We plan to live in Costa Rica indefinitely. So we have to fly to Panama or Nicaragua every three months. Then, once outside of Costa Rica, we only have to go back through border control and reenter.

But before immigration stamps our passport, they’re going to require us to show them another onward ticket proving that we plan on leaving again within 90 days.

Theoretically, if we follow the rules, we should make this border runs an infinite number of times. We can make the best of it and turn these border runs into mini vacations four times a year. Sounds exciting right? So, what’s the catch?

travel costa rica residency

For each trip, we’ll have to consider things. We have to think about the number of pages left in our passports and the cost of transportation and lodging. And not to mention the time spent on planning and travel.

After doing research, including reaching out to different people in the Costa Rica ex-pat Facebook groups, there’s plenty of people who are happy doing just this.

One YouTuber, Costa Rica Now, had successfully crossed the border over ten years before applying for residency.

To me, it seems like that having to rely on border runs is just a temporary solution with a lot of drawn-out hassle. Our current plan is to put down roots in Costa Rica. So we have decided to reach out to a residency lawyer and start the process before our big move.

From our research, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to applying for residency now. There are some upfront costs like lawyer fees and time spent gathering all the required documents but, I think all that will be offset by not having the border run requirement.

We started preparing for this process months before our actual move and our residency application has recently been submitted. Just by submitting the application, we are officially Migration Applicants and border runs are something we won’t have to worry about to legally stay in the country.

Any day now, when our application is processed by the Department of Immigration, we will then be granted Temporary Residency under the category of Rentista Residency.

Once we are officially Temporary Residence, we will immediately be eligible for CAJA, Costa Rica’s top-notch social health care system. This system covers 100% of medical procedures and prescription drugs through public hospitals and health clinics. This system is funded through a monthly tax based on a percentage of our income. There are also many excellent private health care facilities available if we choose to use them.

That’s not all, with temporary residency we are able to apply for a Costa Rica driver’s license.

beach costa rica residency

Our next milestone should happen a few years from now. After we have held a Temporary Residency in Costa Rica for 3 years, we will be eligible to apply for Permanent Residency Status.

Permanent Residents have almost all the same rights as citizens, except that they can’t vote or run for office. After this, to maintain this status, all we have to do is visit the country once a year.

So, after questioning ourselves if residency is the correct choice for us, we’re still confident that we are making the right decision. If we decide to leave Costa Rica early, we have nothing to lose except for some time and a little bit of money. For us, a little bit of money is always a fair trade for education and some life experience.

Which is best: Costa Rica Residency or Visa Border Runs?

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