Move to Costa Rica from Canada
Each year, more and more Canadians are taking the leap and moving to Costa Rica. Continuously rated one of the world’s best countries to live and retire in, it’s not surprising that Canadians of all ages are choosing the Pura Vida lifestyle over the cold winters and fast pace in Canada. With a lower cost of living, fantastic healthcare and education systems, a laid back culture, beautiful natural landscapes and coastlines, adventures galore and growing economic opportunities, Canadian expat communities are flourishing in this diverse tropical destination! But moving to an entirely new country, regardless of the advantages, can be overwhelming. That’s why there are a number of key steps to consider before moving to Costa Rica. Here are 10 steps to follow if moving to Costa Rica from Canada is on your bucket list:
- Do Initial Research
Before making any decisions, it’s important to do your research. Learn about the culture, climate, and lifestyle of Costa Rica. This will help you to understand what to expect and how to prepare for your new life. Here is a list of things to research:
- Research the entry requirements for Costa Rica. Canadian citizens are required to have a valid passport and a return or onward ticket. They do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
- Look into the different types of visas available for longer stays. Costa Rica offers several options, including the Permanent Residency Visa, the Rentista Visa, and the Pensionado Visa. Each has its own requirements and qualifications, so it is important to research which one best fits your situation.
- Learn about the immigration laws and processes in Costa Rica. You will need to register with the Costa Rican immigration department and obtain a cedula (national ID card) in order to legally reside in the country.
- Research the cost of living in Costa Rica. Consider factors such as housing, healthcare, and transportation costs.
- Look into healthcare options in Costa Rica. The country has a universal healthcare system, but it may not cover all of your needs. It may be necessary to purchase additional private health insurance.
- Research the job market and opportunities for employment in Costa Rica. Make sure you have a plan for how you will support yourself financially while living in the country.
- Learn about the culture and customs of Costa Rica to better prepare yourself for the transition.
- Seek professional help, such as immigration lawyer or relocation agent, they can guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
Once you have gathered all the information and have all the necessary documents, you can submit your application and await the outcome.
- Choose the Visa that Best Suits You
One of the first things to consider is the visa requirements for Costa Rica. Canadian citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, but if you plan to stay longer or work in Costa Rica, you will need to apply for a visa. There are several different types of visas available, including the temporary residency visa and the permanent residency visa. It’s important to research and understand the requirements and the process of obtaining a visa. Here are the different visas available for those looking to stay in Costa Rica for an extended period of time:
- Permanent Residency Visa: This visa allows the holder to live and work in Costa Rica indefinitely. To qualify, applicants must first apply for and hold a temporary residency visa (listed below) and live in Costa Rica for 3 years. They must have a clean criminal record, a steady income, and a valid passport. The process typically takes around 6 months to complete and involves several steps, including a background check and an in-person interview with immigration officials.
- Rentista Visa: This temporary visa option is for individuals who can prove a steady income from a foreign source, such as an investment income or rental property. The applicant must show proof of a minimum monthly income of US$2,500 and must deposit US$60,000 into a Costa Rican bank account. The visa is valid for up to 2 years and can be renewed.
- Pensionado Visa: This temporary visa is for individuals who can prove a steady income from a pension. The applicant must show proof of a minimum monthly income of US$1,000. The visa is valid for up to 2 years and can be renewed.
- Inversionista Visa: This visa is for investors who are willing to invest at least US$150,000 in a business or real estate in Costa Rica. The visa is valid for up to 2 years and can be renewed.
- Digital Nomad Visa: This is the newest temporary visa for people who work online earning a salary from their home country of US$3500 (US$4000 if bringing family). It is valid for 1 year and can be renewed.
- Professional Visa: This visa is for foreigners who want to work in Costa Rica, it’s only applicable for specific professions and it’s granted by the Ministry of Work and Social Security.
- Youth Mobility Visa: Costa Rica offers a Youth Mobility program for Canadians between 18-35 to work in the country on a work holiday or as young professionals or internships
Some of these visa processes can take several months to complete and they require specific documentation, including background checks and proof of income. It is recommended to contact a Costa Rican immigration lawyer or agent for assistance with the visa application process.
- Plan Your Finances
Moving to any new country can be expensive, so it’s important to plan your finances carefully. Consider the cost of living in Costa Rica compared to Canada and make sure you have enough money to cover your expenses. It’s also important to consider the currency exchange rate and how it will affect your budget.
When planning your finances for a move to Costa Rica, it is important to consider the cost of living and budget accordingly. Here are some examples of average costs to help you plan your budget:
- Housing: Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a city center can range from SU$500 to US$1,200 per month, while a three-bedroom house in a residential area can cost between US$1,000 and $2,000 per month.
- Utilities: Basic utilities such as electricity, water, and internet can cost around US$150 to US$200 per month.
- Food: Groceries can cost between US$200 and US$400 per month, depending on your dietary habits and whether you are buying organic or non-organic products. Eating out in a restaurant can cost around US$10 to US$20 per meal.
- Transportation: Public transportation in Costa Rica is relatively inexpensive and can cost around US$1 to US$2 per ride. A monthly bus pass can cost around US$30.
- Healthcare: The Costa Rican national healthcare system is generally affordable, but if you want private health insurance it can cost around US$50 to US$100 per month depending on your coverage.
- Entertainment: A movie ticket can cost around US$8 and a gym membership can cost around US$40 per month.
- Taxes: Costa Rica has a sales tax of 13% and an income tax of around 10%.
These costs can vary depending on your location and lifestyle choices. It’s recommended to create a budget and track your expenses once you are in Costa Rica to ensure you are staying within your means.
It’s also important to have some savings for any unexpected expenses that may arise. In addition, having a steady income source is crucial, it can be from a job, a business, a rental property or a pension, etc. It’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor to ensure that your finances are in order before making the move to Costa Rica.
- Understand Health Care in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a universal healthcare system called the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social or CCSS) that is available to all legal residents, temporary and permanent, including expats. The CCSS operates a network of public hospitals and clinics throughout the country, and provides access to general practitioners, specialists, and other healthcare professionals.
Under the CCSS, all legal residents are required to pay a monthly contribution, which is based on their income, and in return, they have access to a wide range of medical services. The CCSS covers a number of services, including preventive care, general and specialist medical care, laboratory tests, and prescription drugs.
To access the healthcare system, expats must first obtain a national identification card (cedula) and register with the CCSS. Once registered, expats can access healthcare services by visiting a local CCSS clinic or hospital and presenting their cedula.
It’s important to note that while the CCSS provides comprehensive coverage, the system is not without its shortcomings. Some expats may find that the public hospitals and clinics are overcrowded, and the wait times for certain procedures can be long. Additionally, the availability of certain specialists may be limited, especially in rural areas.
As a result, many expats choose to purchase private health insurance, which can provide additional coverage and offer access to private hospitals and clinics. These private insurance plans can be more expensive than the CCSS, but they often offer more personalized care, shorter wait times, and a wider range of specialists.
Research the different options available and choose a plan that best fits your needs. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or an insurance agent to determine the best plan for you.
- Find a Place to Live
Another important consideration when moving to Costa Rica is finding housing. You can choose to rent or buy a property depending on your budget and your needs. It’s important to research the different areas and neighborhoods in Costa Rica to find the best place for you.
When looking for a place to live in Costa Rica, there are several options available to help you find the perfect home. Here are a few ways to find a place to live:
- Online platforms: Websites such as Craigslist, Facebook groups and local classifieds, can be a great resource for finding apartments and houses for rent or for sale. You can also use online real estate platforms such as Encuentra24 or Centralamerica.com, to find properties that match your specific needs and preferences.
- Real estate agents: Hiring a local real estate agent can be a great way to find a place to live, as they have access to a wide range of properties and can help you navigate the process of buying or renting a home. They can also help you with legal and financial matters, and can provide advice and recommendations based on your specific needs.
- Networking: Networking with other expats, local friends or family, or members of the community can be a great way to find a place to live. Ask around, if someone knows of a place that is available, they may be able to put you in touch with the landlord or owner.
- Long-term rental options: Some expats prefer to rent a place for an extended period of time, usually a year, to test the waters before making a commitment to buy or rent a property. Long-term rentals can be found online, through real estate agents or through networking.
- Visit in person: Once you have identified a few potential places to live, it’s best to visit them in person to get a better sense of the location, the neighborhood, and the condition of the property. This will help you to make an informed decision.
The process of finding a place to live can take time and it’s recommended to start looking for a place well in advance of your move. It’s also important to research the different areas of Costa Rica to find the one that best fits your needs and preferences.
- Decide How You will Get Around
Costa Rica has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses and trains, but it may be a good idea to have a car for more convenience. It’s important to research the laws and regulations for importing a car from Canada to Costa Rica. Here is an overview of the different transportation options available:
- Buses: The bus system in Costa Rica is extensive and covers most major cities and towns. Buses are the most economical way to travel and they run frequently. Buses are operated by different companies, some of them are public and some are private, prices may vary depending on the company.
- Taxis and Ride Shares: Taxis are widely available in Costa Rica and can be found at taxi stands or hailed on the street. Taxis in Costa Rica are generally safe and reliable. Make sure the taxi has a yellow plate, those are official taxis, and the driver is using the taximeter. Some areas of Costa Rica also have a private “collectivo” system of locals who pick up people in their own vehicles and take them to neighbouring towns for a small fee. Ride shares like Uber and Didi are also established in more populated areas.
- Car rental: Renting a car is a convenient option for those who want more flexibility and independence. Rental cars can be found at airports and in major cities. Keep in mind that driving in Costa Rica can be challenging due to narrow roads and heavy traffic in some areas.
- Domestic flights: Costa Rica has several domestic airlines that connect the major cities and towns. This can be a good option if you want to travel across the country quickly.
- Trains: Costa Rica doesn’t have a developed railway system, and train service is limited.
Note that public transportation may not be as punctual or reliable as in other countries, and it can be crowded during peak hours. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings when using public transportation, especially in the larger cities.
When traveling to remote areas, it may be necessary to use a combination of different transportation methods, such as a bus to a nearby town and then a taxi to your final destination. It’s also recommended to check for schedules and routes before traveling and to have cash on hand as not all buses or taxis accept credit cards.
If purchasing a car in Costa Rica is preferred, it’s important to be aware of the legal requirements and regulations. Here is an overview of the process:
- Research: Research the different types of cars available in Costa Rica and compare prices. It’s important to note that imported cars can be more expensive than locally made cars.
- Find a seller: Once you have chosen a car, find a reputable seller, either an individual or a dealership. Make sure the seller is willing to provide you with all the necessary paperwork and that the vehicle is in good condition.
- Check the vehicle’s history: It’s important to check the vehicle’s history, such as if it has been in any accidents, if it has been stolen, if it has any outstanding debts, etc.
- Purchase contract: Once you have found a car and agreed on a price, you will need to sign a purchase contract. This contract should include details such as the make and model of the vehicle, the purchase price, and the terms of the sale.
- Payment: Make sure to pay for the car in full, either by cash or by check.
- Transfer of ownership: The seller must transfer the ownership of the car to you. This process requires the seller to provide you with the original registration, a technical inspection of the vehicle and a proof of payment of the sales tax.
- Register the car: Once you have the ownership documents, you will need to register the car with the National Registry. This process involves paying a registration fee and getting the car inspected by the Ministry of Transport.
- Insurance: Once the car is registered, you will need to purchase car insurance. This is mandatory in Costa Rica.
The process of purchasing a car in Costa Rica can take some time, and it’s recommended to consult with a lawyer or an expert in the field to ensure that everything is done correctly and legally.
As an incentive for immigrants, new legislation now permits the import of a limited number of vehicles per person from Canada without import fees, if you have obtained temporary residency.
If you’re not a resident of Costa Rica and you plan to bring a car into the country, you will need a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for which you will have to pay a deposit. This fee will be returned when you leave the country.
- Earn Money while Living in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a growing economy, and there are many earning opportunities available, particularly in tourism, agriculture, and technology. Permanent residency is required to take up employment in Costa Rica, but there are several ways that an expat can make money from self-employment or business ventures while living in Costa Rica. Here are a few examples:
- Starting a business: There are many businesses and entrepreneurial ventures that can be started with relatively low startup costs, such as a restaurant, a tour company, or an e-commerce business.
- Freelancing: The gig economy is more popular than ever and many expats are finding success in freelancing. Common freelance jobs include writing, graphic design, programming, and photography.
- Remote work: Costa Rica has a strong Internet infrastructure and many expats are able to work remotely for companies based in their home countries. Positions such as virtual assistants, customer service representatives, or consultants can be done remotely.
- Real estate investment: Costa Rica is a popular destination for retirees and vacationers, so there is a strong demand for rental properties. Investing in a rental property can provide a steady income stream.
- Online selling: With the rise of e-commerce platforms, it’s easy for expats to start an online store and sell their products internationally.
- Teaching English: Many Costa Ricans are looking to improve their English skills, so teaching English can be a viable option for expats.
- Consulting: If you have experience or skills in a specific field, such as marketing, finance, or law, you can offer consulting services to local businesses.
Note that some of these options may require some initial investment or specific skills, but with research, planning, and hard work, it’s possible to create a sustainable income while living in Costa Rica.
It’s also critical to be aware of the local regulations and laws that apply to the specific business you want to start, to make sure it’s legal and compliant. It’s always recommended to consult with a lawyer or financial advisor to ensure that your income stream is stable and legal.
- Adapt to the Culture of Costa Rica
It’s helpful to learn about the culture of Costa Rica and how it differs from Canada. Adapting to a new culture and local customs can be challenging for expats, but there are several ways to make the transition easier. Here are a few tips for adapting to Costa Rican culture and customs:
- Study the language: Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country so learning Spanish is a great way to connect with locals and better understand the culture. It will also make it easier to navigate daily life, such as shopping and communicating with your neighbors.
- Meet people: Try to connect with other expats and locals. Joining groups or clubs with similar interests can be a great way to make friends and learn more about the culture.
- Immerse yourself in the culture: Attend local festivals, try the traditional food, and learn about the country’s history and customs. This will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture.
- Respect local customs: Costa Rica is a relatively relaxed and informal society, but it’s important to show respect for local customs, such as dress codes and social norms.
- Be patient: Adapting to a new culture takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself and others. It’s also important to understand that you may not always agree with the customs and traditions but try to respect them.
- Be open-minded: Be open to new experiences and try to see things from a different perspective. This will help you to understand and appreciate the culture better.
- Seek help: If you feel overwhelmed or need support, seek out resources such as expat groups or an international counselor.
Adapting to a new culture is a continuous process, and it’s essential to give yourself time to integrate. With an open mind and a willingness to learn, you can successfully navigate the cultural differences and fully enjoy your time in Costa Rica.
- Pack and Ship Your Belongings
When relocating from Canada to Costa Rica, it’s important to plan and organize your packing and shipping process to ensure that your goods arrive safely and on time. Here are a few tips for packing and shipping your goods:
- Make a list: Make a detailed list of all the items you plan to bring with you. This will help you to keep track of what you have packed and ensure that nothing is left behind.
- Sort and declutter: Sort through your belongings and declutter items that you no longer need or use. This will save you money on shipping costs and make it easier to organize your packing.
- Pack carefully: Pack your items carefully to ensure that they are protected during transport. Use sturdy boxes and packing materials such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts to cushion fragile items.
- Label your boxes: Clearly label each box with its contents and the room it should be placed in. This will make it easier to unpack and organize your belongings once they arrive.
- Choose a shipping method: Choose a shipping method that best fits your needs and budget. You can ship your goods via sea freight or air freight. Sea freight is generally cheaper but takes longer, while air freight is more expensive but faster.
- Hire a professional mover: Hire a professional mover to handle the packing, shipping, and customs clearance process. This will ensure that your goods are handled properly and that all the necessary paperwork is in order.
- Check customs regulations: Make sure you are aware of the customs regulations in Costa Rica and that you have all the necessary documents for clearance.
- Track your shipment: Once your goods are shipped, track the shipment to ensure that it arrives on time and in good condition.
Start planning your packing and shipping process well in advance of your move to ensure that everything goes smoothly. It’s also recommended to do some research and compare different moving companies to find the one that best suits your needs and budget.
- Address Legal Matters
Finally, to ensure a smooth transition, consider any legal matters that may need to be addressed before you move to Costa Rica. This will include making sure that all of your legal documents are in order in both Canada and in Costa Rica, especially if you are transferring assets. Here are a few areas to consider:
- Visa requirements: Depending on your citizenship and the length of your stay, you may need to apply for a visa. Research the visa requirements, prepare documentation and apply well in advance of your move.
- Residency requirements: To live in Costa Rica, you will need to obtain legal residency. The process can be time-consuming so, again, start the process well in advance of your move.
- Tax obligations: Fulfill any tax obligations you have left in Canada. Also as a legal resident of Costa Rica, you will be required to pay taxes there. Understand the tax laws and regulations and seek the advice of a tax professional.
- Importing household goods: If you plan to bring household goods with you when you move, you will need to be aware of the customs regulations. Make sure you have all the necessary documents and that your goods are properly declared.
- Real estate regulations: If you plan to purchase property in Costa Rica, it’s important to be aware of the regulations and legal requirements. It’s recommended to consult with a real estate lawyer to ensure that the purchase is legal and compliant.
- Health insurance: Make sure you have health insurance that covers you in Costa Rica, and that you understand the requirements and regulations of the local healthcare system.
- Power of attorney and wills: If you are unable to be present during the closing of a property or when signing other legal documents, you may consider granting power of attorney to a trusted person to act on your behalf in Canada and/or Costa Rica. You also need to draft separate wills for each country.
- Legal representation: It’s always recommended to have a lawyer or notary to assist you with any legal matters that may arise during the process of moving to Costa Rica.
Keep in mind that laws and regulations can change, so do your best to stay informed and updated, and to seek professional advice when needed.
Moving to Costa Rica from Canada can be a big step, but with the right planning and preparation, it can be a smooth and enjoyable transition. By researching visa requirements, finances, health care, housing, transportation, money-making opportunities, culture and language, packing and shipping, and legal matters, you can ensure that you are fully prepared for your new life in Costa Rica!