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Three easy steps for moving to Costa Rica:

Step one

Visit Costa Rica on a vacation. Spend at least a month. Travel around and talk with other expatriates. Visit again in an other season when the weather is different and see if you like it as much as the first time.

Step two

Rent a house and live in Costa Rica for at least a year. You will have to leave the country for three days every three months. You can spend this time in your home country and use this opportunity to bring stuff to Costa Rica. The customs officials at the airport are very lenient. Do not buy a house or land right away. Get a feel for the country and try to find out who you can trust. Learn some Spanish. See if you can live through a whole year without yearning to go back to your home country. About half of the people who try give up within two years. Maybe you will miss your country or family. Maybe you won't like the weather.

Step three

Apply for residence. Buy or build a house.

Under Costa Rican law, foreigners and citizens are treated equally when it comes to property ownership. This means that you don't have to live here or be legal resident to be able to own real estate. Get a lawyer before you buy. He can verify in the Registro de Propiedad (Property Registry) that the title is clean. After the sale he will register the sale. If you need financing you can try owner financing. As of the middle of 2006 you are as a foreigner able to get a bank to finance your purchase. You can own in the name of a corporation or as an individual. A corporation, Sociedad Anonima, grants you a certain amount of anonymity and also protects you from the property being taken in case somebody sues you as an individual. Always be sure to include any obligations promised by the owner (water, road access, etc.) in the written agreement. If the promised time for completion of these obligations is considerable, request an amount of the purchase funds to be held by the attorney until the obligations have been met.

Also see the Legal Residence in Costa Rica Page!