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The difference between residency and citizenship

Staff Writer

There’s a marked tendency in our country to confuse "Residency" and "Citizenship" terms with each other, mostly due to ignorance on the subject, misleading information that we see in the media or simply what we hear from people around us. If you are a foreigner and wish to reside temporarily or permanently in Costa Rica, you should be well informed in this matter in case you are thinking to get your residency.

The definition of the concept of legal residency is “being established or regularly attend a given place, mainly due to work related situations”, while the concept of citizenship reads “process through which a citizen of a given state acquires the nationality of a second given state, with which the applicant has developed financial or marital links as a result of a prolonged stay in that country". If you become a resident in Costa Rica, it is important to understand that you will loose your right as resident in your home country BUT you definitely won’t loose your citizenship or passport, nor do you give up on any of the rights you have as a citizen of your country.

Reading through these definitions certainly clarify the difference between these two popular terms, making it easy to comprehend that residents are those who live or come and stay in the country in regular intervals of time while keeping their foreign citizenship. Foreigners who become citizens are those who have lived permanently in Costa Rica for a given amount of years, and wish to obtain the nationality or quit their natal one. In both cases, there’s several general requirements that one needs to comply with as well as a few “special” cases. 

In a scenario where you would be considering getting a temporary or permanent residency, the general requirements would be:

  • residency request letter authentified by a lawyer.
  • A copy of your (valid) ID.
  • An official birth certificate.
  • A recent and valid criminal record report.
  • Payment of dues for paperwork and process.

On the other hand, to obtain the Costa Rican citizenship you will need to comply with the following requirements:

  • A citizenship request letter authentified by a lawyer explaining why you want to become a citizen.
  • A copy of your (valid) ID.
  • An official birth certificate.
  • A recent and valid criminal record report.
  • Testimony of two witnesses
  • Certified proof of income reviewed by a lawyer.
  • Payment of dues for paperwork and process.

There’s different cases, each with their own specific requirements. You can go to our Immigration and Residency section page to see what those are. Amongst the few “special” cases, such as residency/citizenship for marriage, for having children born in Costa Rica or for being born abroad but having Costa Rican parents, there’s also a case (specially when it comes to getting your residency) that applies when buying Real Estate in Costa Rica and enables you to speed up the process, which is the benefit of getting your residency once you have invested US$ 200,000 in the country. A perk that comes with awesome benefits such as free healthcare that many of our clients find very useful and encouraging for their investments in Costa Rica.

Feel free to contact us for more information, we are here to help! 

Derrick Rowland, Remax Administrative Assistant