Establishing Residency In Costa Rica

“Kathleen, thanks for your Thanksgiving e-mail. I enjoyed that.

“I will be moving to San Ysidro, Costa Rica, the first of December and would like to know how I can get by without establishing residency?”

–Don S., United States

Staying under the legal residency radar indefinitely is harder and harder to do in Central America. Panama, for example, has been paying more attention to people who come and go every three months, and fines for overstaying your tourist visa are hefty.

Making these kinds of regular border runs, though, is your only option if you want to be in a country year-round but don’t want to file for formal residency. I think it’d get old quick, having to run off somewhere every three months for a few days whether you want to or not. That said, I’ve known many people over the years who have done this, not only in this part of the world, but in Europe and Asia, too. It’s an option.

If you want to avoid the administration hassle and expense of establishing formal residency somewhere, another (more interesting to me) option would be to become a PT–that is, a perpetual traveler. Rather than trying to base yourself full-time in a single country where you aren’t a legal resident (which means regular border runs and always the risk that you might be “caught”), move around among different countries as your wanderlust dictates. You could return regularly to any one place that particularly appeals to you without trying to base yourself there full-time (and illegally).

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