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Restrictions On Non-resident Banking In Costa Rica

“Kathleen, a friend and I are interested in moving to Costa Rica sometime next year, and I just saw the following article in the Tico Times newsletter online indicating that immigration IDs are now required of anyone who wants to bank in this country. The story is here: Immigration IDs mandatory for online transactions. Is that correct? Could you explain what it means? Will we be able to get our Social Security checks ok and send and receive any payments we need to?”

–Linda M., United States

Expat friend David Stubbs, living in Costa Rica for several years, responds:

Indeed, yes, there are limitations for non-residents who want to bank in Costa Rica but not quite as severe as you’re describing.

Costa Rica takes its responsibility to implement know-your-customer rules very seriously. To open a bank account, you need to provide several documents–two bank reference letters, passport copy, etc. It is also very useful to be introduced to the bank, which is one of the many good reasons to find a good attorney as your first step when thinking about moving here (or anywhere). Also, for every significant inbound transfer to your account, you need clear proof of the source of the funds.

Now there is this new restriction that you must have a DIMEX card (national ID) to make a transfer. This does make life more challenging for non-residents; however, this restriction applies only to the use of SINPE, Costa Rica’s online interbank transfer/payment mechanism.

It does not stop a non-resident account holder from paying by check, using credit or debit cards, or making wire transfers in/out of the country. And, of course, it does not stop you taking out your funds and paying in cash.

Having said that, the SINPE service is very useful and allows online transfer to any other bank account in Costa Rica. Most people use it to pay all their bills.

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