Here is how you get to Costa Rica as a pensionado, which is the way we are doing it. Other types of residency are rentista (earning residents), representante (company visa) and inversionista (investor resident).
Pensionado residency requires proof of US$1000 per month from a permanent pension source or retirement fund. Combined pensions from one individual qualifies but you cannot combine pensions from two people in order to meet the US$1000 a month. This new income amount became effective in March of this year. You must remain in Costa Rica for at least 122 days per year. A pensionado can claim their spouse and children under 18 as dependents. You cannot work as an employee but you can own a company and receive income. You must exchange $1000 per month within a Costa Rican bank. This residency is renewable every year and you must enrol in the local government medical system. Also, a US$300 guarantee deposit per person is required for all types of residency. After three years of pensionado status, you may then apply for permanent residency if that is what you want.
So that part is pretty straightforward - you either meet the requirements or you don't. What confounded me initially was figuring what documents were required, the time line, and what to do with them. You want to work backward - when do you want to be entering Costa Rica?
You need the following documents:
1. Birth certificate - long form - required for applicant, spouse and all dependent children.
2. Marriage certificate (if spouse wishes residency). Proof of divorce is not needed.
3. Income certificate - Proof of pension of at least US$1000/month stating that it is for life and that it will be paid in Costa Rica.
4. Police certificate of conduct/record from your last place of residence. Required for applicant, spouse and any children age 18 to 25. This document has a lifespan of only 6 months for the purposes of the pensionado application. Ours are going to expire before we get to Costa Rica so we are going to have to get new ones again. I was a bit too eager with this process in the beginning! You want to leave this document for the last.
The birth and marriage certificates cannot be the ones issued when you were born/married - more recent versions are required. You get them from the province in which you were born/married. The cost is reasonable and the service is fast. I did it all on line.
So I had all these documents in hand earlier this summer and went to see the Costa Rican Consulate in North Vancouver because I had it in mind we could do our application through him. Well, you can but I found out you will still need a lawyer in Costa Rica to deal with Immigration there so you may as well just take all your paperwork with you to Costa Rica, give it to your lawyer and he will look after everything....which is what we are doing now. Your documents will still need to be "consularized" by the Costa Rican Consul in the country where the documents were issued. So we will do that before leaving Canada. We will meet with our lawyer shortly after arrival in CR and he will take us by the hands and lead us through the process (including getting drivers' licences). So much easier than trying to do it all myself...plus I don't speak the language! (yet).
I hope I haven't muddied the waters too much. When we started this process, there didn't seem to be any cut and dried instructions for Canadians written anywhere - it's been trial and error.