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Costa Rica Residency and Mandatory Registration with Social Security

Costa Rica Residency and Mandatory Registration with Social SecurityDid you know that resident expats have a mandatory registration with Social Security? When you move to Costa Rica, legal residency should be on the top of your list and this article can be of great help to your immigration due diligence.

Any foreign resident in Costa Rica that wants to obtain or renew their legal resident status must provide proof that they are covered by the medical insurance system of the Costa Rica Social Security Administration. This is referred to locally as Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social – CCSS.

This legal requirement applies to any category of Costa Rica residency either temporary or permanent that is granted under the Costa Rican Immigration Law. What is the process for applying for Social Security medical coverage in Costa Rica?

First of all, it depends if you are legally working in Costa Rica or retired. I will review the options below.

If you are applying for residency under the Pensionado (Retirement) or Rentista (Income Based) Immigration categories requires mandatory registration with Social Security. You will generally have to apply under the “Self Insured” (Asegurado Voluntario) guidelines of the social security insurance.

The self-insured program is a classification for individuals and their dependents that legally reside in Costa Rica but do not generate income from local Costa Rica sources.

How much Social Security should you payCosta Rica Residency and Mandatory Registration with Social Security

The Department of Immigration and the Social Security Administration have exchanged directives to establish the basis for the cost of this insurance. The amount that will be charged is a percentage (%) of the amount of income that you declared in your residency application.

The minimum basis would be $1,000 for Pensionado (Retirement) status and $2,500 for Rentista since these monthly incomes are the minimum requirements to qualify for those residency categories.

The cost of the insurance for the self-insured option is based on the following sliding scale. Generally, for residency purposes, they only apply the health coverage portion and waive the disability and death portion.

This determination is made during the interview process with social security which I will discuss below.

Income Range Colones

$ @ 497 (in 2012)

Health Coverage

Disability & Death

 Total % of Income
From 116,601 to 444,690

$234 to $895




From 440,690 to 881,380

$896 to $1,773




From 881,381 to 1,322,070 $1,774 to $2,660




From 1,322,071 to 1,762,760

$2,661 to $3,546




From 1,762,761 to 2,203,450

$3,547 to $4,433




From 2,203,451 and up

$4,433 and up




In order to start the process of mandatory registration with Social Security, you will first of all need to have some patience. If there is a regional Social Security Administration Costa Rica Residency and Mandatory Registration with Social Securityoffice in your are then you may start the process at that office.

First approval by immigration

On occasion, the regional office has required that the applicant of the mandatory registration with Social Security first obtain a health card from the local clinic or EBAIS center in your local jurisdiction. To prove your place of residence takes with you an electric or water bill for the house. Also, a copy of the lease agreement will be requested if renting. Either way, before you start the process you must have been approved by Immigration for residency and produce a copy of the final resolution issued by Immigration approving the residency.

Final approval by CCSS

The final approval of your social security insurance application must be done at any of the regional offices of the CCSS. The approval generally requires a personal interview with a social security administration officials who will evaluate your information, Costa Rica Residency and Mandatory Registration with Social Securityincome, age and then set the percentage that you must pay according to the sliding scale indicated above. The primary applicant will be the person that was the primary applicant on the immigration application form. Therefore, their spouse will be included as a dependent on the health insurance portion as well.

Included in your employer’s payroll

If you are a permanent resident and are working in Costa Rica then your process is much simpler. You can be included on the social security payroll account of your Employer. Once the employer adds you to the payroll account you will receive a receipt of registration referred to locally as the “orden patronal“. If you operate your own business and are authorized to work in Costa Rica your company can register with the Costa Rica social security department. Then you can include yourself as part of the payroll account.

Each applicant will have a different set of circumstances. In addition, the Social Security Administration evaluates such the determinations on a case by case basis.

This article about mandatory registration with Social Security is a must-read for all foreigners living in Costa Rica, no matter if you have residency or not. Future expats should have Social Security as part of their due diligence before moving to Costa Rica.

The Author

By Real Estate attorney Roger Petersen, author of the book The Legal Guide To Costa Rica and the Complete Guide to property taxes and the new Luxury Home Tax in Costa Rica. Bi-lingual real estate notary and attorney Roger Petersen assist us in many of our Costa Rica real estate transactions and closings. He also often provides us with interesting articles related to our business.

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