1. Make sure that you have official documents in order:
As you start to get settled after your move to Costa Rica you will likely want to open a local bank account. The requirements for opening an account in Costa Rica vary from one bank to another. It is helpful to select your bank before your move in order to have a list of all required documents that you will need to bring from your home country. As a general guideline, the following documents tend to be required: identification in the form of a residency card or a valid passport, a public utility bill as proof of your place of residence in Costa Rica, proof of income, U.S.tax forms that notify the IRS of your offshore account and a deposit that meets the minimum requirement for a new account.
If you plan to maintain a banking relationship in your home country, meet with a bank officer before you leave. Let them know you plans and they will advise you on any special processes or documents that are necessary. If you have retirement income automatically deposited in the bank you will want to have a plan to access that money. For example, it is good to understand the process for wire transfers.
Documents from your home country that are required for the residency application process are much easier to coordinate before your move. The following required documents must be authenticated and translated into Spanish: birth certificate, marriage certificate, police report of good behavior, and proof of income or investments (depending on the type of residency you are requesting). The authenticated documents are valid for six months from the date of issuance making it important to organize the timing of the documents with the filing of the residency application.
2. Make a plan on how you will stay in touch with family and friends in your home country:
Set up reliable communications so that all important documents reach you on a timely basis. Most expats find electronic communications to be the easiest way to manage business and personal communications. You can set up a post office address in Costa Rica if you need to receive hard copy communications. There are a number of free or reasonably priced voice communication services such as Skype, FaceTime or MagicJack. Social media such as Facebook or Instagram also prove useful for the purpose of staying in touch.
3. There are federal and local tax rules that apply to expats:
Do you research about taxes. When living abroad you may: qualify for U.S. tax credits and exclusions, be subject to different deadlines for federal tax filing and have different rules regarding foreign earned vs. domestic income. Regulations regarding state income taxes are different from one state to another. The best source for the most current information will be an international tax accountant who can review your specific situation and provide you with guidance. Doing your homework up front will enable you to plan ahead in terms of tax obligations.
4. If you have children you will need to decide about school:
One option for school is the local public schools where, as an added benefit, your children will be immersed in Spanish. There are also private schools with teachers speaking English. Online school is becoming a popular option with many programs that meet all U.S. based educational standards.
5. Learn a bit of Spanish:
Yes, you can get by without speaking any Spanish in Costa Rica but nothing gains you more credibility in your new community than an honest effort, not matter rudimentary, to communicate in Spanish. There are free online programs, such as Duolingo, that help you get a start. Once you move you might want to arrange for lessons from a local in your community. This is a great way to continue learning the language as well as gain valuable local knowledge.
6. Understand the local culture:
Many things are approached differently than in North America. The quicker you understand and adapt to the local culture, instead of comparing it to your prior home, the more settled you will feel. For example, life moves at a much slower pace. As you adapt to the pace you will start to take advantage of a significant benefit of the pure vida lifestyle of Costa Rica.
7. Your Osa Tropical Properties team is here to help you:
The OTP team has extensive experience with expats who have moved to Costa Rica either for retirement or new business ventures. We will be happy to help you navigate the process of finding your dream home or business as well as provide guidance on the many details of making the move to Costa Rica.