Residency Cédula Renewal
Under the new residency law in order to renew, you must
exchange a total of $12,000 per year as a pensionado or
$30,000as a rentista. Even if you spend only part of the year here, you must
still exchange this total amount. You can exchange it in as many increments
as you like, be it once or 60 times a year. I also recommend you show your
exchange each year, since it means less paperwork. This keeps you correctly
up to date at immigration.
You must keep all exchange receipts for the total required. The only
receipts accepted are those you get at a bank every time you change dollars
to colones. You can use any Costa Rican state or private bank to change your
money. The receipt must show your name, amount of dollars exchanged,
rate of exchange, and amount of colones received. You can then change it
all back into dollars if you wish.
You can renew up to one month your cédula expires (vencimiento). Try
to plan ahead like four or five months before the expiration date to avoid long
lines. You must renew at the latest within three months after the vencimiento.
Here are some things to remember when renewing your cédula at
* Migración (Immigration) has made a few changes to the process of
renewing the cédula de residencia.
* Timbres (stamps) — Deposit the money in the Ministro de Haciendas
general account at Banco de Costa Rica.
* Copies of cédula — You are required to provide a copy of the inside
front cover (your picture, cédula number), inside back cover (expediente
or file number) and copy of page with latest expiry date.
* Renewal without appointment — Thursday and Friday only. Get to
Migración early, like 6 a.m. (the gates open at 8 a.m.), as it is better to
wait a couple of hours early than four hours later. One resident I know
renewed his cédula in a few hours. He arrived at 7 a.m. and left at noon.
* Passport — You need to carry it with you because some are asked
people for their passport. For more information, see www.migracion.
Here is what one couple experienced when they renewed their cédulas:
“My wife and I arrived at 5:34 a.m. We got into line and began the wait.
A man came by and offered a place closer to the front of the line for 4,000
colones. This practice is not legal, but is not policed either.
“The man making the offer was selling music CD’s, mostly as a cover
for the other offer. Having more time than money and sharing the pirate’s
feelings about all things not legal, I declined the offer. They also offered to
rent me a plastic-chair-height stool for 200 colones. Later I was sorry I did
not take them up on that offer.
“We stood there until a bit before 8:00 am, when the line started moving.
At the gate they checked to see that we had the necessary papers:
1. My cédula (residency document that has to be renewed).
2. A copy of the pages with my picture, the prior validation stamp and the
3. A receipt for the 1,250 colones deposited to the Migración account at
BCR (Banco de Costa Rica).
4. “An application, which was passed out in the line about 7:30 . If you
had these items they wrote a number on the copy of your cédula and
let you inside the gate to proceed to another line, actually the same line
in a different place. I was number 80 in the line.
“By around 9 a.m. all of the people in line were inside and I could not
tell if they were letting anyone else in. I have heard that they only accept
300 per day without appointments, and only on Thursday and Friday. I also
heard that appointments were being made only in person, with a two to three
hour window and were for three or four months in the future. Apparently
someone else can make the appointment for you. But you have to go to get
“It took the better part of two hours to get to the window where a
person took all my papers and put my copy in their printer and printed my
information from their computer on the back of the copy of my cédula.
“Next, they instructed me to go to Window 3.
“At window 3 they took four above-mentioned items, put them in some
order and stapled them together. They told me it would be about an hour
and 15 minutes. It was now 9:45am.
“We went to the coffee shop and had coffee, talked, read, and at 11:00
returned to Window three. After about five minutes, a person came out with
a folder full of papers and began calling names. If you looked remotely like
the picture on the cédula, they removed the cédula from the packet of papers
and gave it to you. At 11:17am I had my renewed cédula in my hand and
we were on our way to the parking lot. We got to the car before the sixth
hour was up. So I paid for six hours of parking (3,000 colones).
Cedula Renewal at the Bank of Costa Rica
Legal residents can now renew or replace their identity cédulas at 32
Banco de Costa Rica offices all over the country. I mentioned the traditional
method above because some people have run into snags at the bank and
had to renew the previous way by going to Immigration. NOTE: First time
applicants have to apply at immigration and not at the bank.
The Dirección General de Migración or immigration department
has adopted a single format for all types of residencies, so this means that
rentistas, pensionados, permanent residents and others holding a different
type of residency can renew at the bank. They will get an identical cédula.
Those applying for their first cédula still will have to make their
appointments directly with the immigration department.
The renewal service begins with a call to 800-BCR-CITA (800-227-
2482) or see http://www.bancobcr.com/bcr_in.php?id=617. This is
the same number Costa Ricans call to make an appointment for passport or
driver’s license renewal, and other services offered by the bank.
During and after the telephone call, the appointments clerk checks the
residency status of the caller with the immigration department. So when the
foreigner shows up at the designated bank branch for the appointment, much
of the paperwork already is done. At the appointment, the bank clerk collects
the $48 fee and a $5 fee for delivery of the cédula via Correos de Costa Rica.
The foreigner submits prints of both index fingers and poses for a photo.
The cédula is made at the immigration department based on the data
collected at the bank. The finished cédula should be delivered in 22 days.
The new procedure reduces lines at the immigration department in La
Uruca and saves foreigners money because they do not have to travel to the
The bank program also is designed to reduce the infamous immigration
backlog. At one point 300,000 foreigners were awaiting immigration
appointments but the department could handle just 300 a day. Some
appointments were put off for more than a year, forcing foreigners to conduct
their lives and businesses with expired cédulas.
Here is one person’s experience renewing his cédula at the bank.
“I went this morning for my 9:40 appointment at BCR in Paseo Colon
for my renewal and everything went smoothly. I was helped around 10:00,
and was led into an office. The lady processed my payment 55USD in
colones (for 2 year renewal in my case) plus the 2600 colones for shipping.
They asked me for my exact address, fingerprint scan of both index fingers
and signature like usual. She then scanned my old cédula and the receipts
to keep on file I guess.”
“I was then told that I needed to pick up my new cédula at a post office
and was asked which one was most convenient for me. After I replied a form
was printed out and I was told to pick it up at the post office after June 15.
Once I was seen the whole process took less than 10 minutes.”
“In my case I have permanent residency and didn’t need to show receipts.
For those who have to show receipts my guess is that they will scan them
and check them later? “.
“Overall it was really great, I didn’t have to wait a year for an appointment
nor spend hours at migración on my appointment date. Viva el Gobierno Digital!”
“In addition the 800 number was a free call (800 BCR CITA/ 800 227
2482) and the BCR had free customer parking in the back. I little note
about the parking though: I pulled into the parking lot and went into the
shaded/covered parking area. The guard asked me to park outside the shaded
area as the covered area is for employees only. Oops, silly me, I forgot that at
government banks the employees come first and customers second. ¡Pura Vida!”