Part 2: Dream of Living Abroad? Here's How to Turn Dreams into Reality
Part 2 of 3: Fact finding, preparing for your move, and the single most important thing to do before moving to your new paradise
For those jumping in on Part 2, Part 1 isn’t necessary, but I recommend giving it a gander for some context unless you already know where you want to move. Here’s a link to Part 1: What We Did to Find Our Paradise, and How We Selected Costa Rica
Now that we knew Costa Rica checked all of our boxes, there were three major things we had to do to prepare for our big move:
Start studying Spanish
Read, research, and get as many questions answered as possible
Prepare for the move
STEP ONE: LEARN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE
While every journey is different, this is one thing that we firmly believe shouldn’t change, no matter your destination. Locals will thank you, and just as important, you’ll thank yourself. While becoming conversational in a language takes time and commitment, and fluency even more so, there is no other single skill that will help make your transition to your new paradise more smooth and pleasant than this. My number one regret is that I didn’t start sooner. Start today, stay consistent, and never look back. Your future self will thank you, every single day.
Full disclosure, I’m no language expert. I took two full years of Chinese at UC Berkeley and those 20 credits at a C average still haunt me to this day. That said, both Roya and I found great success with our Spanish studies, and in a few short months practicing 2-3 hours a week, we were able to become mildly conversational.
To do this, we used the following tools:
We began our journey with two weeks of every day DuoLingo - it’s free, fun, and a great way to get the basics down
From there, we scoured for online teachers and were fortunate enough to find Maximo Nivel - our teacher, Margarita, was thoughtful, demanding, and really helped us progress quickly during the two months before moving.
Before we knew it, our move date was upon us and we had to turn our focus to building our business and residency, so to continue our studies we purchased Olly Richard’s Story Learning method, which teaches you language through the power of story. Overall, I’ve found this method to be highly effective, as you read and listen to a story at the same time, then break that story down in a memorable lesson.
In the end, while we’ve made tremendous progress, we’re nowhere close to where we want to be, and both agree that our #1 regret in this entire process is not starting our Spanish studies earlier. I can’t encourage this enough. That being said, learning a language is a big deal, but every little step feels like progress.
STEP TWO: READ, RESEARCH, + GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Every country is unique and the world is full of bloggers, so we figured the easiest and least expensive way to get started was to find a blog from someone who had already been on the journey we were about to embark on. No reason to try an reinvent the wheel!
Jackpot! Enter Matt and Jenn, co-authors of the blog “Two Weeks in Costa Rica.”
For the next few weeks, Roya and I spent at least half an hour a day scouring through their blog (while intermixing a few others too), studying up on everything we possibly could, and scribbling down any questions we knew we wanted professional consultation on (attorneys, accountants, etc). To avoid boring you with questions specific to the Eyecare Clinic & Eyewear Gallery we were planning to open (we’re opening next month!), here’s the slimmed list:
How long does residency truly take, start to finish?
Can we work in the country before our residency is approved?
What types of residency visas are available?
What are the limits to working in your own business before having permanent residency?
How do import taxes work for the things we’d like to bring with us from the US?
Based on our situation, which residency visa do you think is best for us?
Which residency visa would allow us to establish permanent residency fastest?
Does CAJA insurance work for non-permanent residents?
What is Facturas Electronicas?
Best corporate structure for operations/taxes?
What will our tax implications be?
From here, we asked around for the best immigration attorneys and eventually got connected with Romulo Pacheco at ARCR. Romulo answered all of our questions and made us feel much more comfortable about our impending move, but where he really earned our business was he took the time to ALSO answer all the questions we had failed to think of as they related to starting an Optometry clinic in Costa Rica… and we still work with Rolumo to this day.
When we hopped on our phone call with ARCR, we had questions, and when we hopped off we had a game plan. ARCR provided us with a detailed list of all the things we’d need to do between then and arriving in Costa Rica, some of which included:
New (issued within 6 months) marriage certificate, apostilled in the state it was issued
New (issued within 6 months) birth certificates for each person, apostilled in the state they were issued
PRO TIP: I was born in Japan, and for anyone else born abroad, this process took nearly 5 months, so start early!
Certified FBI background check and fingerprinting completed here in Costa Rica
Based on our specific situation, and a lot of discussion with Romulo, we elected to move forward with the rentista visa, which required all of the above, alongside depositing $60k into a Costa Rican savings account. BEWARE: you can only access $2,500 per month over a two year period, so if you need access to that $60k immediately, this is not your route.
If you’re still exploring and just need the basics answered, I highly recommend checking out the “FAQs about Moving to Costa Rica,” by Matt and Jenn before paying an attorney for their time. Once you’re ready, the phone call we had with ARCR was 100% worth the time.
STEP TWO: PREPARE FOR THE MOVE
This part of the process will come in all shapes and sizes depending on your situation. Are you a minimalist in a small place? Kids? Pets? Established source of income while you’re abroad? Your responses to these questions and more will determine how wild and crazy this effort becomes. For us, the list included:
Renovating our house to prepare it for long term renting
Building our business from abroad so we hit the ground running in Costa Rica and start making money asap
Getting our pup, Mickey, safely across the border
Check out our post on successfully getting your furry friend to Costa Rica
Selling everything we owned
PRO TIP: This took a lot longer than you’d think… we held a garage sale, posted everything on OfferUp, and we were still giving away boxes of great stuff at the end
Hiring a property management group and renting out our house
We have been ENAMORED with Belong - truly blown away at how helpful they’ve been every step of the way.
Making multiple trips to Costa Rica to prepare for our full time arrival
For example, we took a trip 3 months before our final arrival date to purchase a car (so it was there when we arrived), complete our FBI fingerprints for residency, find a place to rent, etc.
Saying goodbye to all of our loved ones
Again, your list could look much different from ours, but when all was said and done… It took just 7 months from the day we decided we were moving to Costa Rica to the day we hopped on the plane to travel to our new home.
When you want something bad enough, you do what it takes to make it happen. Life’s too short for anything else! If you have questions about the process, please feel free to reach out! We’d love to hear from you and will be more than happy to assist in any way we can.
In Part 3 of this series, I'll detail how we are funding our new lifestyle in paradise.