Legal U.S. residents are about 4 % of population

Graphic shows a jump in legal foreign residents between 2008 and 2010. The trend probably has continued.

The most recent government statistics show people from the United States still represent a significant portion of the foreigners living in Costa Rica officially, but the number staying in the country as perpetual tourists remains unclear.

The 2010 population of residents living in Costa Rica but born in the United States comprise 4 percent of the population of foreign-born residents, or approximately 14,000 people. Nicaraguans represent 68 percent of that number and Colombians represent 6 percent.

Over the past decade Colombian immigrants living in Costa Rica have surpassed in number those from Panamá, El Salvador and the United States. In 1970 there were approximately 25,000 immigrants living as residents in Costa Rica. In 2010 there were 374,000.
The number of immigrants in 2010 accounted for about 8 percent of the total population. Many believe the actual number of people residing in Costa Rica, including Nicaraguan laborers and perpetual tourists, is much higher than reported.

The national immigration database recorded in 2010 more than 1 million arrivals to the country from visitors born in the United States and more than 400,000 arrivals by Nicaraguans. Clearly most of the Americans are actual tourists but many use the Costa Rican immigration law that allows them to stay for three months, then leave the country and return for three months more, as a way to perpetually live abroad without becoming a legal resident. And many Nicaraguans enter and work illegally in the country.

For example several weeks ago the Fuerza Pública apprehended a truck carrying dozens of undocumented Nicaraguans near the border in Costa Rica.

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