Join now
Log in Join

Working in Costa Rica?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like Working in Costa Rica with relevant information for expats.

Emanuele Casabona

Living in Costa Rica, from Italy

"Finding other expats to share experiences in San José with, helped me a lot. Thanks to InterNations."

Victoria Arrington

Living in Costa Rica, from the UK

"When I first heard about InterNations, I thought: This is exactly what I was searching for. What a great site."

InterNations - a community of trust

Costa Rica at a Glance

Working in Costa Rica

Working in Costa Rica has become an option for numerous assignees, since multinationals discovered the benefits of setting up shop here. Are you one of these expats? Or are you interested in the ecotourism sector? Read on for info on the economy, permits, and business etiquette in Costa Rica!

Agriculture and Tourism: Making Use of a Lush Environment

Traditionally, Costa Rica has been world-renowned for the quality of its produce. Coffee, pineapples, and bananas have helped to put Costa Rica on the map and provided a steady flow of income for the country. Although bananas and coffee are still a valuable source of foreign exchange, today, only about 14% of the workforce is still working in the first sector, accounting for some 6.2% of the national GDP. Industry and services have long overshadowed the importance of agriculture.

The nation profits greatly from its rich flora and fauna. The environmental protection agendas many nations contemplate are actually working in Costa Rica, blessing the country with a biodiversity that is almost unparalleled. Costa Rica was trailblazing in the introduction of the ecotourism concept, and it is the Central American country which attracts most tourists.

Tourism, as the country’s main source of foreign exchange, amounts for a respectable share of the GDP. It provides work for thousands — in hotels and restaurants, as guides and vendors. 

Foreign Influences in the Economy

The large influx of foreign investments Costa Rica has been experiencing for a number of years (mainly thanks to education reforms and the FTZ, see below) has changed the image of the country deeply. International giants such as Intel and Procter & Gamble were seminal in promoting working in Costa Rica as a real alternative and lucrative step for multinationals.

The economic transformation, which began with the rise of ecotourism in the 1980s, was successfully carried on through the international investments of the following decade. In all of Latin America, Costa Rica is among the countries with the highest level of foreign direct investment per capita. Today, the production of pharmaceuticals, microprocessors, medical equipment, food processing, and garments is among the nation’s top foreign exchange earners, and 22% of the workforce has found employment working in Costa Rica’s industry.

Multinational corporations have a large part in this: Intel alone created thousands of new jobs by building a major chip factory in the country, providing thousands of people with employment. However, as of April 2014, Intel announced the closure of its Costa Rican manufacturing facilities, which resulted in 1,500 layoffs. Bank of America announced roughly 1,400 layoffs.

The industrial sector aside, working in Costa Rica today means working in the service sector for a large majority of Ticos. Over two thirds of the workforce has found employment in this sector. This figure includes people in Costa Rica’s booming tourism industry.

Free Trade Zones

Free Trade Zones (FTZ) are one of the nation’s biggest assets and among the most important reasons why so many multinational corporations are interested in working in Costa Rica. FTZ are secured areas outside of Costa Rica’s customs territory. In other words, none of the usual customs regulations apply. Instead, the zones offer nearly universal exemptions on imports of necessary goods, materials, and machinery a company might need. The additional asset of a highly skilled and motivated local workforce makes Costa Rica’s FTZs a very attractive option for many multinational corporations.

FTZ are usually located within a short distance from major transport and economic hubs in order to provide companies with easy and quick access to anything they will need. One quarter of the goods and merchandise produced can be sold on the Costa Rican market.

Of course, all those incentives of the FTZs are not just offered because of altruistic motives. They benefit the local workforce, eager to start working in the booming production industry, and thus contribute a considerable share to the nation’s GDP.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

InterNations Expat Magazine