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Visas & Work Permits in Costa Rica

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

There are many types of Costa Rican visas expats can apply for, but the first they must secure is a residence permit (either temporary or permanent depending on their situation). Read on to see how you can secure a work permit, whether you are a skilled worker or interested in a self-employment visa.

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Do you need to know how to apply for a Costa Rican visa? Our guide will walk you through the application process, including the requirements and fees you must pay in order to get your visa.

Costa Rica has several visa types available to expats, but incoming foreigners should take note that they do not all come with a work permit option. Work permits in the country are only for holders of permanent residents permits, although some exceptions may be made for seasonal or freelance work.

Use this guide to help you learn what you need to live and work legally in this beautiful, tropical country.

Work Permits and Employment-Based Visas

People looking into work permits and employment visas in Costa Rica may find the process difficult. Although the Latin American country is a popular expat destination, many of these expats are either retirees or self-employed workers who earn their income from outside the country. This is because Costa Rican law places great importance on employing its citizens and permanent residents before offering jobs to temporary inhabitants.

How Can I Get a Work Permit in Costa Rica?

If you have been offered a job by a Costa Rican company, your employer should apply on your behalf. Keep this in mind as you continue to read. Everything you need to submit for the work permit, you will instead give to your employer.

To obtain a work permit in Costa Rica, you must first apply for either temporary or permanent residency. Permanent residents may take up employment in Costa Rica without any restrictions. Temporary residents will have a harder time and must prove that their position in Costa Rica could not have been filled by a Costa Rican resident or citizen.

As a special note: expats should be aware that applications are not accepted on the last Friday of the month.

For more on how to obtain temporary or permanent residence in Costa Rica, see our section below.

Applying for the Costa Rican Work Permit: Special Category Residency

If you are interested in moving to Costa Rica and are unable to support yourself through unearned income means (i.e. income that is not the result of a salary or wages), then you will need to apply for a Special Category Residency permit. This is a work visa and a form of temporary residence that allows foreigners to take up employment in the country.

How to Apply for Special Category Residency

You will apply for the Special Category Residency in the same way you will any temporary residency. You must first apply for a provisional visa through a Costa Rican consulate. Once you receive this visa, you have 60 days to enter the country and apply for your temporary or permanent residency. You can read more about this in our Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent section below.

Costa Rican Work Permit Types

Once you have secured your Special Category Residency, you will need to apply for a separate work permit. Occupations that can apply to work in Costa Rica under the Special Category Residency include

  • athletes;
  • artists and entertainers;
  • inter-company transfers;
  • professional and technical guests;
  • self-employed individuals;
  • temporary and seasonal workers;
  • academic researchers, professors, and teachers;
  • interns.

Costa Rican Work Permit Eligibility

Eligibility to apply for a Costa Rican work permit will depend upon your specific case, but the greatest hurdle all foreigners will have to cross is proving that they are the most qualified candidate for the position. Costa Rica places great importance on hiring nationals before foreigners. You and your employer will need to provide sufficient evidence as to why you are better suited than a citizen.

Other eligibility requirements include an Apostille seal and/or notary stamps on all of your documents. Everything you submit should also be translated into Spanish. These translations should also have a notarized stamp.

Costa Rica Work Visa Requirements

Because you will not be able to apply for a work permit until you arrive in Costa Rica, you should make sure you bring all of your required documents with you. Make sure that all documents are translated into Spanish, and they should be notarized or contain an Apostille seal.

Documents needed to apply for the work permit:

  • work permit application form;
  • two passport-sized photographs;
  • birth certificate;
  • copies of your passport pages, including the ID page and even blank pages;
  • employer statement with details of your salary, length of employment, and job description;
  • Registration Documents and the Legal Constitution of the hiring company;
  • proof that workers insurance has been paid;
  • proof of sufficient financial means;
  • police clearance from your country.
  • proof of registration with a Costa Rican consulate (your provisional visa).

Other documents may be required on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you are married, you will need to include your marriage certificate.

You should also submit a letter with your application stating that you are applying for the work permit and the reason why. In this letter, you need to include your contact information, passport number and issue and expiration date, your nationality and date of birth, your occupation, and date in which you arrived in Costa Rica.

Applying for a Work Permit in Costa Rica

When you arrive in Costa Rica, you will submit all of these documents in-person to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Immigration Department). Keep in mind that you must have all of these documents with you before you arrive in the country. You will also need to visit the Ministerio Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security) to register your fingerprints.

Costa Rica Work Visa Cost

The cost of Costa Rica’s work visa, the Special Category Residence visa, is the same as any temporary residence permit: 28,300 CRC (50 USD). Expats should also keep in mind that this is just the application fee. You should also expect to pay around 73,600 CRC (130 USD) for the application process and 169,800 CRC (300 USD) to the government.

Business Visa

Those interested in visiting Costa Rica for temporary business will also need to apply for the Special Category Visa.

Family Visa

Expats who are able to secure a work permit in Costa Rica may bring their dependents with them. Dependents include a

  • spouse;
  • minor-aged children;
  • any-aged children who are disabled.

For more about family residency visas, see our Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent section below.

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Self-Employment Visas

When looking into a self-employment visa in Costa Rica, there are three options: The Special Category Residence permit, an investor visa, or a rentista visa. Each of these visas come with their own strict limitations. Expats should take note that obtaining the right to freelance in this country without permanent residency will be a hassle.

Costa Rica Self-Employment Visas: Types

Special Category Residence Permit

The Special Category Residence permit includes many different subcategories. Whether or not you qualify for self-employed work under this visa is sometimes dependent on how strong of a case you make and the discretion of the immigration officer viewing your application. Many expats do find ways to freelance in Costa Rica while using this visa.

One such subcategory that foreigners can look into is Trabajador de Ocupación Específica por Cuenta Propia en Sectores de la Agricultura, Construcción y Servicios: ​Specific Occupation Worker Self-Employed in Agriculture, Construction and Services. This allows expats to work on farms, conservation projects, and other such endeavors.

Inversionista Visa (Investor Visa)

As the name implies, this visa is for immigrants who plan to make a considerable financial investment into Costa Rica’s economy. This can be a conservational investment, such as purchasing land for preservation, home purchases, or opening up your own business. Holders of this visa must invest at least 113,187,420 CRC (200,000 USD), which needs to be already verified and registered at the time of your visa application.

If you choose to open your own business with this visa, you cannot be one of the staff members. You have to hire Costa Rican residents to work for you. You can read more about what it takes to open your own business in our Working section.

Rentista Visa (Resident Visa)

At first glance, this visa may not seem like a self-employment visa, but, depending on your situation, it can be.

The rentista visa is for expats who are able to prove 1,414,900 CRC (2,500 USD) per month of savings for the period of two years. This amount must come from unearned income such as savings, investments, or real estate property. If you can provide proof of this amount, then you are able to take up freelance work as long as you never need your earnings as part of your unearned amount.

Self-Employment Visa Requirements

No matter which visa you apply for, these will be the general documents you will be asked to submit for each:

  • application form;
  • two passport-sized photographs;
  • birth certificate
  • copies of your passport pages, including the ID page and even blank pages;
  • employer statement with details of your salary, length of employment, and job description;
  • registration documents and the Legal Constitution of the hiring company
  • proof that workers insurance has been paid;
  • proof of sufficient financial means;
  • police clearance from your country.
  • proof of registration with a Costa Rican consulate (your provisional visa).

You will also need to submit a letter stating the visa you are applying for and why. In this letter you need to include your contact information, passport number and issue and expiration date, your nationality and date of birth, your occupation, and date in which you arrived in Costa Rica.

Other Requirements

The process to apply for a self-employment visa varies depending on which one you choose. If you decide to apply for the inversionista or rentista visas you will need to provide financial proof that you have already invested 113,187,420 CRC (200,000 USD) or that you have a steady unearned income of 1,414,800 CRC (2,500 USD) per month for two years.

If applying for the inversionista visa, you will also need to submit the following:

  • detailed business plan of your proposed business;
  • letter stating how this investment will benefit the Costa Rican economy.

Self-Employment Visa Cost

You can expect the following costs when applying for either of these visas:

  • application fee: 28,300 CRC (50 USD);
  • visa processing fee: 73,600 CRC (130 USD);
  • visa fee: 169,800 CRC (300 USD).

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Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

Anyone wishing to stay in Costa Rica for more than 90 days will need to look into how to apply for a temporary residence permit or become a permanent resident. If you do not have a Costa Rican relative, you may find it difficult to secure permanent residency right away. Instead, most expats must live in the country on a temporary permit for at least three years before they can apply for permanent status.

There are many different temporary residents permits, including ones for senior and retirees, investors, and even some that allow foreigners to take up employment for a select period of time.

Keep reading to find out how you can make the land of sloths and volcanoes your new home. 

How to Obtain a Temporary Residence Permit in Costa Rica

Before arriving in Costa Rica, you must visit your nearest Costa Rican embassy or consulate and apply for a provisional visa. This visa will register you with the country’s immigration officials and states your intention to reside in the country for longer than 90 days. When you apply for this visa, you must tell them which type of temporary permit you plan to apply for.

Types of Temporary Residence Permits

There are four main types of temporary residency visas expats can apply for in Costa Rica. These visas do not allow foreigners to take up employment of any kind in the country. Money made from self-employed work will not count towards any of the required incomes.

For more about how to work in Costa Rica, see our sections on Work or Self-Employment visas above, as well as our page on Working in Costa Rica.

Pensionado (Retiree Visa)

There is no age requirement for this visa, but you must prove you are receiving your pension benefits, and these benefits must be good “for life.” You must also prove that you have a monthly income of at least 566,000 CRC (1,000 USD). Married retiree couples need to only show that one spouse is receiving this monthly amount.

Rentista (Rentier Visa)

This is also called the “legal resident” visa. It is for expats who have not yet retired but receive an unearned income of at least 1,414,800 CRC (2,500 USD) per month (16,978,100 CRC (30,000 USD) per year). This income can come from investments, savings, rental properties, or means other than work. You can prove this income with a notarized bank statement. Your bank can be international or local.

It is important to note that income from salary or wages cannot be applied to this visa. Married couples and expat families also need to only show proof of a monthly 1,414,800 CRC (2,500 USD).

Inversionista (Investor Visa)

To qualify for an investment visa, expats must prove they have invested at least 113,187,420 CRC (200,000 USD) into a Costa Rican business or real estate. This investment must already be registered and verified (it cannot be planned or pending).

Types of investments include, but are not limited to:

  • general business;
  • transportation;
  • hospitality (hotels, restaurants, bars, etc.);
  • tourism (including tours and amusement or adventure parks);
  • commercial and non-commercial real estate;
  • forestry preservation.

Temporary Resident Permit: Steps, Requirements, and Fees

Once you know the type of temporary visa you will need, you must apply for a provisional visa through the Costa Rica Consulate nearest to you. To apply, you will need to submit the following:

  • your passport plus copies of every page, including blank ones;
  • your birth certificate;
  • certified police clearance from your country of residence;
  • proof of sufficient financial means;
  • three passport-sized photographs.

All documents must be translated into Spanish and be notarized or contain an Apostille seal. You will also need to provide a certified letter (also written or translated into Spanish) addressed to the Costa Rican consulate, stating your reasoning for requesting the provisional visa. This letter must include your contact information; passport number, issue and expiration date; your intended date of arrival in Costa Rica; where you plan to stay upon arrival; and your profession.

Making an Application for a Temporary Resident Permit

After you receive your provisional visa, you have 60 days (two months) to arrive in Costa Rica and apply for the residence permit. You will apply for this through the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Department of Immigration).

Before you apply for this permit, you should make sure you have all the required documents plus their certified Spanish translations. Many of the documents are similar to the ones you will have submitted for your provisional visa.

  • Your passport plus copies of each page (including the blank ones)
  • Formulario de Filiación (official application form)
  • Letter of application (similar to the letter you submitted for your provisional visa)
  • Proof of provisional visa or registration with a Costa Rican consulate
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of sufficient financial means
  • Three passport-sized photographs
  • Police clearance from your country of residence
  • Any other documents related to the visa for which you are applying, such as a marriage certificate, employment contract, proof of investment, etc.

In addition to these documents, you will also need to register your fingerprints with the Ministerio de  Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security).

Required Fees

There are several costs that come with obtaining a temporary residency visa. The application fee is 28,300 CRC (50 USD). You should also expect to pay nearly 73,600 CRC (130 USD) in processing fees to the Department of Immigration plus 169,800 CRC (300 USD) for the actual residency permit.

If you are in Costa Rica on a tourist visa and decide to apply for temporary residence, you will be charged an extra 113,200 CRC (200 USD) fee to change your visa status.

How Long does a Temporary Resident Permit Last?

A temporary resident permit is issued for a period of two years. It is renewable and there is no limitation on the number of renewals. The renewal fee is 56,600 CRC (100 USD).

How to Get permanent Residency in Costa Rica

You can automatically obtain permanent residency in Costa Rica if you are an immediate blood-related family member of a Costa Rican citizen. Such familial relations include:

  • parents;
  • minor-aged children or siblings;
  • any-aged child or sibling with a disability.

For expats who have married a Costa Rican citizen, see our section on Spouse/Fiancée visas below. If you do not have this type of relation, then the only way to obtain this residence is by living in the country as a temporary resident for a minimum of three years.

Costa Rica Permanent Residency Visa Requirements

Once you have satisfied the requirement of living in Costa Rica on a temporary permit for a minimum of three years, the rest of the permanent residency application process is straight forward. Just like with your temporary visa, you will apply for permanent residency through the Department of Immigration.

Costa Rican Permanent Resident Fees

Fees for this visa will be similar to those for the temporary permit: the application will cost around 28,300 CRC (50 USD), you will be expected to pay a visa fee of 73,600 CRC (300 USD), and the processing will require about 169,800 CRC (130 USD).

What are the Benefits to Permanent Residency in Costa Rica?

In addition to no longer having to renew your temporary visa, the greatest benefit of permanent Costa Rican residency is the ability to work in the country. Although some temporary visa statuses do allow foreigners to accept employment in the country, the process to obtain this approval is difficult. Permanent resident visa holders are allowed to take up any form of employment.

After four years living in Costa Rica on a permanent residency visa (thus, living in the country for a minimum of seven years), expats can then apply for citizenship.

Family Visas: Marriage or Relation Visa

A marriage or relation visa (also known as a visa por vínculo) can be applied to any of the following relations of a Costa Rican citizen:

  • spouse;
  • parent;
  • minor-aged children or siblings;
  • any-aged child or sibling with a disability.

Extended family members such as cousins, in-laws, and grandparents are not included.

What is the Process for a Costa Rican Spouse Visa?

To apply for the visa por vínculo as a spouse, you will need to submit a notarized marriage certificate in addition to the items required when applying for general temporary residency. If you have been married for less than two years, you may be asked for additional documentation such as dated photos, bank statements, and sworn statements certifying your marriage is not a sham. You and your spouse will also be subject to separate in-person interviews with Immigration.

Once granted, this visa allows a spouse to live and work in Costa Rica for one year. After that, you will be able to apply for permanent residency.

 

 

 

 

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Updated on: July 01, 2020
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