San José

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San José Business Info for Expats

San José is not only highly lucrative for foreign investors and multinational corporations; the number of expats is high as well. However, getting there might be harder than you think. Read more in our guide on working in San José!
San José is Costa Rica's unchallenged center in regard to many different aspects.

The Tico Workforce and Expat Opportunities

As a result of the quality of education of every level as well as vocational training in Costa Rica, expats often face a number of obstacles that may obstruct your goal of spending a few years working in the beautiful Central Valley.

Challenges for Future Expats

Firstly, the number of job openings for expats is limited by default, as foreign companies and investors have to fill at least 85% of jobs in their respective businesses with Costa Rican locals. After all, the Costa Rican government has perfected its system of attracting foreign investments in order to benefit its population and all the FTZ benefits are not provided without ulterior motive.

Secondly, in order to achieve your goal of relocating to and working in San José and its surroundings, you have to be a highly qualified specialist whose skills cannot be found in the local workforce. If your position could just as easily be filled with a Tico, your chances are rather slim.

Finally, as always, there is the issue of acquiring a work permit for your future home country. And in Costa Rica, this is not exactly an easy task if you do not have anyone to help you.

How to Acquire a Work Permit

The most important piece of advice we can give you on the issue of getting a work permit for Costa Rica is: Don’t try it on your own if you have other options. The red tape and bureaucratic obstacles that you will face during the application process are considerable, to say the least, and future expats who do not have a good grip of Spanish, and particularly Costa Rican “officialese”, might soon feel overwhelmed.

Let Professionals Help

To avoid this problem, you have a couple of options. Of course, it is the easiest, least stressful, and most convenient way to let your employer take care of it. The multinationals represented in the Central Valley often have teams and divisions entrusted with the sole assignment of handling all bureaucratic matters for the company’s future expats prior to their arrival in Costa Rica. If you are fortunate enough to sign a work contract with one of those companies, congratulations! You should not meet any more hurdles on your way to expat life in San José.

If the former case doesn’t apply to you, there is no need to worry. There is an abundance of highly qualified immigration lawyers with years of experience in the field of work permits. We recommend making use of their services, as this will considerably speed up the application process. As legal advice in Costa Rica tends to be very affordable, there shouldn’t be any reason for you not to consult one of these professionals.

Know Your Rights: Working Conditions in Costa Rica

In the private sector, the typical working hours are from 08:00 to 17:00 but may vary from company to company. This is also the case for break times, which usually include a 30–45-minute break for lunch and two 15-minute breaks for coffee. Generally, there is an imposed maximum of 48 hours per week that an employee could work, with lower thresholds for night shifts or mixed shifts. If you agree to work on a public holiday, then you’ll receive double pay. Two weeks of annual paid leave are also allowed for every 50 weeks of work.

The Social Security system covers all employees’ hospitalization and medical costs, among other things. The employer contributes around 26% of the total salary, while the employee contributes roughly 9%. The fund also covers maternity, disability, old age, and death. Around 3% of the salary that is deducted goes into the pension fund of an employee.

Business Etiquette and Costa Rican Culture

Before undertaking any kind of expat assignment, make sure you know what you are in for. Prepare yourself for the etiquette in the business world of your future home. We have compiled a list of useful tips in our article on business etiquette in Costa Rica.


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