Costa Rica's spectacular natural landscape, diverse wildlife, and access to outdoor activities have made it a desirable spot for digital nomads and remote workers to live and work in. Additionally, this vibrant country represents a wealth of opportunities for employers who wish to harness the country's widespread internet usage. Costa Rica has committed to investing in technological advancement as well as the skills and education of its population.
Whether you're an employee considering a move to Costa Rica or an employer looking to hire or relocate an employee to the country, this article will help you understand:
- The types of work permits and visas you will need in Costa Rica
- What the Costa Rica work visa requirements are
- How to obtain Costa Rica work permits and visas
Types of work visa and permits in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an extremely popular travel destination, making it a desirable location for remote workers looking to live and work abroad. However, while some countries make it easy for foreign nationals to move there for varying periods, this is not the case in Costa Rica.
While it's not impossible to obtain a Costa Rica work permit, the Costa Rica visa policy gives preference to Costa Rican citizens. So, if you're looking for a country that will readily approve your work visa, Costa Rica may not be the best choice.
However, depending on factors like your country of origin and the type of work you do, you may be able to apply for a Costa Rica work permit and have your application approved.
Consider the following groups of individuals who are eligible to work in Costa Rica and the types of benefits they enjoy:
- Permanent residents: When you obtain permanent residency in Costa Rica, you can live and work there as freely as Costa Rican citizens. It isn't easy to get permanent residency in Costa Rica. It is most commonly achieved through familial ties (e.g., one or both of your parents are from Costa Rica). Permanent residency may also be obtained after years of temporary residency in Costa Rica.
- Unconditional temporary residents: If you are an unconditional temporary resident, you get similar employment benefits to permanent residents and Costa Rican citizens. This means that you don't need a secondary work permit, and you can perform whatever job you're hired for. However, like permanent residency, temporary residency can be challenging to obtain and is reserved for individuals who are married to Costa Rican citizens.
- Retiree (pensionado) or annuity holder (rentista) residents: If you obtain this residency category, you cannot legally work in Costa Rica. However, you can earn money through business ownership that you profit from.
- Investor (inversionista) residents: Investor residency is similar to retiree or annuity holder residency in that you can own and profit from a business. However, unlike these categories of residents, investor residents are also legally entitled to work there.
- Telecommuting residents: If you have a telecommuting residency, you're legally allowed to live in Costa Rica and earn income by working remotely for companies based outside the country.
- Representative (representante) residents: With this category of residency, you can live in Costa Rica and work at an executive level for a company based in the country.
Individuals who belong to one of the above residency categories can enjoy the benefits of living and making money in Costa Rica. However, except for the permanent resident category, the above-listed Costa Rica immigration categories only allow temporary employment (although you may eventually be able to apply for permanent residency).
Most foreign nationals who wish to move to Costa Rica will not fall into one of the above categories. In addition to the above types of residency, Costa Rica has what is known as a "special category" of residency. Most other types of work that you may be eligible to perform while living in Costa Rica falls within the "special" residency category.
This "special category" Costa Rica work visa includes the following types of jobs:
- Individuals who have secured a job in the arts and entertainment industry (e.g., actors, painters, musicians, etc.)
- Professional athletes moving to Costa Rica to pursue their sports career
- Individuals who have been working for a company that operates internationally or within Costa Rica who wishes to relocate the employee to the country
- Individuals who are self-employed or freelance
- Individuals who have secured a seasonal or temporary job in Costa Rica
- Individuals who have secured a job in academia in either a teaching or researching capacity
- Individuals who have secured an internship with a Costa Rican company
- Individuals who are entering Costa Rica to operate as a technical or professional guest
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Costa Rica work visa requirements
To secure a work visa for Costa Rica, you will need to meet the minimum Costa Rica visa requirements and provide all the necessary documentation. Unlike in some countries, this requires participation from both the employee and the employer. The employer will need to prove that they employ the applicant and that the individual meets these requirements.
Although the exact requirements may change based on the type of visa you're applying for, the general Costa Rica visa requirements are outlined below:
- A completed application for the specific Costa Rica work permit you're applying for
- An application letter that includes the following information:
- Why you're applying for a Costa Rica work permit
- The job you're being hired to perform
- Where and when you plan to arrive in Costa Rica
- The address where you plan to live while staying in Costa Rica
- Your personal information, including your name, country of origin, passport number, birthday, and place of birth
- Up-to-date contact information where you can be reached (e.g., your phone number, email address, etc.)
- A notarized photocopy of every page of your valid passport
- Your original birth certificate
- Your original marriage certificate if you are married
- Two additional color passport photographs that meet the following requirements:
- Two inches by two inches in size
- Photographs are printed on paper that is photo-quality
- The photographs are no more than six months old
- Your entire face is visible and centered in the photograph, measuring between one and one and three-eighths of an inch in size
- Your face is in a neutral position (i.e., you are not smiling), and you're looking directly into the camera
- The photograph has a white or off-white background
- You're wearing everyday clothing
- A receipt that proves you've paid the fee associated with your application
- An employer statement that includes valid information regarding your employment, including:
- A description of the job you perform for the company
- How long you've been working for them
- Your current salary
- Additional employer information, including:
- Proof of company registration
- A copy of the company's policies
- Proof that you can afford to live in Costa Rica
- Proof that you have an active insurance policy
- A police clearance certificate that proves you're eligible for Costa Rican residency
- Proof that you've registered with a consulate of Costa Rica
How to apply for a Costa Rica work permit and visa
Applying for a Costa Rica work permit and visa is a multi-step process that requires employee and employer involvement. Employers looking to expand their international team to Costa Rica must first ensure they are legally entitled to employ individuals who live there.
Whether an employer is hiring a new candidate based in Costa Rica or relocating an existing employee to the country, having a legal entity in Costa Rica or partnering with an employer of record is essential.
In addition, an employee who is a foreign national must obtain both a Costa Rica work permit and a residence visa to live and work in the country legally. The process of applying for a Costa Rica work permit may change slightly based on the employee's country of origin and the type of permit and visa they need. However, it will typically include the following steps:
- Apply for a provisional visa. In Costa Rica, you will need a valid residence permit to live there. You can apply for a provisional visa from a Costa Rican consulate, which will entitle you to enter and live in Costa Rica. However, it must be used in conjunction with a work permit if you plan to work during your stay.
- Register with the Ministerio Seguridad Pública. You must register with the ministry of public security by providing your fingerprints.
- Apply for a work permit from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. You can apply for a work permit once you've entered Costa Rica from the Costa Rica immigration department.
When you apply for your residence permit and work visa in Costa Rica, you must include the documents listed above and any other documents required for the specific visa and permit for which you're applying.
In addition, you will need to pay any necessary fees and complete the application forms associated with your visa and permit. To ensure there are no issues with your visa application, consider working with your local Costa Rican embassy before entering the country.
Application processing time
The application processing time can vary, but it can take significantly longer for a work permit application process to be approved in Costa Rica compared to other countries.
On average, it takes three to eight months for a work permit application to be processed in Costa Rica.
Planning to hire or work in Costa Rica? Here's how Skuad can help
Costa Rica is a dream location for many remote workers, and employers looking to grow their global team may find themselves considering the possible benefits of hiring in Costa Rica.
However, the country has rigorous eligibility requirements that employers and employees must meet to work and hire in the country. If you're interested in hiring remote workers in Costa Rica, Skuad can help you onboard and relocate employees living there in minutes.
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding obtaining a Costa Rica work visa.
How do I get a work permit in Costa Rica?
How you go about getting a work permit in Costa Rica will depend on the type of work permit you need to obtain. However, the process typically involves the following steps:
- Apply for a provisional visa at a Costa Rican Consulate
- Have your fingerprints registered at the ministry of public security
- Bring your filled-out work permit application and all necessary documents to the Costa Rica immigration department
Can foreigners work in Costa Rica?
Foreigners can work in Costa Rica as long as they've received the necessary legal entitlements. If you're a foreign national hoping to live and work in Costa Rica, you will need to apply for the correct Costa Rica work visa that states you can both live in the country and fulfill the job duties you've been hired to perform.
It can be difficult to obtain a residence and work permit in Costa Rica. Plus, you cannot legally work in the country without having your visa approved. Therefore, ensuring you'll be entitled to work there before committing to a move is best.
Do you need a work permit to work in Costa Rica?
You must obtain a Costa Rica work permit before you can legally work in the country. Failure to do so may result in fines or other legal ramifications for both the employee and the employer.
How long does it take to get a work permit in Costa Rica?
It can take upwards of eight months to get a work permit in Costa Rica.
How much is a work permit in Costa Rica?
The cost to apply for a "special category" visa is 28,300 CRC (roughly $52). However, visas and permits may have additional costs throughout the application and permitting process.
Can a US citizen live and work in Costa Rica?
A US citizen can live and work in Costa Rica if they have a valid work permit. US citizens do not have special entitlements to work in the country without a work permit.