Finding Work in Costa Rica

Is it possible to work in Costa Rica?

Foreigners can only work when they are legal residents, and depending on
the type of residency they have. They don’t need a work permit. The only
exception to this rule is when you can do a job a Costa Rican is unqualified
to do. In this case, you can obtain a work permit (see Chapter 6). However,
jobs that will qualify you for a work permit are very scarce. If you do obtain
a work permit, it must be renewed annually. Pensionados, rentistas and
foreigners without permanent residency may only own a company, invest or
start a business. If you have questions about work permits, contact a lawyer
or Costa Rican Immigration.

I have some discouraging news for those living on small pensions and
hoping to supplement their income with a part- or full-time job or for others
who need to work just to keep busy. Finding work can be difficult, but it
is not impossible. In the first place, it is not easy for a Costa Rican, not to
mention foreigners who do not speak fluent Spanish, to find permanent work.

If you are one of the few foreigners who have mastered Spanish, you
will probably have a fair chance of finding work in tourism or some other
related field. However, your best bet may be to find employment with a
North American firm doing business in Costa Rica. The best-paying jobs are
with multinational corporations. It is best to contact one of these companies
before moving to Costa Rica. Depending on your qualifications, you may be
able to find a job as a salesperson, an executive or a representative.
When local companies hire foreigners, they are generally looking for a solid
educational background and an entrepreneurial spirit that some companies
find lacking in Costa Ricans. It helps to have a degree, preferably an MBA,
from a well-known U.S. university.

Even if you speak little or no Spanish, you have a chance of finding work
as an English teacher at a language institute in San José. Do not expect to
earn more than a survival salary from one of these jobs because the minimum
wage in Costa Rica is low. Working as a full-time language instructor will
not bring you more than a few hundred dollars monthly.
As supplemental income or busywork, this is fine, but you won’t
make a living on a par with the kind of lifestyle to which you are probably
accustomed. If you can find work at a private bilingual school, you can earn
more than $1000 a month. The competition for these jobs is very stiff;
preference is given to bilingual Costa Ricans and most foreigners hang on
to these coveted positions.

There is some work available for English speakers in the sportsbook
industry. However, some sportsbooks may be forced to move to other
countries because of a change in regulation here.

Try putting one of your skills to use by providing some service to the large
expatriate community in Costa Rica. Most people have a talent or specialty
they can offer. For example, if you are a writer, journalist or have experience
in advertising, you might look for work at one of Costa Rica’s two English language
newspapers. Unfortunately, if you are a retired professional such
as a doctor, dentist or lawyer, you cannot practice in Costa Rica because of
certain restrictions, but you can offer your services as a consultant to other
foreigners and retirees.

As if finding work were not hard enough in Costa Rica, a work permit or
residency is required before foreigners can work legally. Labor laws are very
strict and the government does not want foreigners taking jobs away from Costa
Ricans. In theory, companies are not allowed to have more than 10 percent
foreign labor. It is actually much lower in practice. You are only allowed to work
if you can perform specialized work that a Costa Rican cannot do. However,
many foreigners work for under-the-table pay without a work permit.

Some of the fortunate who have found work here complain about contract
discrepancies like getting paid the full amount offered during the interview,
getting paid in colones and not dollars, payment delays, unannounced,
gradual salary cutbacks, not recognizing college degrees from the States
(English teachers who have master’s degrees or Ph.D.s do not get better
salaries or positions in language schools unless they have mastered Spanish
as well), crazy work ethics, no political correctness or professionalism and
other issues that can rub foreign employees the wrong way.

If you do not seek remuneration, you can always find volunteer work
to keep yourself busy. Volunteer work is legal, so you will not need a work
permit or run the risk of being deported for working illegally.

Check out and the Sunday classified job ads
in La Nación for possible jobs. You will see some firms are seeking English
speakers for sales, call centers and sportsbooks.

What brings younger people to Costa Rica?
By Jacqueline Passey

Costa Rica is not just for retirees! Younger folk move to Costa Rica too.
Younger folk move to Costa Rica for many of the same reasons older
people do – the climate, the natural beauty, the lower cost of living, the
culture and lifestyle, or to start a new life somewhere new. However,
they usually move here without as many assets as older people possess
and thus are not ready to retire or invest a substantial amount in a local
business. So most come here as students, volunteers, teachers, employees
of multinational companies, freelancers or self-employed business people,
with their parents, or as spouses of Ticos.

Many younger people who visit Costa Rica as tourists, students, or
volunteers like the country so much that they want to stay. One of the
easiest legal ways to do this is to teach English or teach in an international
school. Although it doesn’t pay very well (frequently not enough to
pay off debts or save for a house or retirement in their home countries)
many people find it to be enough to live on here, and teachers with more
qualifications (degrees, teaching certificates, experience) make a lot more
and have more job opportunities than less qualified teachers.

Globalization and the internet are bringing more and more
multinational businesses to Costa Rica. Many companies have set up
customer support offices in Costa Rica employing a mix of English-speaking
Ticos and foreign consultants. In particular, the internet gambling industry
(online sports books, casinos, and poker rooms) employs many foreigners
as consultants, managers, specialists, etc. One of the largest companies here in the PPH, Pay Per Head, industry is IDSCA and offers foreigners and English speaking Ticos a good paying job.

The internet is also making it possible for many freelancers and self employed
people to move here as well. Writers, artists, graphic designers,
webmasters, computer programmers, internet marketers, professional
gamblers and other knowledge workers can now work and sell their services
online from anywhere in the world and many of them choose to do it here.
They find that self-employment or freelancing via the internet is a great way
to make money at North American rates while only spending it at Costa Rican
rates, often allowing them to save money or support themselves with only part
time work.

Family and romance also brings younger people to Costa Rica.
Many children, teens, and young adults tag along when their parents move
to Costa Rica for retirement or business. Also, with so many travelers to and
from Costa Rica there are many opportunities for international romance.
As you can see, there are many opportunities to live in Costa Rica
even if you’re not ready to retire yet!

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