Applicants for work permits must submit the following documents:
1. Letter on certified paper to the Immigration’s Temporary Permits
Department outlining the reason for the request, with all necessary
2. Temporary work permit application, available along with the list of
requirements at the Immigration information desk in La Uruca district.
3. Four recent passport photographs.
4. A full set of fingerprints, taken at Puerta (door) 4 of the Immigration
office in La Uruca.
5. Proof of guaranteed income while in the country. This could be provided
via a letter from the applicant’s employer here.
6. Applicants who will be working for a government or international
institution in Costa Rica must provide a confirmation letter from the
7. Photocopy of the photo page and last entry stamp of the applicant’s
8. Guarantee deposit of $100 at Immigration’s temporary permit department
once the permit is approved. If the applicant is also applying for a permit
under a residency category, this deposit may be waived. The deposit is
refunded when the applicant returns home.
Immigration will approve work permits only for Costa Rican companies
authorized by Immigration’s Executive Council. Businesses that have a
long history of operating in the country are generally considered eligible to
receive foreign workers.
Good news! There is a new government decree that would speed up
residency applications for skilled professionals at multinational companies,
export firms, airlines, large hotels and banks.
The decree pledges that the government will process applications within
30 days of receipt. It also allows foreigners to present their documents in
Costa Rica, rather than in their home countries.
On paper, the decree markedly improves a process that lawyers, foreigners,
company executives and even the Immigration Director describe as so
bureaucratic and cumbersome that it reduces Costa Rica’s competitiveness.
Foreign investment requires speed and efficiency, and if one country doesn’t
make the cut, companies go elsewhere.
A main worry was competition from Panama, where foreign workers at
multinational companies can get a temporary residency card in just three days.
When the World Bank measured ease of doing business last year, Panama
ranked 11th of 31 countries in Latin America. Costa Rica ranked 24th.
The Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), a private nonprofit
that represents manufacturing, service and medical device companies,
lobbied the government to take action in this area.
The decree will help about 500 companies. Firms can apply for the new
benefits at a new, exclusive window at immigration headquarters in La Uruca,
a northwestern district of San José.
For a student permit, an applicant must submit the following:
1. A letter, on certified paper affixed with all necessary stamps, to
Immigration’s temporary permit department explaining the reason for
the permit request as well as the name of the local “sponsor” — a legal
resident of Costa Rica, tico or foreign, who will accept responsibility for
Residency and Related Matters 381
the applicant’s actions while he/she is in the country. Letter must be
certified by a local attorney or Costa Rican Consul.
2. Application form available at the La Uruca Immigration office’s
3. Four recent passport photographs.
4. A guarantee of $100, which must be deposited with the temporary
permit department after the permit is approved. Deposit is refunded
when applicant returns home.
5. Proof of the sponsor’s income here — a certified letter from the sponsor’s
employer, financial statements, etc.
6. Photocopy of sponsor’s identification card (cédula) or residency card
7. A full set of the applicant’s fingerprints, taken at the Immigration office
in La Uruca, Puerta (door) 4.
8. Photocopies of the photo page and final entry of the applicant’s passport.
9. Registration letter or card from the school where the applicant will study.
10. Minors must present a certified authorization from their parents.
In the past if you didn’t want to invest the time and money to become a
pensionado or resident, you could live indefinitely as a perpetual tourist in
Costa Rica. No paper work or lawyers needed to be involved. People just had
to leave for at least 72 hours every three months to renew their tourist visa.
However under the new immigration law you have to pay $100 for every
month you overstay. Bear in mind that the locals frowned upon this, much
as we do in our own countries, as this was done frequently and avoided the
“intent of the law.” The ARCR recommends you consider some form of
residency once you are certain you intend to stay in the country.
Under the new immigration law you can no longer repeat this process
over-and-over again to stay in the country indefinitely. You also run the risk
of being banned from the country for ten years if you try to do this. Also
keep in mind that it is virtually impossible for a tourist to work legally in
Costa Rica unless he or she marries a Costa Rican or has immediate Costa
Rican relatives. The Costa Rican Government is also beginning to change
their policies in relation to this, and some individuals may not be allowed
If you don’t want to bother leaving the country every few months to
renew your papers, you can stay in the country illegally. You no longer have
to pay the $0.90 fine for each overstayed month. The fine is now $100 for
each month overstayed.
If you re a snow bird who comes to Costa Rica for a few months a year
as a tourist on vacation and stays away for three to six months or only come
for a few weeks at a time, you will have no problem with immigration.
For those who spend a long periods of time here , it is always better to
have residency and your papers up-to-date because or you may be deported
at the whim of an Immigration official or if you get into any kind of trouble
and are in the country illegally. Costa Rica’s Immigration Law gives airport
or border officers the right to deport any illegal tourist.
Sometimes airlines give you a hard time if you are not a resident of Costa
Rica and try to travel with a one-way ticket.
One reader found the solution: “The last time I traveled I was unable
to board the flight bound for Costa Rica without an onward ticket. It was
the airline that made the fuss, probably because if they bring me to Costa
Rica without the onward ticket they can be forced to take me back to where
I came from by Immigration (and without pay). Since I was at the counter
to collect my boarding pass and ready to “come home,” to Costa Rica, I
bought a fully refundable ticket to Panama and got a refund in Costa Rica
by showing the airline a bus ticket to Panama that I bought for $7.”
Extending your stay
Effective March 2010, for a fee of $100.00 U.S. dollars, you can apply for an
extension of a temporary stay in Costa Rica in the Department of Temporary
Permits and Extension if:
* you were lawfully admitted into Costa Rica as a nonimmigrant in a tourist
visa or a one-entry visa category that is not ineligible for an extension,
* you have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible for an
* you submit the application for an extension of stay before (at least 20
days) your current authorized stay expires.
Extension of Stay Required Documents
1. A passport valid for at least six months
2. Original Birth certificate *
3. Police record *
4. Personal letter with a 10 colones stamp attached to it addressed to the
Director of the Department of Temporary Permits and Extension of
Stays at the Immigration Department stating your name, last names,
nationality, passport number, address and phone number where you will
reside while in Costa Rica and your reasons for extending your stay. This
letter must be signed in front of the Immigration clerk who receives
your application or it must be authenticated by an attorney. If the letter
is authenticated by an attorney, you must attach to it an additional 50
5. Extension of Stay Application is available at the Department of Temporary
Permits and Extension of Stays at the Immigration Department
6. Four recent frontal passport sized photographs
7. A certified copy of all pages of your passport authenticated by an attorney
in Costa Rica. Each copy must bear the stamp and signature of the
attorney who authenticated it.
8. An original return airplane ticket to your home country. The ticket must
have an expiration date and its departure date must be consistent with
the date when your requested extension of stay expires.
9. Proof of financial funds: You must bring $200.00US in cash, travel
checks, or a certified bank letter stating the current balance of your bank
account. The minimum balance of your account must be $200.00 U.S.
10. Stamp Fees: You must pay 175 colones for each month that you are
requesting the extension of stay. For example, if you are requesting two
additional months you will be required to pay 350 colones.
* Document is not required. However, in some cases the Immigration
Department of Costa Rica will require you to submit it. Document
must be authenticated by a Consulate of Costa Rica prior to coming to
Costa Rica, translated into Spanish (either in your home country by a
Registered translator, by a Costa Rican translator certified by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs in Costa Rica, or by a Costa Rican Notary Public who
speaks the language and certifies the translation), issued thirty days prior
to your arrival in Costa Rica, and be no more than six months old after
its issuance date.