How to Obtain a Work Visa in Costa Rica
With its business-friendly laws and campaign to attract foreign investments, Costa Rica is a desirable hub for international companies. Generous tax incentives and a well-educated workforce have helped Costa Rica attract more than 250 foreign companies. The tropical climate, scenic beauty and low cost of living make visitors dream of living and working there. Yet, while Costa Rica welcomes foreign businesses, laws to protect its workforce make it a little difficult for expatriates to obtain work visas.
However, it is not impossible to obtain a work visa in Costa Rica as an expat. This article will show you what the process looks like.
Who Needs a Costa Rica Work Visa?
To legally work in Costa Rica, you must be a citizen or a legal permanent resident. If you do not fit into one of those categories, you will need a work visa.
However, obtaining a work visa in Costa Rica is not an easy process. Visitors may stay in the country for only 90 days at a time. So, expats also need a temporary residence permit to work in Costa Rica.
Your employer must prove that you have unique skills that cannot be provided by a Costa Rican. This is to prevent foreign nationals from taking jobs from Costa Rican citizens. With its well-educated workforce, proving there are no Costa Ricans who are qualified can be a challenge. Even jobs like teaching English are typically filled by Costa Ricans.
When you have a job and the right type of temporary residence permit, you can apply for a work visa.
Can You Work in Costa Rica Without a Work Visa?
Under certain circumstances, it is possible to earn money in Costa Rica without a work visa. Foreign nationals can earn income from investments or remote work for a foreign company. However, to work as an employee in Costa Rica, expats need a work visa.
The most common options for earning income without a work visa include:
- Working remotely online: Examples of these jobs include freelance writers and web developers. Remote workers still need a residence permit if they intend to remain in the country for more than 90 days. One legal workaround to the 90-day maximum stay is to go to nearby Nicaragua for one day, then come back for 90 more days in Costa Rica. This process is known as “perpetual tourism.”
- Investing in a business: With $200,000 or investment in a business or real estate, expats can achieve temporary residency in Costa Rica. This frees them from the need to leave the country every 90 days. However, this type of temporary residence permit doesn’t allow you to work in a business. Investors can open a business and earn income from it, but they must hire Costa Ricans as employees.
- Become a permanent resident: If an immediate relative — parent, child or sibling — is a Costa Rican citizen, you can become a permanent resident with full working rights. After three years, a person with a temporary residency can apply to become a permanent resident. To be eligible, the expat must have lived in Costa Rica for at least six months of the year.
The first step in each of these scenarios is legally entering the country. Citizens from most nations in the Americas and Europe can visit Costa Rica without a tourist visa. They can remain in Costa Rica for 90 days.
Visitors from other nations may enter Costa Rica without a visa and remain for 30 days. Citizens from some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East need a visa to enter Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Work Visa Requirements
If you intend to work as an employee in Costa Rica, you will need a work visa. The first step in obtaining a work visa in Costa Rica is getting a residence permit. There are several types of residence permits, but not all allow a foreigner to work. Most foreign nationals are eligible for a temporary residence permit.
- Temporary residence permits for retirees: This is for retired adults who receive Social Security payments or a pension of at least $1,000 per month. Holders of this type of residence permit cannot work in Costa Rica.
- Temporary residence permits for renties: If you can show that you have a stable income of at least $2,500 per month for the next two years, you qualify. This income can come from investments, rental properties or other sources. However, you cannot work in Costa Rica with this permit either.
- Temporary residence permit for investors: To qualify for this, you must invest at least $200,000 in a business, stocks or real estate. You cannot work with this permit, even in your own business.
- Temporary residence permit: This is for executives and technical personnel and covers executives, managers and technical personnel for corporations that are established in Costa Rica. You can work with this permit.
- Special category residency: Most expats use this type of temporary residence to work in Costa Rica.