Moving to Costa Rica

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The Republic of Costa Rica is known for both its rich nature and its political stability. There is a high standard of living, complete with a strong and satisfied middle class, high literacy rates and long life expectancy.

In terms of moving to Costa Rica, you are treated differently based on what country you come from. Migrant workers from other Central American countries are treated differently than North Americans and Europeans looking to settle. It is best to start the immigration process in your home country.

Though there are immigration laws and departments, most of the regulations are pretty lax unless they are enforced arbitrarily.  For extended stays over 90 days, you must apply to the Costa Rica Department of Immigration. Keep in mind that their rules are always changing, and there have been delays in recent years due to massive applicants.

Costa Rica has many different types of residency. Travelers from the EU, Canada and the US do not need a visa to stay in the country for up to 90 days. One popular way of settling is retiring in Costa Rica. You must prove that you either have a pension, or a steady income coming in from abroad. To remain in Costa Rica, you must prove that you are providing money into their economy.

Costa Rica is well connected for airline travel, making cheap flights and international flights to Costa Rica affordable – especially so from North America – for expats and their families to visit each other. For an article about the move and transitions, click here.

Visas in Costa Rica:

Work Visa:

It is difficult for foreigners to obtain work permits in Costa Rica, because the population is very educated and there are not many vacancies to fill. The Department of Immigration prefers foreigners who either invest money (excluding personal investments like a home) or create jobs for residents.

Work permits last up to six months, and can be renewed.

To apply for a work permit, you must submit:

  1. General Directorate Application Form
  2. Statement of Employing Company (which also states your income)
  3. Certification of the Costa Rican Security Institution (to make sure your employer is legitimate)
  4. Legal Constitution and Registration Documents of the Company
  5. Special Authority to Representative (Authority of a person in Costa Rica to represent the applicant)
  6. Birth Certificate
  7. Copy of Passport
  8. Marriage Certificate (if applicable)
  9. Police Statement of Good Conduct
  10. Background Check
  11. Photographs
  12. Diplomas

For more details, click here.

For an article about work permits, click here.

For information about money and hours, click here.

Student Visa:

Costa Rica does not issue student visas, so you must enter on a tourist visa. You may apply for a tourist visa and wait until it expires, in which you would just have to exit the country into one of the neighboring countries during the time of your stay.

If you want to study a full academic course or obtain a degree, you must apply for a temporary residency permit.

In order to apply you must:

  • Be enrolled fulltime by a school accredited by the Immigration Department
  • Speak Spanish
  • Have sufficient funds
  • Maintain a residence abroad

You must then submit the following documents:

  1. Application form to the Director of General Migration
  2. Special Authority to Representative
  3. Birth Certificate
  4. Copies of Passport
  5. Proof of income/funds
  6. Police Statement of Good Conduct
  7. Background Check
  8. Photographs
  9. Diploma
  10. Student Temporary Visa Request
    • Full name of student
    • Nationality
    • Place/date of birth
    • Marital status
    • Current address
    • Passport number, place and date of issuance
    • Educational institution’s name
    • Start and finish of studies
  11. Letter of Acceptance

Click here for more information.

Moving Pets to Costa Rica:

In order to bring cats and dogs to Costa Rica, you must prove to the airport and customs officers that your pet is healthy. You must have a certificate from your veterinarian that your pet is vaccinated from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and rabies, and this must be stated within two weeks before arrival. You must also have authorization from the Costa Rican Health Ministry. A customs officer will inspect your pet on arrival. Pets are treated differently in Costa Rica; dogs are loved, but kept outside to guard property.

Other Information:

For information about housing and rentals, click here.

For some facts about the culture, click here.

For a list of consulates (in Spanish), click here.

For facts about general matters, click here.

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