If you are a fan of lush, green landscapes, interacting with wildlife, and lounging on a beautiful protected beach away from the bustling streets and high buildings, then Costa Rica is the place for you.
However, depending on what country you are from, visiting Costa Rica may not be as simple as booking a flight ticket. Several countries are required to apply for a Costa Rica visa before they’re allowed to enter the country.
This article will detail the Costa Rica Visa requirements and application process and other frequently asked questions.
Who Needs to Apply for a Visa to Costa Rica?
The Costa Rica visa policy is divided into four groups:
- Visa-exempt nationals who are allowed to travel to Costa Rica with just their passport which must be valid for at least one more day from the date of entry. This category included nationals of the United States and European Union member states. They are allowed to stay in Costa Rica for a maximum of 90 days.
- Visa-exempt nationals who are allowed to travel to Costa Rica with just their passport which must be valid for at least three months from the date of arrival. They are allowed to stay in Costa Rica for a maximum of 30 days.
- Foreign nationals who need a Costa Rica Consular Visa, which must be applied for at a Costa Rica consulate in their country of residence. The Costa Rica visa allows them to stay in the country for up to 30 days.
- Foreign nationals who need a Costa Rica Restricted Visa. This type of visa has to be approved by the Commission of Restricted Visas. If approved, it allows the holder to stay in the country for up to 30 days.
What are the Costa Rica Visa requirements?
The required documents you have to submit with your Costa Rica visa application are:
- An application letter, directed to the Costa Rica consulate, containing:
- The purpose of your travel
- Your personal information (name, age, date and place of birth)
- Passport number
- Place of residence
- Intended date of arrival and departure from Costa Rica
- Where you will stay while you are in Costa Rica
- The date
- Contact information
- Your signature
- A complete photocopy of all the pages on your passport. Your passport must be valid for an additional six months.
- Return flight ticket reservation. You’re advised not to pay for your ticket until your visa application has been approved. Read here how to book a flight ticket without paying the full price.
- Two pictures of yourself with the following specifications:
- 2 inches x 2 inches
- White background
- Neutral facial expression, staring straight ahead
- Glasses are allowed as long as they do not hide your eyes or face (no thick rims, no reflection, no tinted glass)
- Head gear is not allowed, unless it is for religious purposes. Even so, it must not obstruct the face.
- Proof of sufficient financial means, such as through bank statements from the last three months, letter from employer, of proof of property.
- Certificate of police clearance from your country.
- Proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination if you are coming from a place that’s at risk of Yellow Fever.
- If you are a visa-holder or Permanent Resident in another country: Proof of the visa/Residence Permit should be submitted.
The documents you submit must be translated into Spanish and legalized.
Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of requirements, as the Costa Rica consulate will request further documentation as they see fit depending on your case.
How to Apply for Costa Rica Visa?
The Costa Rica visa application process differs depending on the type of visa you need: Costa Rica Consular Visa or Costa Rica Restricted Visa.
Costa Rica Consular Visa application
If you are from a country that requires a Costa Rica Consular Visa, then you must apply for it yourself at the Costa Rica consulate responsible for your jurisdiction.
The Costa Rica visa application process is as follows:
- Contact the Costa Rica consulate to make a Costa Rica visa application appointment.
- Submit the required documents (see “Requirements” below).
- Complete the Costa Rica application form, available on the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería website, the Immigration Department of Costa Rica.
- The Costa Rica consulate may contact you to ask you to obtain additional documents that they think are necessary. They may also request an interview. The visa will begin processing only after all the documents are submitted.
- Wait for the visa to be processed. You will be notified about the decision duly.
- If your Costa Rica visa application is approved, you have 60 days to use the visa to enter the country.
Some consulates allow visa-required foreign nationals to submit their Costa Rica visa application digitally. If the digital visa application procedure is enabled for your country, the relevant consulate is responsible for explaining the application procedure to you.
Costa Rica Restricted Visa application
Costa Rica Restricted visa applications must be submitted by a family member of the applicant who is living in Costa Rica or an appointed attorney. Restricted visas are issued for family reunification or tourism purposes. The Restricted Visa application process is as follows:
- The person who is applying on your behalf must apply to the Commission of Restricted Visas, via a request letter that includes the following:
- Your name
- Your nationality
- Your profession
- The reason for your visit
- How long you will stay in Costa Rica, including arrival and departure date
- Where you will stay in Costa Rica (address)
- Where they must address the Costa Rica visa approval (the nearest Costa Rica consulate)
If the Commission of Restricted Visas in the Directorate of Immigration authorizes your Costa Rica visa, the relevant consulate will issue a visa, allowing you to travel.
Keep in mind that different consulates may have different requirements and procedures, which is why contacting a Costa Rica consulate should always be the first step when applying for a Costa Rica visa.
What are the Requirements for a Costa Rica Visa for USA Nationals
US nationals do not need a visa to visit Costa Rica for tourism purposes (up to 90 days) – they can travel with simply their passport and will receive an entry stamp on their passport by the immigration officers.
However, upon arrival, the passport must be valid for at least another day, and they must show they have access to at least $300.
For stays longer than 90 days, they must obtain a Costa Rica residence permit.
What are the Requirements for a Costa Rica Visa for Indian Nationals?
Indian nationals need to apply for a Consular Visa before they travel to Costa Rica. They can apply using the application procedure as described above.
How long does it take to get a Costa Rica visa?
The Costa Rica visa processing time is about 30 calendar days.
How Much is the Costa Rica Visa fee?
The Costa Rica visa fee is US$52.
You have to pay a Costa Rica visa fee after your visa has been approved. The visa fee is non-refundable even if you are not allowed entry upon your arrival in Costa Rica.
The consulate you are applying in will inform you of the payment method. Sometimes you may have to make the payment at an embassy, as consulates may not accept payments.
You must show the receipt of the Costa Rica visa fee payment, however.
Is a Costa Rica Visa All the Permission You Need to Enter the Country?
No, it is not. After you receive a Costa Rica visa, you will still be subject to immigration control at the Costa Rica point of entry. If the immigration officers at border control decide to grant you entry, they will stamp your passport with the decision.
If you are not allowed to enter, you must return back to your country. Your visa fee will not be refunded.
Can you Extend a Costa Rica Visa?
Yes, you can. You can extend a Costa Rica tourist visa for an additional 60 days by applying at the Directorate General of Immigration in Costa Rica. You must submit proof of why you are requesting the extension.
Do I Need a Passport to Enter Costa Rica?
Yes, all foreign nationals, including United States citizens, who intend to enter Costa Rica must be in possession of a valid passport. The validity of your passport depends on your country.
Visa-exempt foreign nationals on Group 1 need to have a passport that is valid for at least one day after they enter.
Visa-exempt foreign nationals on Group 2 need a passport that is valid for at least another three months from the date of entrance.
Visa-required nationals must have a passport that is valid for at least another six months from the date they apply for the visa.
What is the Costa Rica Departure Tax?
Yes, all foreign nationals who enter Costa Rica have to pay a departure tax before they leave. The tax is about US$28-29, and you can pay it in the local currency, in USD or with a credit card.
However, check with your airline agency to see whether the departure tax is already included on your flight ticket, as some airline companies tend to do.
How Can You Go to Costa Rica to Work or Study?
Authorizations to work and study in Costa Rica are issued in the country. However, you must get a provisional visa from the Costa Rica consulate in your country/nearest to you. Then, after traveling to Costa Rica, you must apply for a temporary residence permit and finalize your application at the Costa Rica Immigration Office.
Can Visa Holders of the US and Europe Enter Costa Rica?
Yes, if you have a visa for a Schengen and EU country, the USA, Canada, or South Korea, you can use it to enter Costa Rica, provided that the visa is still valid. You can remain for the period you have left in your existing visa or how long you are permitted to stay in Costa Rica.