Complete guide to obtaining a visa to visit Costa Rica for tourism

If you are thinking of visiting Costa Rica’s rainforest or one of its protected, heavenly beaches, you may find yourself in need of a Costa Rica tourist visa.

The tourist visa is often referred to as a Costa Rica travel visa, due to the nature of Costa Rica visas. They allow the holder to travel to Costa Rica, where they will be subject to immigration control at the point of entry, and the immigration officers decide whether to allow the traveler to enter the country or not.

However, not everyone has to apply for a tourist visa for Costa Rica before they travel.

Do I Need to Apply for a Visa to Visit Costa Rica for Tourism?

You need a Costa Rica tourist visa if you’re travelling to the country for tourism-related purposes, or any purpose that does not exceed 30 days. The Costa Rica visa policy is divided into four groups:

  1. Visa-exempt nationals who can stay in Costa Rica without a visa for up to 90 days.
  2. Visa-exempt nationals who can stay in Costa Rica without a visa for up to 30 days.
  3. Visa-required nationals who have to apply for a regular Costa Rica tourist visa (Consular Visa) at a Costa Rica Consulate in their country.
  4. Visa-required nationals who have to apply for a Costa Rica Restricted Visa. This means that they must have someone in Costa Rica (a family member or appointed attorney) who can submit a visa request on their behalf to the Department of Restricted Visas.

Additionally, even if you are from a country whose nationals need a tourist visa for Costa Rica, you are exempt if you already hold a valid tourist visa for:

  • An EU member state
  • A Schengen country
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • South Korea

See a complete list of who needs a Costa Rica tourist visa and who is exempt here.

What if You Don’t Need a Costa Rica Tourist Visa?

If you are from the first or second group, you can travel to Costa Rica with simply your passport and get an entry stamp from the immigration officer as you go through border control.

If you are from the first group, your passport must be valid for at least another day from the date of entry.

If you are from the second group, your passport must be valid for at least three months from the date of entry.

What are the Requirements for a Costa Rica Tourist Visa?

The required documents you have to submit with your Costa Rica tourist visa application are:

  • An application letter which should be directed to the Costa Rica consulate, and contain the following information:
    • Your personal information (name, age, date and place of birth
    • The reason you are travelling
    • Your passport number
    • Your nationality
    • Your place of residence
    • The intended date of arrival and departure from Costa Rica
    • Where you will stay while you are in Costa Rica
    • The date of writing
    • Your contact information
    • Your signature
  • A complete photocopy of all the pages on your passport. Your passport has to be valid for at least another six months from the date you enter Costa Rica.
  • Two pictures of yourself which follow these specifications:
    • Dimensions: 2 inches x 2 inches
    • Taken in front of a plain white background
    • You must have a neutral facial expression, staring straight ahead
    • You may wear your glasses as long as they do not hide your eyes or face (no thick rims, no reflection, no tinted glass)
    • You may not wear headgear unless it is for religious purposes. Even so, it must not obstruct your face.
  • Return flight ticket reservation. Costa Rica authorities advise travelers to avoid paying for the plane ticket until after they receive the visa. See here how to book a dummy flight ticket for a visa application.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means to cover your stay. You may submit bank statements from the last three months, a letter from employer, or proof of property.
  • An official certificate of police clearance from your country.
  • If you are coming from a place that’s at risk of Yellow Fever: Proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination.
  • If you are a visa-holder or Permanent Resident in another country: Proof of your visa or Residence Permit.

How to Apply for a Costa Rica Tourist Visa?

You must apply for a Costa Rica at a Costa Rican consulate in your country. If there is no Costa Rica consulate in your country, you must go to the nearest one. The Costa Rica tourist visa application process is as follows:

  1. Contact the Costa Rican consulate to set up an appointment when you can submit the application.
  2. Collect the required documents and submit them in person.
  3. Fill in the Costa Rica application form, which you can find on the website of the Immigration Department of Costa Rica (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería).
  4. The consular officers will review your application and decide if you need any additional documents.
  5. Once all the required documents are submitted, they will start to process your visa application.
  6. You may also be asked to attend an interview.

Once your tourist visa is approved, they will affix it on your passport and you’ll have 60 days to travel to Costa Rica.

Keep in mind that different consulates may have different requirements and operational processes. As such, the first step in applying for a Costa Rica tourist visa should always be to contact the relevant Costa Rican consulate.

Additionally, some consulates have digitized the Costa Rica application process. If that is the case, the consulate is in charge of explaining the application procedure.

How Long Can You Stay in Costa Rica With a Tourist Visa?

A Costa Rica tourist visa is valid for a maximum of 30 days but it may be issued for less.

If you need to stay in the country for longer, you can request a visa extension at the Directorate General of Immigration in Costa Rica.

Can I Extend My Stay in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica tourist visa extensions are issued for a maximum of 60 additional days. You can apply for the visa extension at the General Directorate of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) in Costa Rica before your current visa expires.

Additionally, even if you don’t need a Costa Rica tourist visa, you have to request for a tourism extension if you want to stay longer than your permitted time (eg. if you are a national of the first group and want to stay longer than 90 days).

What Documents Do I Need to Collect for a Costa Rica Visa Extension?

To apply for a tourism extension, you must present the following documents:

  • A letter explaining why you’re requesting the extension which contains the following information:
    • Your full name and nationality
    • Your passport number and type
    • Your address in Costa Rica
    • Your phone number
    • Your birth date and place
    • The names of your parents
  • A completed form of affiliation, which you can get at a photocopier in the central offices of the General Directorate of Immigration or download it from their website.
  • Three recent passport-size pictures of yourself.
  • Your original passport and copies of all the pages in the passport.
  • A copy of your departure flight ticket.
  • Proof of financial solvency to cover the duration of your requested stay.
  • If you were invited in the country from an institution (public or private): A letter of financial support from said institution.
  • If you’re in Costa Rica for medical treatment: A medical certificate and request from the medical institution confirming the need for an extension due to medical reasons.
  • Proof of paid Costa Rica tourist visa extension fee ($100 or the equivalent in colones). You must pay the fee to the government bank account in the Bank of Costa Rica (Banco de Costa Rica).

Can you work with a Costa Rica Tourist Visa?

No, you cannot take up employment in Costa Rica if you have a tourist visa. To work in a Costa Rican company you need to get a Costa Rica work permit and a work visa. On the other hand, if you are already employed and want to work remotely while residing in Costa Rica, you can apply for the Costa Rican digital nomad visa.

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