Complete guide to obtaining a Costa Rica work visa and work permit

Getting a Costa Rica Work Visa is not as straightforward a process as it may be in other countries. Even though, technically, the process is: “Find an employer, get a work permit, and get your work visa for Costa Rica”, it’s not as simple as that.

For one, obtaining a work permit in Costa Rica is almost impossible, due to the high level of restrictions the government has put in place to ensure that foreigners do not take the jobs Costa Rica nationals can have.

Additionally, even though Costa Rica offers temporary residence permits for foreigners wanting to live in the country for longer than three months, they do not automatically allow the holder to work. Only Costa Rican citizens or Permanent Residence holders are allowed to work in Costa Rica without prior authorization.

But that’s not to say working in Costa Rica (legally!) is completely impossible for holders of Temporary Residence Permits.

Working in Costa Rica for Foreign Nationals

The most common options foreign nationals have for earning an income while living in Costa Rica include:

  • Working remotely (online). You can work for a non-Costa Rican company or as a freelancer, earning your income from abroad, while still living in Costa Rica through the rentista visa. However, you still need to apply for legal residency in Costa Rica if your stay is longer than three months (or one month, if you are on a visa).
  • Opening a business. Temporary Residence Permit holders such as investors or rentiers are allowed to set up a business in Costa Rica – they’re just not allowed to work in it. So, you can open a business and earn an income, but you have to hire Costa Ricans to actually work in your company.
  • Becoming a permanent resident. However, you can only become a Costa Rica permanent resident and earn working rights if you have blood relations to a Costa Rican or you have lived in the country with a temporary residence permit for at least three years.
  • Getting a Costa Rica work permit. As mentioned, this final option is trickier and much more difficult to obtain.

Costa Rica Work Permits

A Costa Rica work permit falls under the “Special Category” of immigration permits, along with a student permit.

This means that it will allow the holder to work and remain in the country under the conditions set by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

The Costa Rica work permits included under the “Special Category” of immigration include:

  • Costa Rica work permit for Artists, Athletes, and Entertainers
  • Costa rica work permit for Professional and Technical guests
  • Costa Rica work permit for Transferee Staff
  • Costa Rica work permit for Preventive Maintenance Services and Corrective Post Sales Management
  • Costa Rica work permit for working in a specific occupation
  • Costa Rica work permit for working in a specific occupation as a domestic worker
  • Costa Rica work permit for working in a specific occupation with a company (legal entity)
  • Costa Rica work permit for self-employed individuals in the agriculture, construction and services sectors
  • Costa Rica work permit for self-employed individuals in a well-established company
  • Costa Rica work permit for temporary workers
  • Costa Rica work permit for transfrontier workers

Required Documents for a Costa Rica Work Visa

The documents you must submit with a Costa Rica work permit application include:

  • Work permit application form, which you can obtain at the immigration department
  • A letter of application, including:
    • The reason you’re applying
    • Your full name, nationality, birth place and birth date
    • Passport number
    • Place and date of arrival in Costa Rica
    • Exact address in Costa Rica
    • Your occupation/profession
    • Your contact information
  • Two passport-size pictures of yourself
  • Proof you have paid the required work permit application fee
  • Your birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Copies of all the pages of your passport, even the blank ones. They must each be notarized.
  • A Statement from your employer, which details your salary, length of employment and job description.
  • Registration Documents and the Legal Constitution of the hiring company
  • Proof the company hiring you is registered.
  • Proof that the worker insurance has been paid (Statement of Insurance Company)
  • Proof of income/sufficient financial means.
  • Certificate of police clearance from your country.
  • Proof of registration with a Costa Rican consulate.

How to Get a Costa Rica Work Visa?

In order to get a Costa Rica work visa, you first have to find an employer that’s willing to hire you. You and your employer have to prove that the position you are taking could not have been filled by a Costa Rican.

Additionally, the process of obtaining a Costa Rica work permit is a lengthy one, and not guaranteed to be successful.

However, if you did manage to find a job that’s eligible for a Costa Rica work visa, the application process is as follows:

Getting a Costa Rica provisional visa

Before you travel to Costa Rica to apply for a provisional visa from the Costa Rica consulate in your country. The application process for a provisional visa is much the same as for a regular entry visa, except that you must specify, in the application letter, that you are requesting a provisional visa.

Even if you aren’t a visa-required national, you have to register with a Costa Rica Consulate.

Applying for the Costa Rica work permit

Once you are in Costa Rica, you have to apply for a work permit at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Costa Rica’s Immigration Department).

The Immigration Department takes into account the regulations set by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security while reviewing your application.

Before you apply at the Immigration Department, you must register your fingerprints with the Ministerio Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security) in San Jose.

Keep in mind

This is not an exhaustive list of requirements, and the documents may differ depending on the specific case.

You must obtain all the required documents before you travel to Costa Rica.

You have to translate all the documents in Spanish and have the translations notarized.

All your documents have to be legalized, either through an Apostille stamp (if your country is part of the Apostille convention) or the Costa Rican consulate.

Costa Rica work permit processing time

A Costa Rica work permit can take anywhere between 3 to 8 months to process, on average, but it may take even longer.

Working in Costa Rica through Youth Mobility programs

Another option for living and working in Costa Rica is through the Youth Mobility program. However, this is a very limited option, since it is only available to Canadian citizens aged 18-35 and for only up to a year.

The programs included in Youth Mobility are:

  • The Young Professionals Program, aimed at post-secondary Canadian graduates who want to get work experience in Costa Rica.
  • The Internship Program, aimed at Canadian students enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution in Canada who will do an internship or work in a Costa Rica institution as part of their course requirements.
  • The Working Holiday Program, aimed at young Canadians (graduates and current students) who want to travel to Costa Rica and work in the meantime to finance the trip.

In order to be eligible for a Youth Mobility program, the applicant must have a job offer/contract or a formal internship, as required.

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