Working in Costa Rica

For many expatriates wanting to make an escape abroad, the only thing standing in their way is steady employment. Costa Rica can be a tricky place to find a job, especially when dealing with the country’s strict labor laws. There are many things to think about and consider when trying to work in Costa Rica.

Working Legally in Costa Rica

Costa Rica boasts an extremely low unemployment rate, and this is mostly thanks to the many labor laws in place to keep jobs in the hands of Costa Rican citizens. This can make finding legal employment in Costa Rica a real headache for expats. However, there are many ways to legally make a living in Costa Rica:

  • Telecommute– Pick up your job and take it with you! If you currently work as a writer, programmer, designer, consultant, or any other type of employment that can be done from home, this is a great option to continue in Costa Rica. Even if you don’t already telecommute to work, you might consider applying to telecommute jobs based outside of Costa Rica, since the working laws have no jurisdiction over employment based in other countries. Also, the money you make will most likely be higher than any salary you would earn here.
  • Investor (Inversionista) Residency– Investors are legally allowed to own their own business, earn an income from said business, and also work in the business that they own.
  • Representative (Representante) Residency-This type of residency is exclusively offered to company directors, and it allows these executives the right to work in a company here in Costa Rica.
  • Retiree (Pensionado)/Annuity (Rentista) Residency– While not allowed to actually work in Costa Rica, the Pensionado/Retista Residency allows the holder to own and collect income from a business in Costa Rica
  • Permanent Residency– Permanent residents face no employment restrictions and garner the same rights offered natural born Costa Rican citizens. Permanent residency is usually achieved through a close connection with a Costa Rican citizen, such as a marriage to a citizen or giving birth in Costa Rica. Additionally, other types of residents (inversionista, representante, pensionado, rentista) are allowed the option of upgrading their residency to permanent after a number of years.

People who do no fit in any of the above categories can still apply for a work permit in Costa Rica, but they are very difficult to acquire. Businesses offering to to hire foreign workers must also be willing to deal with the legalities involved in getting their employees work permits. Jobs not offering to grant you a work visa should be avoided—working without a permit or staying in Costa Rica with only your tourist visa could result in an arrest or deportation.

People Who Can Apply for Work Permits

  • Foreign nationals who would like work experience in Costa Rica
  • Foreign nationals looking for domestic servant employment
  • Foreign nationals wanting asylum
  • Foreign nationals seeking Costa Rican legal residence
  • Foreign nationals seeking a conditional permanent resident permit

Necessary Documents for a Work Permit Application

Those seeking a work permit in Costa Rica need provide the following documents and information:

  • Deposit money
  • Four passport sized photographs
  • Fingerprints
  • Letter from your current or potential Costa Rican employer providing your salary, job description, contract, and terms and conditions.
  • Department of Immigration application form, authenticated by a lawyer and given to the General Direction of Immigration