The small country of Costa Rica is a beautiful place with ideal climate and tons of different scenic regions to explore. If you are like many Americans, you’ll visit Costa Rica once and never want to leave.
There are numerous reasons why people would want to become expats and work in Costa Rica. If it’s not the consistently warm weather and the beautiful scenic adventures, it’s the low cost of living that attracts many to living in the small Central American country. You get a taste of the miles of beaches, the forests, plants and animals, and you never want to go back.
Unfortunately you cannot simply enter the country and begin working. There are laws and regulations in place in order protect you and the Costa Rican locals.
If you have a job in which you work or operate a business that is based outside of the country, you are safe, as long as you don’t have a location in Costa Rica. The income just has to come from outside of Costa Rica. These kinds of jobs include freelance writers, graphic designers, traders, and more.
Otherwise, you will need to acquire a work visa in order to work while living in the country.
To legally work in Costa Rica, you need to either be a citizen or a legal permanent resident.
Work visas can be difficult to obtain in Costa Rica. The country generally does not like when foreigners take jobs that can be filled by citizens, and there are laws protecting this idea. If you are highly skilled in an area that can’t be filled by a Costa Rican, then you can apply for a work permit.
The permit is effective for one year and is not a form of residence, so you need to make sure you treat them separately and do your due diligence to obtain residency. Do this as soon as possible. There are many residency options that can accommodate you and your needs.
The work permit application includes the following items:
- Application form
- Letter explaining why you are applying for a permit that includes your name, nationality, age, occupation, and current address.
- 2 passport-size photographs
- Receipt of fingerprint registration issued by the Ministry of Public Security
- Receipt of consular inscription
- Birth certificate
- Criminal Record from your native country or the place where you have been living for the past three years. Copy of the migration document to demonstrate that you were a legal resident of said country.
- Certified copies of each page in the passport.
- Statement of Employing Company: job description, length of the contract, and salary.
- Legal Constitution and Registration Documents of the company
- Certification of the Costa Rican Social Security Institution: statement proves the company or the employer are registered and have no outstanding monetary obligations.
- Proof of income
- Statement of Insurance Company: indicates that the insurance for the worker is duly paid.
Approval takes about three to eight months on average.
Before going through the effort of getting the permit, keep in mind the significant pay cut you will receive when working in Costa Rica. The average salary in Costa Rica sits at about $500 a month. This is a reasonable salary in many parts of the country, but many foreigners live in the pricier beach towns at which you need roughly $1,500 a month to live comfortably.
If you possess skills in which you can work remotely for a business or as a freelancer back home, that may be your best bet. If you are dedicated to working in Costa Rica, starting your own business may be the best option.
Starting a Business
Two of the more popular residency options, rentista and pensionado programs, as well as some of the other temporary residency options, don’t allow you to work in the country. You can, however, start a business.
While running the business you are limited to managing the business. You can oversee business operations but you cannot do things like run the cash register or wait on tables, for example. This encourages you to legally employ local citizens.
For these reasons, many people start online-based businesses to work in Costa Rica. Some people work as wedding planners, skill teachers, photographers, or other similar professions. Your business doesn’t need to have a location or even a brick-and-mortar shop.
Running an online business can be a great way to work in Costa Rica , because it allows you to make money while having a flexible schedule. This self-planned schedule makes sure you’ll get to take advantage of the Costa Rican natural wonders, such as taking a scenic hike or laying on the beach.