I am a foreigner and want to work in Costa Rica: how can I obtain an immigration status to allow a foreign citizens to work in Costa Rica?

by Quatro Legal Immigration Team | Jan. 2, 2024 | Article, Immigration

Foreign nationals with Costa Rican tourist visas cannot legally work or perform remunerated activities in Costa Rica. The same is true for foreign citizens with Costa Rican temporary residency status as an investor, pensioner or Rentista. Work authorizations or permits are granted under Legal Stay status, or “Estancias” in Spanish, and Executive Residency status (Residencia para Ejecutivos).

Short Stay Visa (“Estancia”) is an immigration status in which foreign workers or volunteers may stay in the country and work for a “sponsor company”, either foreign or national. Legal stays or “estancias” is a non-residency category that covers business agents, travelers, commercial delegates, medical treatment beneficiaries and persons of scientific, professional, religious, economic, political, cultural and/or sporting relevance. Foreign citizens under the Short Stay Visa category may not receive a salary as a normal “unrestricted” employee would. Foreign companies may apply for a Short Stay Visa status; however, their foreign workers must continue to receive their benefits and salary in their home country. Sponsor companies are required to cover all living and lodging expenses for the entire duration of their workers’ stay in the country.

Digital Nomad is an immigration status created in June 2021 to attract remote workers and remote services providers and to establish an incentive for longer stays in Costa Rica. This immigration category is a non-resident, legal stay sub-category known as “Remote Worker or Services Providers.” The law defines it as any person who is employed or who renders independent services using any form of technology to third parties located abroad and for which a salary or compensation is received. The immigration benefit is granted for a one-year period and can be extended for an additional year. The beneficiary must stay in the country at least 180 days per year.

The General Directorate of Immigration oversees the law’s enforcement and processes all applications digitally, along with the legal requirements. The General Directorate of Immigration has 15 business days to process these applications, nonetheless, currently this process is taking longer.

The applicant must demonstrate a stable monthly income of at least US$3,000.00, legal tender of the United States of America, over the course of at least the last year. If the application includes the applicant’s family, the income requirement increases to US$4,000.00, legal tender of the United States of America. A medical insurance policy is required for the duration of the applicant’s stay in Costa Rica.

The law defines the immediate family as the spouse, any children under 25 years of age, children with disabilities regardless of age and elderly family members under their care.

The benefits created by the law are the following: a) Exoneration of income taxes; b) Exoneration of import fees on any personal computer equipment or technology required to meet legal obligations; c) Authorization to drive with a foreign license for the duration of the stay; and d) Ability to open a bank account under specific simplified regulations.

Executive Residency is an immigration status in which foreign workers in executive or director positions may reside in the country and work for a company under the premise that they hold directorships with representative powers and are placed on the Costa Rican company’s payroll. The company and the applicant are required to comply with all Costa Rican labor and social security requirements and must report a salary that is 25% higher than Costa Ricans in similar positions.

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