Immigration to Costa Rica

Living and working in Costa Rica

immigration to costa rica - Toucans of Costa Rica
Toucans of Costa Rica

Fantastic beaches and the lush, tropical forests represent the wealth of Costa Rica. But it is also known for its volcanoes and biodiversity. About a quarter of the country’s territory consists of protected jungle areas, in which numerous animals such as spider monkeys and quetzals live. According to the “National Geographic”, the most pleasant climate in the world can be found in Costa Rica: gentle warmth, soft rain and breezes. The disadvantage of the tropical climate is El Niño: there are always floods and landslides.

People enchant visitors and immigrants with their charm. An expat considers “the beauty of the country and friendliness of the Ticos” to be the best thing about expat life in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a population of over 5 million living in a land area of 19,710 sq.mi.  A good 9% percent of Costa Rica’s population are immigrants. The most common countries of origin are Nicaragua, Colombia and El Salvador. 

Costa Rica has attracted many immigrants mainly due to its political & economic stability, opportunities for employment and high standard of living. Inward migration is from neighboring countries mainly Nicaragua. Since the 19th century Costa Rica is drawing foreign labor to meet the labor demands for the Banana plantations. Costa Rica has also been a home to many political refugees who seekers asylum due to persecution. Costa Rican government has always protection the rights of the immigrants and also initiated programs to promote economic prosperity for the poorest immigrant population.

The Following Factors Speak For An Immigration To Costa Rica

  • Good for Adventure
  • Open for Business
  • Ease of Settling In
  • Friendly people
  • Easy to Find Friends

Traveling information 

Immigration to Costa Rica - National Flag
Flag of Costa Rica

Costa Rica has open entries from all countries now, however each one coming into Costa Rica must comply with the migratory process set forth in the general law of Migration and Immigration. To wear the Mask in pubic is not mandatory, but it is recommended to continue to do handwashing and also check temperatures as well as compliance with health protocols in each tourist activity. 

Important things to remember while travelling to Costa Rica:

  • You may be asked to show a return flight ticket when entering Costa Rica.
  • Always carry your passport and a stamp copy of your entry where ever you travel in costa Rica.
  • The number of days you can stay in Costa Rica is determine by the country of origin.
  • You may need to show your financial capabilities during your stay in Costa Rica.
  • Even if you have a 90 days visa, the immigration office will decide the length of your stay.

 For more travel advice to Costa Rica, please refer to:

How to immigrate to Costa Rica – Immigration Regulations

Whether you need a tourist visa to travel to Costa Rica depends on your nationality, Purpose of your visit, Duration. It largely depends on the international agreement or treaties between your Costa Rica and your country.  US citizens do not need an entry Visa to Costa Rica.  To check entry requirements of your country, please click on:

There are 4 types of main category of Visas to immigrate in Costa Rica:

  • Tourist Visa
  • Provisional Visa (for Teachers, Students, Residents etc.)
  • Temporary Residence in Costa Rica
  • Permanent Residence in Costa Rica

If you already have a Visa for the following country, you will be exempted from a tourist visa for Costa Rica:
An EU member state
A Schengen Country
South Korea


Costa Rica has a rich cultural diversity. Here you will find ethnic groups and colonies of immigrants of African descendants, Chinese, Hebrew, Lebanese, Italian, Mulatto etc.

People are known as Costa Ricans, also know as “Ticos”. In Spanish they are called “Costarricenses”. The Costa Ricans are predominantly Roman Catholic. Protestants and Buddhist.  The indigenous population includes Bribri, Limonese, Cabecar, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca, Ngobe, Huetar and Chorotega.  Costa Ricans are generally happy, fun-loving and easy-going people. They believe in loyalty towards their family and friends. Joining together for lunch/dinner and weekends lunches with extended families are important customs. Youngsters will not leave their parents even if they become financially independent. They may separate only after marriage, but still be close to their family.  

Traditionally they believe that men have more authority that women in a family and that women’s role are different than men. Family reputation is very important to them and they are very sensitive to what is said about their family. They are honest and do not overpromise. They may appear shy when you first meet them but once they start knowing you they are very friendly.

Job offers in Costa Rica

There are defiantly opportunities to get jobs in Costa Rica, even tough the local people are literate. It could become tough for an expat sometimes, mainly because local people fill up the vacancies. For a job here, one must have a permanent residence permit. Provisional work permits are for specific jobs which are rare and very less. The Costa Ricans law states that a foreigner can occupy a job only if there are no Costa Ricans qualify and available to do.  

Tourism opens a lot of job opportunities for foreigners as its big and ever-growing.  Candidates with Bilingual skills will be given preference in jobs like bartending, waiting tables and tour guides.  Teaching English is another big scope for expats. To teach English, you must be fluent in English and Spanish. Voluntary work in NGOs and Ministries, Environmental conservation, telecommuting for an offshore company in Costa Rica or even starting your own business are some job avenues that you can investigate.

Salaries are generally low here. The salary for a Costa Rican is about $750 or $9000 per month. A foreigner’s average salary will be under $40,000 annually. It will be still lower in smaller cities. Education in higher degrees can fetch a good job with good salaries. 


Education is highly regarded in Costa Rica, with almost 97.8% of the population being literate. The education is compulsory and free for all children from kindergarten to high school in Public institutions organised by the Ministry of Public Education. Even school books and supplies are given free. The education is based on the Spanish-language system, however many public and private schools offer bilingual programs, where students learn English and Spanish or French depending on the location within Costa Rica.

Homeschooling is becoming popular is Costa Rica and many resources are available to parents who would like to homeschool their children. The Ministry of Education has made Homeschooling legal, where parents must register and submit their curriculum for approval.

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate is rather high.  It increased to 15.60% in the fourth quarter of 2021 from 15.30% in the third quarter. It was 11.85% in 2019. The Trading economics forecast that the unemployment rate would be 15.50% in 2023.  As of now Costa Rica has reached 24% unemployment rate with almost 551,373 Costa Ricans without job. This date was published on 18th May’22 in the “The Costa Rica Star”. This impact was caused mainly by the Covid-19 crises.

The government is insisting the jobless citizens to take up agriculture fields of coffee, pineapples, watermelons, sugarcane, potatoes etc., which were taken by the Nicaraguans, however they immigration was affected due to the pandemic. The government has predicted some 77,000 jobs available in the agriculture field.


The economic freedom score for Costa Rica is 65.4, making it the 55th freest country in the 2022 index. Its economy is the 10th among the American region among 32 countries.

Costa Rica’s main economy comes from Agriculture. Coffee, the country’s most important crop through the ages. It produces and exports one of the finest coffee in the world. Every year Costa Rica exports more than one and half million bags of coffee beans. Costa Rica manages to harvest coffee three times a year, due to its constant climate and soil rich in volcanic ash. Apart from these crops, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value-added goods and services, including microchips, have further improved the exports. 

Tourism in recent years continues to bring foreign exchange, as the countries impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. 

To read about Costa Rica Economic Outlook, please visit:

Renting and buying of real estates for foreigners

There are no restrictions for foreigners to buy a house or property in Costa Rica.

Houses on Renting or buying are reasonably priced in good locations as well.  Towards the Central Valley is the metropolitan area where most business are location the property will be expensive. These areas include San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela and Escazu


There are plenty of choices of houses and apartments to rent. The rental rights are the same as for the locals. You can even rent a house while on a tourist visa. Finding a house through word of mouth is the best option and is very popular here. Real estate companies, Classified ads in the local newspaper and magazines, announcements posted on shops and house are all the very best and genuine ways to find a rented house.

The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in a city center is just $485, and outside the city will be $332. Houses located in the mountains are very cheap as compared to coastal areas. 

The procedures are all standard similar to most countries, however the minimum period to give the house on lease in 3 years. You can leave after a year, but the deposit will be return only on completion of 1 year. Once you like a house and agree with the deal, just pay the security deposit to book the house. A paper agreement is a must and remember to keep a copy with you which is by default in Spanish. You can hire an agent/lawyer to make you familiar with the legalities of the contract.

For details information on the law on landlord and tenant in Costa Rica, please visit:


Many Foreigner choose to buy a house while on work or retirement in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. One reason is that the city is very large, and it offers a great balance of city conveniences and also the tropical vibe. Since its in a mountain region, it has a cooler temperature. Exotic beaches are not too far from the city. 

Since there are no restrictions for a foreigner, they can also buy a land and build a house of their choice. The average price per square foot of an apartment for sale in a city is $167.50 and outside the city will be $124. Recently prices have been increased due to the influx of foreigners. On average, this will be a little over 566,000 CRC (1,000 USD). The property tax is 0.25% of the property’s value. The Luxury homes tax (homes valued over US$234,000 as of 2020) are subject to a sliding scale luxury tax, but it caps at 0.55%. 

A bit of caution here, since there is not certified real estate agent, it is harder to find out comparable prices and less regulation means it opens a door for potential fraud and fake real estate agents. So, its wise to find out the which agent is highly regarded in the area and if the agent is a member of any real estate associations. It usually the seller who pays the real estate commission which is 5-10% , unless you hire a buyers agent.

To know more about how to purchase property in Costa Rica, please visit:


Costa Rica has only two seasons throughout the year, Dry and Rainy. Both these seasons have a constant ambient temperature every day. The dry season is from December to April with average annual temperature between 70 degrees and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.  The rainy season typically is from May to November, and the majority of rain falls between September and October.  Temperatures are warm and tropical consistently year round in Costa Rica with an average temperature between 72 and 82 °F (22 and 28 °C).  The northwest is hotter in the dry season February through May when there are no rains too cool things off.  Temperatures across the country are a bit lower in November and December when rains are common and cool air from the north pushes down. Coastal water temperatures are warm all year as well so leave your wetsuit at home.

Temperatures drop about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius) every 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) higher on the slopes of the mountains and volcanoes that form the ridge down the center of the country.  It can drop to freezing overnight at the highest elevations.

To know the monthly weather forecast and climate before you travel, please visit:


Costa Rica is a Spanish Speaking nation. English, French, German, Portuguese are spoken as second language after costa Rican Spanish. Some native languages are spoken by hundreds and some in thousands. These languages include Bribri, Maleku, Cabecar, Teribe, Boruca and Ngabere.  Along the Caribbean coast you will find people speaking Jamaican patois (Mekatelyu) which is a Creole-English language. 

On your visit to Costa Rica, you will hear people say, ” Pure vida” in response to “How ae you”. It can also be used while greeting farewell. This idiom is an expression of Tico’s particular way of life, linked up with its spontaneity, optimism and culture’s joy. 

A few most common useful expressions are:

La plata: The money
Monchar: To eat
Mae: A close friend
Carro: Car
Rulear: To sleep
Bomba: Petrol Station
Carajillo: Girl/Boy


Traffic is basically easy to handle in Costa Rica, as the roads are getting better and better. In San José you might get stuck in traffic jams at inconvenient rush-hour times. In general, roads and highways are acceptably good to drive on. Traffic does not impose a problem, but make sure not to drive at night-time in areas you are not familiar with as it is easier to get lost. When calculating distances within the country be aware that even highways  (as the Panamerican highway) are not as well-maintained as in the US or Europe. As a general rule of thumb you make 60-80 kilometers per hour on major roads.

Speed checks are done regularly by the Police Should the police stop you, we advise never to pay fines directly to the police officer (this is not as per  Costa Rican law). The authorities are bound to write an accident record, which you will receive in order to pay the fine to your car rental agency. If the police insist on your paying the fine/bribe, ask for his identification badge and write down the number in the lower left corner and report the incident to the Dirección de Transito in San José.

Be careful with the fixed speed cameras. Since 2011, the Costa Rican Government is establishing a network of speed radars throughout the country. If you are caught with 20km/h over the allowed speed limit, you will be fined an amount of $600 USD. This will be charged to your credit card by the card rental company. (The car rental company will have to make a blank credit card imprint for this reason).


“Colón” is the official currency of Costa Rica. The US Dollar is also used here.

A colón is divided into 100 céntimos. A capital letter “C” crossed by two diagonal strokes (¢), is the symbol for the colón. The ISO code of the currency is CRC.

The currency is available in banknotes of the following denominations:

Banknotes: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 colones

Coins : 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 colones 

The currency got its name from the Spanish Explorer Christopher Columbus (In Spanish its Cristobal Colon). The currency that was used prior to Costa Rican Colón was the “Peso”. The Peso was replaced by colón only in 1896. Sometimes colón is nicknamed as Peso.

To find out the value of colón with your county’s currency, please visit:

Payment Transaction:

The most accepted payment method in Costa Rica is “Cash”. Next is the Credit Card, namely MasterCard, Visa and American Express, used mainly in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants. Diners Club Cards and Discover very less accepted. But please check the hidden fees before you use them by the credit card companies.   

In Costa Rica, Banks handle the money exchange. So, money can be exchanged at Banks, after producing your passport. The Global Exchange office at the International Airports exchange money at more than 10% below the official exchange rate. The Airport Taxis in Costa Rica accept US Dollars, so if you have US dollars when you arrive, its advisable to wait and exchange money at the Banks instead at the International airports. 

Modern ATM’s are widespread and located in convenient areas, however due to crime, in which people were taken at gunpoint in the ATM to clean out their bank accounts, some banks shut the ATM service between 10 pm and 5 am, while some are open 24/7.

Some good advise on how to safely use your money, please refer:


The national 13% value added tax (written as IVA in Costa Rica) is added to all goods and services. This includes hotel and restaurant bills. Restaurants also add a 10% service charge, for a total of 23% more on your bill. Some hotels add a 10% “resort fee.”

Most airline ticket incorporate the airport departure tax of $29 in the ticket. If its not included in the ticket, you will have to pay at check-in.

Health Insurance  

The “Caja” is a government run universal healthcare system which all residents including expats with legal resident rights for high quality and low-cost medical care in Costa Rica.  Depend on your income a monthly fee is charged under which any services including Doctor’s visit, prescriptions, surgeries and any medical assistance are given free.  Private Hospitals and Clinics also offer reasonable rates on Cash payments.

In Costa Rica, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) regulates insurance companies.  They can also provide general, medical, and life insurance plans with local coverage. Getting local insurance in Costa Rica is very cheap, however, the coverage maybe very limited to either just within Costa Rica or just the Central American region.

Both you as an expat employee and your employer in Costa Rica have to make monthly contributions for employee health insurance and social services that will be deducted from your pay every month. The employee insurance gives you coverage for unemployment, work-related injuries, and income insurance.

Important addresses

Emergency number – 911
(Police, Fire and Medical Situations)

Ambulances Services – 128
Fire Services – 118

United States Embassy
WVVG+39G, C. 98, Favorita Sur,
San José, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2519 2000

Swiss Embassy / Consulate
San José, Edificio Centro Colón,
10° piso, Paseo Colón
Tel. +506 2221 48 29

Assa Insurance Company Costa Rica
Forum I, edificio F, San José, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2503 2700

Juan Santamaría International Airport
XQXW+43V, Alajuela Province, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Tel: +506 2437 2400

Hospital San Juan de Dios
WWM7+HP8, Paseo Colón, Merced,
San José Province, San José, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2547 8000
(Open 24 hours)


Costa Rica is one the of world’s Happiest country and sought out holiday destination in Central America with its spectacular beeches, glowing volcanoes, misty rainforests, beautiful rivers, which most foreigners and expats would agree. Costa Rica is known as the “Switzerland of Central America”.

Costa Rica enjoys a comfortable temperate climate year-round and has a list of outdoor activities to do endlessly including all water sports like surfing, diving, snorkeling, sportfishing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and whitewater rafting. It’s also a very safe country with affordable healthcare and strong expat communities that create a home away from home. Costa Rica has a high literacy rate and free from analphabetism. This is primarily because primary education is free and compulsory. The motto of the Costa Rican is “Pura Vida”, which is an expression of happiness, optimism and living life to the fullest and the people take it very seriously. Costa Rica has everything to offer what one expects from a foreign country to work and enjoy.

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