Working in Costa Rica

I get several emails a week from people wanting to come to Costa Rica to live and work.  Under Rentista or Pensionada status (which is what most people qualify for under immigration status) you can NOT work.  The only way you can work is if you come in as an employee of a company that sponsors you or as a permanent resident.

Now coming in as an employee of a company applies only to those positions that can not be filled by a Costa Rican.  Many of the larger corporations, Intel, Proctor and Gamble, Hewlett Packard have Expats living here working under a work visa.  You can not enter the country then find a job at one of these places and expect that they will hire you.  They will not because you can not work legally in Costa Rica.

This may sound confusing and it really is so I will try to explain… If you are the general manager of Intel you can get a work permit because Intel can not find a Costa Rican that they feel is qualified to do this job.  Therefore immigration will grant the general manager and his/her family a work permit.

If you want to work for Intel as say an engineer, you can not get a work permit as there are literally thousands of engineers in Costa Rica that can fill this position.

If you are a permanent resident (married to a Costa Rican for example) you can get permanent residency and the legal right to work.  If you stay in the country for 3 years under Rentista or Pensionada status you can apply for permanent residency and you can legally work.  This was according to the old law (prior to August 12, 2006) and I’m not sure if that has changed but I don’t believe it did.  I will check into to that and let you know if it changed.

Now if you’re completely confused my apologies as I tried to explain this as best I could.

Bottom line is in the majority of cases you can NOT move to Costa Rica and work legally.


Immigration laws HAVE changed

It was reported earlier that the new immigration laws were to be shelved until December 2007 because of the lack of funding, that is no longer the case. Even though the funds aren’t there to enforce the new laws, the new laws DID go into effect on August 12. How this affects you…..amounts necessary to file for rentista status has doubled and then some.

To file for residency under Rentista status, one will need $60k per adult and $30k per dependant. This would make a family of 4 need $180k put into a bank account in Costa Rica to be kept in a secured account for a period of 5 years insuring that you have at least $3000 per month to live on. This is cash necessary up front, can not be made in payments.
This law was to be put on hold until December 2007 but because of the bureaucracy in Costa Rica it has gone into effect until further notice. Many are still in hope that this will be changed but as of this time it has not and it’s not looking very promising that it will change soon.

Government does not have the funds to enforce all of the new immigration laws but this portion of it is being held true.

If you would like more specifics, email us at


Liability claims

Everyone knows that liability claims have gone wild in the United States with people suing each other for all sorts of trivial mishaps.  Judges hand out huge sums of moneys and lawyers rake in the cash over some of the most ridiculous claims. Often times settling out of court before a judgement has been passed down.
This is not the case in Costa Rica.  The National Insurance Institute (INS) never, or almost never, pays a liability claim before there is a court ruling on the matter.  The courts are backlogged and it has taken up to two years for a case to be heard.  This cuts back on a lot of the trivial claims.

What is even better is that in Costa Rica, most judges seem to believe that everyone should exercise reasonable care and look out for himself/herself.  I heard of a man who sued the owner of a building because he had tripped and fallen on the sidewalk.  The judge admonished the plaintiff to mind where he was walking and dismissed the complaint.

The United States, in my opinion, could learn from this.


Legislators Vote Themselves a Holiday

More than one Legislative Deputy has their bags packed and ready for a vacation, as the Legislative Assembly goes for recess from July 10 to July 14, resuming functions on Monday July 17.

The vacation period was approved by 46 legislators with three giving the thumbs down.

The vacation coincides with the mid-year school break as more than 1 million students have been off school this week and are set to return on the 17th. The mid-year break is a traditional holiday for students and their families to hit the beaches and mountain resorts.


New Immigration Laws

Effective date put off more than a year
Immigration law to be shelved for more study
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new immigration law looks like a dead letter.

Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, said Wednesday that the executive branch would move to delay the effective date of the law until sometime in December 2007.

In the meantime, he said, Óscar Arias Sánchez, the president, would set up by decree a commission to study the human rights aspects of the law. Also to be studied would be the productive sectors of the country and the church. The commission would propose changes in the law as necessary, he said.

Arias has aired reservations about the law.

The net effect of the delay would be to cancel making human trafficking a criminal offense. A clause to punish so-called coyotes was in the new legislation.

Also delayed would be plans to penalize those who hire illegal workers. Berrocal estimated that perhaps 20 percent of the population of Costa Rica was illegal. Past administrations have said about 50,000 persons were here illegally. If Berrocal is correct, the number of illegals could be over 800,000. Most of these are Nicaraguans.

The delay also pre-empts plans to fine persons who harbor or even rent rooms to illegal immigrants. The Catholic Church runs shelters for aliens, and church leaders said they were worried that the weight of the new law would fall on them.

For expats, the delay means business as usual in applying for residency categories, primarily pensionado, rentista or inversionista. The new law sought to raise the financial capabilities required of those who want to move here.

Rentistas now have to show a monthly income of $1,000 for at least five years for a total of $60,000. The new law would have retained this amount for a single applicant but would have required $1,000 a month more (or $60,000 more over the life of the permission) for a spouse and lesser amounts for minor children.

The new director of Migración, Mario Zamora, said last week that the law might be delayed. But Berrocal spoke with the authority of the president and the president’s cabinet shortly after their Tuesday meeting.

Although many business people had expressed concern about the penalties in the new law, Berrocal blamed a lack of money. He said that a new detention center would have to be built, new vehicles purchased and 671 new budget lines created in the Dirección General de Migración.

Some of those who were to be hired were to beef up a more professional Policía de Migración, which now does not have the same authority as regular policemen.

Berrocal said the estimate to enforce the new law was 7 billion colons, nearly $14 million, an amount that did not exist. The Arias administration and Berrocal have made securing the nation’s borders a priority. A special frontier police force will be created.

Presumably some of this will find its way into the new draft of the immigration law.