Working in Costa Rica
Getting a work visa
In order to work in Costa Rica, you must either be a citizen of the country or have legal Permanent Residency. With other residency options (rentista, pensionado, etc.), you can own a business but you cannot work in that business. Your responsibilities must be limited to management of the business. Your responsibilities must be limited to management of the business. Although with small businesses like cafés or B&Bs this is a gray area and most expats are able to be hands-on.
If you are highly skilled in an area where that job cannot be filled by a Costa Rican, your employer can apply for a work permit for one year, but this can be very difficult to get. These laws are designed to protect workers here from foreigners who would take jobs that would otherwise be filled by a Costa Rican. Sometimes multi-national companies with operations in Costa Rica will bring executives or trainers from North America to work. But this is rare.
For these reasons, most expats either start a business or work online in some capacity. And that business doesn’t necessarily have to be a bricks and mortar restaurant, shop, or hotel. Many work as wedding planners, surf instructors, photographers… Some have their own online businesses, others are freelance writers or graphic designers. With online jobs you have the advantage of being paid in dollars and living in a lower cost of living location. Many take advantage of their portable income by having a flexible schedule—more time to enjoy the beach or a hike in the rainforest—and take the opportunity to travel throughout the country, the region, and the world.
Setting up your own business
For information on setting up your own business in Costa Rica, see the Costa Rica Embassy website. You’ll also find great advice on how to work abroad as well as many stories of people who have done just that from our Fund Your Life Overseas postcards here.
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