Would a tourist be able to work in Costa Rica?

Tourists rush to Costa Rica for its stunning coastline, verdant jungles, and abundance of exotic flora and fauna. On the other hand, many potential tourists wonder if they can find a job during their stay. The short answer is No. Unauthorized foreign citizens are not permitted to work for any Costa Rican company. The government has established several restrictions to protect Costa Ricans from having their employment taken by foreigners. However, if you match certain conditions, you can apply for a Work Permit in Costa Rica.


Work Permit Requirements

Obtaining a Work Permit can be complicated and time-consuming, so ensure you do the right thing.

Finding a job is the first need for a work permit. It might not be easy to get employment if you don’t have the proper paperwork, as many companies only hire those with legal permission to work in the country. However, some organizations will help pay for a candidate’s work visa if they’re the appropriate fit and unique specialists.

A valid passport, education certificates, job experience, and a good criminal background are all required once you have found a company ready to sponsor your work permit. You’ll also need proof that you’ve passed a medical exam and paid the required fees.


Requirements for Employee

  • Signed letter from intended employer, acting as guarantor;
  • Authenticated job offer or contract indicating functions, hours, and salary, signed by an employer;
  • Proof of employer’s economic solvency (such as income certification by a Certified Public Accountant);
  • Must remain in Costa Rica at least 1 day per year;
  • Cannot claim spouse and dependents.

The procedure of obtaining your Work Permit might take a long time, and there is no assurance that your application will be accepted. However, if you get your work permit, you can stay and work in Costa Rica for a year.


Costa Rican Work Permit includes:

  • Artists, Athletes, and Entertainers;
  • Domestic Worker;
  • Specific Unique Occupation;
  • Preventive Maintenance Services and Corrective Post Sales Management;
  • Specific Occupation with a Company (legal entity);
  • Temporary workers;
  • Professional and Technical Guests;
  • Transferee Staff;
  • Tran frontier workers;
  • Self-employed individuals in the agriculture, construction, and services sectors;
  • Well-established company self-employed individuals.


Other Restrictions

Consider that there are some restrictions even if you are granted a work visa. For instance, you cannot work in the public sector or any position requiring specialized training or licensure.


What can happen if I don’t have my Work Permit?

Here is an example of a possible outcome of engaging in illegal tourist jobs.

Immigration police raided the Maximo Nivel language institute in San Pedro, San José. Twelve young American tourists (aged 18-21) were told to present their passports to the Costa Rican Immigration Administration. A representative for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Andrea Quesada, stated that the school’s 12 international students and teachers were given three days to leave the country. As a result, Costa Rica deported 12 American students…

Costa Rican authorities claim that the students violated immigration laws by working as teachers without proper authorization. When government officials showed up to check Máximo Nivel, the illegal workers were told to hide in the back room.

In theory, teaching English as a second language in Costa Rica may be the perfect job while traveling. But before you sign anything, know if you’ll need to hide in the bathroom when the immigration officials knock.

See this story HERE at the TicoTimes



Obtaining your work permit in Costa Rica can be complicated and time-consuming, and several restrictions must be considered. However, if you can secure a work visa, you may take advantage of Costa Rica’s natural splendor while still earning enough to cover your living expenses.

Do not forget that your tourist visa grants you the legal right to visit Costa Rica only for the purpose of tourism. Volunteering, higher education, and tourism all require separate special visas. You still need a work visa even if you only spend the summer teaching English on a beach. You may apply to adjust your immigration status while you are in the country.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]

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