Let’s be clear: jobs in Costa Rica for expats are not abundant.
As an expat without residency, it can be hard to find legal employment. The immigration laws in Costa Rica prevent expats from getting work permits for positions that can be filled by Costa Rican citizens or permanent residents.
Above all, these laws protect nationals from losing out on work opportunities to non-resident expats.
Are there any exceptions? Yes. If no qualified nationals or permanent residents are found for a highly-skilled position, an employer may hire a qualified expat. This fills a gap in the market by allowing the the employer to apply for the expat’s work permit. The work permit is usually valid for one year and renewable for the length of the employment.
From time to time, the Ministry of Labor (Ministerio de Trabajo – MTSS) provides a list of professional and skilled labor job openings to the immigration department in order for them to update their qualifications for work permits.
Alternatives to Jobs in Costa Rica for Expats
It is difficult to get jobs in Costa Rica for expats without first having legal residency without work restrictions. That includes permanent residency, temporary residency as a spouse of a Costa Rican citizen, or citizenship.
However, if you choose to get residency in Costa Rica as a Rentista, Investor or Pensionado (retired), you can own a business and you can earn an income from its profits, but you cannot work as an employee in the business that you own. Your activity in the business is limited to high-level management. You’ll need to hire Costa Rican citizens or residents without restrictions, to perform all the work.
Salaries in Costa Rica
Wages in Costa Rica are a fraction of what you would earn in North America or Europe. The wages are perhaps one-quarter of a similar job in Canada or the United States, up to half if you are from some parts of Europe. The Ministry of Labor provides a list of minimum wages for a variety of job types based on qualifications.
Can I Legally Work Remotely as a Non-Resident?
Many people work remotely from Costa Rica for employers or companies based outside the country.
The legality of such activity is murky. However, it is not an enforcement focus for the immigration department so long as the income comes from outside Costa Rica. This could include, but is not limited to, IT consulting, web design, translation, and sales/telemarketing.
If you are a non-resident expat, we highly recommend that you apply for and obtain legal residency regardless of how you are generating income while living in Costa Rica.