If you plan to visit Costa Rica, familiarize yourself with the country’s visa policies. If you don’t obey the rules, you might face penalties or even deportation. This article will discuss what happens if you overstay your visa in Costa Rica (including the $100 USD fine) and how to avoid these problems.
What is Overstaying in Costa Rica?
Overstaying in Costa Rica means staying in the country after a tourist visa has expired. Foreigners who want to visit Costa Rica must have a valid passport and a tourist visa unless they are from a country that doesn’t need a visa to enter the country (check the list of countries that need visas HERE).
Depending on the country of origin, a tourist visa can be used for a period of time from 30 to 90 days.
What happens if I overstay my visa in Costa Rica?
If you overstay your visa in Costa Rica, you can face serious consequences, including fines, penalties, and even deportation in the worst-case scenario. The authorities consider the length of overstay, the reason for overstaying, and the individual’s immigration history. Theoretically, they can even ban you from entering Costa Rica in the future! The fine for overstaying a visa in Costa Rica is $100 USD for every month you remain in the country illegally.
How to Avoid Overstaying in Costa Rica
- The best way to avoid overstaying in Costa Rica is to plan your trip carefully and ensure you have a valid passport and tourist visa. Always pay attention to how many days you were given your visa, and keep track of the expiration date. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to extend your stay, you can apply for an extension of your tourist visa at the immigration office in Costa Rica. Extending your visa can take several weeks, so planning and starting the process early is important. Make sure you do it before your visa expires. You must provide a valid reason for the extension (for example, medical treatment or business purposes) and pay your fee.
- Another option – you can do your border run (“perpetual tourism”) – leave the country, and re-enter to renew your visa stamp in the passport. On the one hand, this option seems simple, convenient, and cheap. But on the other hand, it’s a can of worms. Remember that you may be given UP to 90 days (for certain countries – UP to 30 days), which means that the immigration officer at the border has a right to give you any number of days – 90, 15, 10, or even 5 days! That being said, your visa will be valid only for this small period of time, and we have seen plenty of cases like that! Feel free to ask the immigration officials if you have any doubts about visa regulations.
Note: many people make a mistake by considering 90 days to be exactly 3 months, but remember, that Immigration is very particular about counting DAYS, not 3 months. Even 1 overstayed day can put you into trouble!
- The best option – start your residency process in Costa Rica. Here is what CRIE (Costa Rica Immigration Experts) can help you with. As soon as your file with Immigration is open, you are totally legal in the country, and you won’t need to do your border runs anymore (the only exception is if you are driving in Costa Rica, you will still need to do your border run to keep your driver’s license updated). For your residency options, don’t hesitate to contact CRIE HERE.
Overstaying a tourist visa might lower your chances of being granted residence in Costa Rica. To immigration authorities, an overstay is a red flag showing that you are not respecting the rules and regulations of the host country.
ARTÍCULO 33. Inciso 3 – LEY GENERAL DE MIGRACIÓN Y EXTRANJERÍA (No. 8764)
“3) Las personas extranjeras tendrán la obligación de egresar del país cuando venza el plazo de permanencia autorizado por la autoridad migratoria, salvo que medie la solicitud de un cambio de categoría o una prórroga otorgada por dicha autoridad migratoria. Toda estancia irregular en territorio costarricense hará que las personas extranjeras deban cancelar una multa migratoria equivalente a cien dólares moneda de los Estados Unidos de América (US$100,00), por cada mes de estancia irregular en el país o, en su defecto, se les prohibirá el ingreso por un plazo equivalente al triple del tiempo de su permanencia irregular.”
A simplified translation of the above,
” To foreigners whose stay in the country exceeds their authorized time, there will be a fine of $100 USD for each month of irregular stay, applied at the time of your departure. Suppose you are unable to pay this fine. In that case, you will be prohibited from re-entering into Costa Rica for a time period equivalent to three times (3x) that of your irregular stay (overstay).”
For example, a foreigner who overstays his 90-day tourist visa by 4 months will be fined ($400 USD) when departing the country. If they cannot pay the fine, they will be barred from re-entering the country for 1 year. Just imagine the problems that would cause if you owned property or had family living here!
The fine will have to be paid 48 hours before departing Costa Rica. It can be paid at any branch of Banco de Costa Rica. There’s no indication of what will happen if you do not pay this fine in advance.
The good news is once you apply for residency and your application is filed, you will have a receipt from Costa Rica immigration, allowing you to stay in the country while the application is being processed. Therefore, you will not be required to leave the country every 90 days to renew the visitor visa.
Click here to see the shortlist of the requirements common to most forms of residency applications in Costa Rica.
At Costa Rica Immigration Experts, we’d love to be able to help you file the first time correctly and enjoy your residency as quickly as possible.
It’s important to know that overstaying your visa in Costa Rica severely violates immigration laws and can have long-lasting consequences. You can avoid the risks of overstaying your visa in Costa Rica if you take the proper measures to renew or extend it, keep track of its expiration date, and consult with immigration officials or a knowledgeable immigration lawyer.
-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).
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