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Can Foreigners Find Work in Costa Rica?

To be Transparent

Can foreigners find work in Costa Rica? Jobs in Costa Rica for expats are not numerous. As a foreigner, finding a job legally in any field might be challenging. According to the country’s immigration regulations, you can not take jobs from Costa Rican citizens or permanent residents. These rules are in place to protect the citizens from having their employment options limited by the presence of non-resident foreign workers. There are some cases that don’t fit the rule. Yes, a company may recruit a qualified expat if no eligible citizens or permanent residents are available for the highly skilled position. By allowing the employer to apply for the expat’s work visa, this fills a market vacuum. The Ministry of Labor (Ministerio de Trabajo – MTSS) occasionally sends a list of professional and skilled labor job opportunities to the immigration department so that they can update their criteria for work permits.

Are there any alternatives?

Unless expats first establish legal status that does not place restrictions on their ability to work, they will have a tough time obtaining employment in Costa Rica. There are several different ways to get this status, including temporary residency, permanent residency, being married to a Costa Rican citizen, and citizenship. If you choose to live in Costa Rica as a Rentista, Investor, or Pensionado (retiree), you are permitted to own a business and earn an income from its profits; however, you are not permitted to work as an employee in the business that you own. Your involvement in the company is restricted to the “hands-off” upper levels of management alone. To have any of the work done in Costa Rica, you’ll need to employ locals who are either nationals or permanent residents of the country.

Salaries in Costa Rica

Minimum wages in Costa Rica are a small fraction of what they are in places like Europe and North America. The compensation is around one-fourth of what you would get in Canada or the United States, and it is up to approximately half of what you would receive if you were in Europe. The Ministry of Labor maintains a list of the minimum salaries for many different kinds of jobs that apply to each one, depending on the requirements.

Is it legal for expats to work remotely?

Many people work remotely from Costa Rica for employers or businesses headquartered elsewhere. A new residency category has recently been created for digital nomads, who work on computers and the internet to earn money outside of Costa Rica. This allows them to legally stay longer than a regular tourist visa. Remote workers will be allowed to get a one-year visa in Costa Rica that can be extended for another year provided they spend at least 180 days in the country during the first year. The good news is that they will be permitted to open local bank accounts and will not be subject to local income taxes because they will not be earning money in Costa Rica.

There is no specific job definition to qualify for the digital nomad category but here are some examples:
– Programming;
– Digital marketing;
– Graphic design;
– Content creator.

Note: with Digital Nomad, you are not permitted to access the local labor market and cannot compete for employment with locals. This implies you can’t work for any company in Costa Rica. You must work for a firm that is based outside of Costa Rica.

Remember that the Digital Nomad visa is only valid for a year with the right to renew for another year, and if you wish to stay longer, you can apply for your temporary residency status. To see what category would serve you best, check HERE.


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