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Working in Paradise

If you like the good life and you are looking for a place where the beaches meets the mountains and you are also wondering what the chances are of working in the land of the

If you like the good life and you are looking for a place where the beaches meets the mountains and you are also wondering what the chances are of working in the land of the Pura Vida as a foreign person, this article might clear up the picture for you.

There are a few categories that allow you to legally work in the country, the first one we are going to explore is Temporary Residency. Costa Rican law allows some professionals to opt for this category, such as technical staff, managers or executives of companies already established in Costa Rica, as well as their spouses and children.

Working legally in Costa Rica allows you to be protected by the law as far as having access to labor rights such as minimum wage, vacation, year end bonus, social security, workers compensation, so on and so forth. Labor Law in Costa Rica allows protections for both nationals and foreign workers, regardless of whether they are legally working as residents or not. However, foreign nationals who work illegally, while they may still be protected under the law, they are vulnerable class of people with little access to the legal system for the protection of their rights. That is a whole other story.

It is very important to keep in mind that work categories are to be analyzed by the Costa Rican Ministry of Labor under a criterion of opportunity that seeks to protect the chances and access to jobs of Costa Rican citizens.

Another category that allows foreigners to work in Costa Rica is permanent residence, which can be opted after three consecutive years of having the status of temporary resident in our country, as well as people who are related with a Costa Rican, such as parents, minor children and those over 18 which is legal age, with a disability. This type of residence is more accessible and does not place restrictions on working in the country.

On the other hand, if you want to grow as a professional but also enjoy life in the tropics, you can apply for a work permit. The work permit is not a category as such; however, it is the method that allows foreigners to work legally for an employer in Costa Rica (wether a person or a business) for a period of one year. The employer is responsible for sponsoring the work permit for the foreign employee, which means that the employer must produce the qualifying documents for the application process such as a work contract, tax documents, business permits and licenses, etc. The employee must only produce the biographical documents such as a birth certificate, a background check, fingerprints, photos, etc. Every foreigner who wishes to work in Costa Rica must carry a work permit, with the exception of foreigners with a residence card (DIMEX) or foreigners with current refugee status.

A key factor to keep in mind is that the employee must possess a special or advanced skill. This skill is exceptional and readily available in the job market.

Sections 100 and 108 of the Immigration Law, sets forth the option for foreigners with special skills as well as refugees to obtain a work permit in Costa Rica with all of the protections and privileges authorized by labor law.

Legally, the Costa Rican Constitution establishes work as a fundamental right. In addition, it establishes that foreigners are entitled to the same rights as Costa Ricans as well as the responsibilities, this includes the right to work. Most of you maybe very familiar with the existing work restrictions applicable to some residency categories such as the Investor, or for Retired People. While regulations allow foreigners to obtain a work permit under certain circumstances, the access to work permits should be extensive to all immigration categories.

With an unemployment rate of 11.3% by the end of 2018, the Costa Rican Government reacted negatively by enabling restrictions for foreign workers in. In August 2018, the MTSS (Labor Department) issued a memo with a list of jobs for which residencies should not be issued. The list is very extensive and restrictive. While it is still possible to obtain work permits for some types of businesses and under certain circumstances, the number of permits issued has dropped drastically.

Unfortunately, the Government’s perception of labor immigration is that of a threat, instead of an opportunity. An open immigration policy has allowed Australia to grow both in population but also in economic output. The most open door residency that Costa Rica with no restrictions for work is the Permanent Residency issued to foreign parents of children born in Costa Rica, is almost like the policy purposefully tells people: “Hey! Come to Costa Rica and have a child. and get to work!”


Marie Silesky collaborated with this article.



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  • Jeffrey Zamora
    Jeffrey Zamora September 8, 2019

    Great article! Working in Costa Rica and being compliant with the law requires professional help.