Digital Nomads Still Waiting for Their Visas in Costa Rica: What’s Going On?
An update on the digital nomads law in Costa Rica: foreigners interested in working remotely from this country should brace their seat belts
In the Tropics, sometimes things take more time than originally thought. Take, for example, the visas for digital nomads Costa Rica should have already begun issuing now, and how that’s a reality that for various reasons had to be postponed until nobody knows when.
More than eight months have passed since the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica passed the law that creates a special visa for foreigners looking to live and work remotely from the country — a trend that, although not new, became widely popular because of a pandemic that felt completely different two years ago.
As with any new law in Costa Rica, for it to be implemented several institutions have to design a ruling to give legal certainty to the regulation. November 2021 was supposed to be the deadline for this to happen, but we’re nearing May 2022 and the regulation’s ruling is nowhere to be seen.
What’s been going on? A lot of things that can be summarized as what happens when a bunch of public institutions are disjointed, have miscommunication, and try to take care of their needs without thinking too much about the needs of other involved entities and the limits the law places on them.
In summary, the regulation’s ruling for digital nomad visas is not ready yet, and it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be ready soon. Foreigners interested in living and working from Costa Rica should note that there are other options that might be better for them, for which they should not have to wait this long.
Below, we will give you an update on the long overdue implementation of the digital nomads law in Costa Rica.
A plethora of requisites
After several months of delay, the Costa Rican government finally handed the draft of the ruling to interested parties this past March. Nevertheless, 17 organizations denounced that the regulation as it is would ask for excessive requirements that are difficult for digital nomads to comply with.
La Nación newspaper reported on March 31, 2022, that some of the requisites the government was planning to ask to foreigners that choose to work from the country for are; authenticated bank statements, criminal record certificates, proof of income within two years, and a digital signature issued in Costa Rica, to name a few.
The text was drafted by the Immigration Department (DGME, its acronym in Spanish), supposedly after consultation with other public and private entities. On the other hand, the Ministry of Economy (MEIC) is responsible for reviewing the document, taking into account all the comments it received about it.
MEIC has received plenty of criticism from investors, real estate developers, the tourism sector, and other government departments that understand that the proposed ruling will make it almost impossible for digital nomads to want to go through the hassle of meeting its plethora of requirements.
The Promoter of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica (Procomer), which is a public institution, the digital nomad visa category “is hindered by this regulation,” since “the objective of ‘attraction’ [of foreign remote workers] is not being fulfilled if the requisites represent an equally cumbersome process to an already existing [migratory] category.”
If the law is to be implemented as drafted by the DGME’s ruling, “it would not establish any incentive or differentiation that would allow Costa Rica to position itself as an attractive destination” for digital nomads, Procomer added.
Back to square one
MEIC finally rejected the Immigration Department’s ruling draft, as reported by La Nación on April 1. The Ministry of Economy conceded that the regulation would impose tricky requisites on foreign professionals who are interested in establishing themselves in Costa Rica, and asked for changes to be made.
MEIC asked DGME to desist in its demand of criminal record certifications, since the Immigration authorities can verify this information using digital platforms. This is the way it is done with tourists who enter the country,” since it is a more efficient way to protect the security and meet the regulation’s objective,” the Ministry said.
The DGME also wanted digital nomads to present authenticated bank statements and salary certificates, and to legalize those documents with a digital signature issued in Costa Rica. “Requesting the apostille of private documents, far from facilitating the legalization process, makes it more complex,” MEIC alleged.
Now, the Immigration Department has to make the changes MEIC asked for, which means that the digital nomads law won’t be implemented soon. We don’t know how long this will take, but all deadlines have not been respected concerning these visas. As we said above, this bill was presented during a pandemic that is now shifting considerably.
“It is a bad draft,” said Carlos Ricardo Benavides, one of the Legislative Assembly representatives who pushed for the bill to be passed. He thinks that DGME “wants to impose requirements that are difficult or impossible to comply with,” something that “nullifies the intention of the deputies that it be an agile process.”
Rubén Acón, president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur), criticized that the proposed regulation’s ruling “only generates obstacles and obstacles for that type of tourist that comes to Costa Rica” and asked for the law to “be properly regulated and that it doesn’t become a disincentive for that tourist.”
“It is necessary, besides the urgent publication, that the regulation establishes the requirements that are strictly necessary, since otherwise it would be discouraging the coming of these tourists who would find more friendly incentives in other countries,” added the Costa Rican Chamber of Information and Communication Technologies.