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The reality behind importing containers into Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica is a very attractive idea for many foreigners around the world; the "Pura Vida" style, our peace, beaches, mountains and biodiversity, in addition to an extremely high quality of life, make

Importing containers into Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica is a very attractive idea for many foreigners around the world; the “Pura Vida” style, our peace, beaches, mountains and biodiversity, in addition to an extremely high quality of life, make this place an excellent option to settle permanently.

In case you have selected Costa Rica as your new home, it is important to take into account aspects that allow you to carry out an immigration process as tidy and safe as possible. An example, is the transportation of goods necessary for your permanent settlement within the Costa Rican borders, in order to start a new life in Central America.

You should know that the import of containers in Costa Rica is a very broad system that it is conditioned by the type of goods being shipped. That’s why, this article will focus mainly on goods related to household and vehicles.

Approved law in process to be regulated

For both categories of goods, it is important to talk about the taxes that must be paid. Currently, the Immigration Department (DGME) is in the process of regulating a law that will allow temporary residents in the categories of investors, rentistas and pensionados, to be exempted from import taxes when bringing containers with household goods, instruments or materials for professional or scientific purposes.

Also, the beneficiaries will have the possibility to import up to 2 air, land and/or maritime vehicles totally free of import, customs or value added taxes.

According to this regulation in process of approval, to be exempt from these taxes it will be necessary to be up to date with all tax and social security obligations (Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social or CAJA), to have a migratory status as a rentista, investor or pensionado, and to be registered in the Exonet System.

How does the container import process currently works?

The procedure for importing household goods into Costa Rica, as well as vehicles in containers, is supervised by the Ministry of Finance (Ministerio de Hacienda), this institution supervises and controls all actions involved in this process.

The following items are NOT considered household goods: luggage, construction materials (jacuzzis, ceramics and switches), office equipment (photocopier, folders and binders), books, tools, clothes or shoes. Therefore, household goods will only be understood as articles intended for domestic use.

Until the new regulation is approved, each article will have an individual and specific import tax, previously established in the law, since there is no rate that circumscribes all  of them within the same category.

Regarding the importation of vehicles, you should understand that every mean of transportation must have its original title of ownership and its proper Spanish translation if required. In addition, it is important to make sure that no labels such as “salvage – parts only”, “destruction”, “total loss”, “fire damage”, “dismantlers”, “junk”, “crush”, “scrap” or “not rebuildable” are mentioned in the title, since this would invalidate the importation and registration process. Additionally to these tags, you will not be able to import a car if it has the steering wheel on the right side.

Importing containers into Costa Rica

Damage to any type of cargo

For this purpose, a report should be drawn up stating the following:

  • Date and time of the incident

  • Name of Ship

  • Container number

  • Bill of Landing number (document that serves as evidence of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the shipping company).

  • Type of cargo (“commodity”)

  • Nature of loss or damage

  • Specific value of cargo or damage

  • Report the final disposition of the cargo

  • Approximate date of incident

  • Commercial invoice for the cargo

  • Packing list

  • Cargo survey report authorized by the Service Provider

  • Container survey report authorized by the Service Provider

  • Color photographs of cargo or container

  • Proof of cargo salvage procedures or certificate of destruction

  • Depreciated value of the container (if applicable when there is material damage)

What to expect?

Finally, it is important to mention that for the transportation of this type of goods, many shipping lines use containers from Costa Rica or nearby countries. This allows them to unload and pick up the merchandise in the same trip. This makes the service much cheaper, but the recommendation is always to choose a company that is experienced, reliable and that best suits your needs.

In case you are thinking of arranging this type of import, feel free to contact us and we will gladly provide you with reliable contacts, who you can ask for more information.



She serves as an Senior Immigration Client Services Coordinator at Outlier Legal and has a degree in Political Science and is currently a Law student. María José Chavarría worked in the Visa Unit and the Immigration Management at DGME, as a consultant at the International Organization for Migration and as an observer for the TSE in the municipal elections. Dedicated and helpful are some adjectives that fit her perfectly.

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