Monday 18 October 2021

[BLOG] Expats Working in Costa rica

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As with most countries, Costa Rica has a number of protectionist oriented laws to provide employment opportunities as a priority for its own citizens and to the exclusion of foreigners filling these employment positions.

The basic principle that applies is that unless you have obtained Permanent Residency status in Costa Rica as a foreigner, you will be unable to legally work for a salary, or wages. To obtain Permanent Residency status, a foreigner must first obtain Residency in one of the Temporary Residency categories (Pensionado, Rentista, or Inversionista) and hold that status for a three year period prior to applying for Permanent Residency status.

As a foreigner, you may own and manage a business in Costa Rica without obtaining Residency status, which employs Costa Ricans, or foreigners holding Permanent Residency status. As the owner of the business, you may not engage in the actual day-to-day work of the business without first obtaining Permanent Residency status.

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There are also some exceptions for foreigners being able to work for a salary, or wages, without Residency status, related to the obtaining of a Work Permit from the Costa Rican Immigration Department. In this instance, it is the would-be employer who must establish a case with the Immigration Department that a particular foreigner seeking employment possesses certain unique employment, or technical skills, which cannot otherwise be met by hiring a Costa Rican Citizen. This arises most often with scientific, or educational related employment positions, such as teaching English.

There are many examples of foreigners working in Costa Rica without first establishing the correct Immigration status to do so. It ought be noted that a foreigner who is caught working illegally by the Immigration Police, is subject to immediate deportation and the penalty of not being able to return to Costa Rica for a period of ten years.


To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney, please use the following information: Lic. Rick Philps – Attorney at Law, Petersen & Philps, San Jose, Costa Rica Tel: 506-2288-4381, Ext. 102; Email: Website:

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Richard Philps
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking. To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney; Email:, Website:

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