RICO’s TICO BULL – Today, Monday, April 5, Costa Rica opened its land borders with Nicaragua and Panama to tourists, in what both the immigration service (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjera – DGME) and the Tourism Board (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo – ICT), call “the first phase of the opening of land borders”.
First phase because the land borders are open only to tourists from countries whose citizens do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica.
Group 1 of those in countries United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Panama and Uruguay, among others, from the Americas; Germany, Italy, France, Spain and UK, among others, from Europe; and many others. Click here for the full list of countries (start page 4).
Tourists from this group can be given up to 90 days’ stay in Costa Rica, currently subject to insurance coverage. Citizens from this group need only one day validity on their passport to enter Costa Rica.
Group 2 includes countries El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela from the Americas and others across the globe, who do not need a consular visa and their stay is also up to 90 days, subject to insurance, and require a minimum 3 months validity on their passport.
For purpose of this article, the following only applies to citizens of the above groups.
While border runs – the process of leaving Costa Rica and returning immediately or in a matter of a day or two to renew one’s legal permanence in the country – is not required until June 1, 2021, with the migratory extension in play, tourists in the country who benefit from this extension may not be able to drive since the Ministry of Transport did not extend driving privileges as it had done in prior extensions.
Thus a border run is necessary to keep on driving.
It that is the case for you, please keep the following in mind.
Leaving the country by land (sea or air):
- If choosing to leave Costa Rica by way of Nicaragua, a covid test is required, as Nicaragua requires the test to enter their territory.
- If choosing Panama, Costa Rica does not require a covid test to leave, but Panama does to enter.
Returning to Costa Rica by land (sea or air):
- A completed Health Pass: https://salud.go.cr/.
- Travel insurance (local or international), which must comply with these coverages: valid throughout the stay (the maximum time of stay will depend on this); US$50,000 for medical expenses, including COVID-19; US$2,000 for lodging expenses in case of COVID-19 quarantine.
- The above must be done with 48 hours to obtain a QR code, which will be verified by the immigration authorities at the border.
- Proof of continuity of the trip or return to the country of origin. Although many have commented on social networks that it is never asked of them, the requirements is on the books and you may be the lucky one asked. A bus ticket purchased prior to your departure in Costa Rica or in Nicaragua or Panama, for example, is sufficient. Others purchase a refundable airfare to only cancel after their arrival in Costa Rica.
- Also on the books is the demonstration of economic solvency of US$100.00 for each month your intended stay. Some reports say immigration officials, mainly at the Panama border require proof of US$500 to enter.
- A valid passport in good condition.
- No covid test is required.
When you re-enter Costa Rica, despite the fact that you may have been in the country for some time before, have a vehicle, even a house, or a business, you are still a “tourist”, a temporary visitor in the country.
Obtaining residency and or citizenship
To change that, there are various temporary and permanent residency options to allow you to stay for longer periods, even work, obtain a local driver’s license, no restrictions on bank accounts, and so on.
The other option is citizenship. If you are married to a Costa Rican, this is the simplest and quickest of processes: 2 years or more of marriage and permanence in the country (which can be accumulated starting the day the marriage was registered), a criminal report and birth certificate, both apostilled, from your country of origin.
Naturalization outside of marriage required being a resident for a period of time and successfully complete a Spanish language and Social Studies course by the Ministry of Education and the criminal report and birth certificate.
NOTE: (update to the update). MOPT extends new extensions related to foreigner and national drivers
NOTE: (update to original post) It has been pointed out that the MOPT – Ministry of Transport – has extended driving privileges to June 1, 2021. However, as out friends at Outlier Legal point in their article of March 26: “the verbiage used does not explicitly say that the entry stamp is extended until June 1st, 2021”.
I concur with Outlier Legal’s recommendation to drive using your passport, foreign drivers’ license, and a copy of the resolution.
The problem with that is that it’s up to the traffic officer, which in addition to a fine could confiscate plates and/or vehicle.
The fine and the seizure are appealable. However, to process of getting back plates/vehicle can be time consuming.