In general, it must be said, although there some exceptions, you cannot get a job in Costa Rica without first obtaining legal permanent residency with no employment restrictions or citizenship.
Costa Rica laws are aimed at protecting local workers by preventing foreigners to carry out activities that can be done my nationals (or permanent residents). The basic concept is that no foreigner can do work that can be done by a Costa Rica or foreigner who is a permanent resident.
Some exceptions to the rule include the highly skilled in a certain field or activity, where there is no specialization in the country. In practice, the exception fills a gap in the labour market. The employer can apply for a work permit, usually for up to one year. The Ministry of Labour (Ministerio de Trabajo – MTSS) maintains a list of professionals and skilled labour that it seeks from time to time.
Important to note here that to obtain work in Costa Rica you need permanent residency. With other residency such as rentista (investor) or pensionado (retired), you can own a business but you cannot work in the business, that is your activity is limited to managing the business, but need to hire Costa Ricans or permanent residents for the labour.
Also important to note is the wages. They are not like back home. In Costa Rica you will earn, save in exceptional cases, a fraction of what you would earn at home: perhaps one-quarter of a similar job in Canada or the United States, up to half if you are from Europe.
The MTSS publishes a list of minimum wages for a variety of job specifications and titles. These are the minimum to be paid by law, however an employer can pay more.
The wages are reviewed every six months, allowing for the twice-yearly minimum wage adjustment (hike) established by the government.
For those looking to work online from Costa Rica, that is you are physically in Costa Rica but the work is actually for an employer outside the country, the work can be said to be legal as long as payment comes from outside Costa Rica and your work is unrelated to Costa Rica,. This could include, but not limited to, writing, IT consulting, web design, translation, and sales/telemarketing. There is a lot of gray area here. Recommended is to apply and obtain legal residency or citizenship.
A source of jobs abroad programs in Costa Rica visit Goabroad.com
This article is not meant to be legal or residency advice. Consult a lawyer or residency specialist for detailed information applicable to your particular case.