Here’s a general overview regarding immigration policy in Costa Rica, prepared by Federico Solis, the partner in charge of the immigration practice at Facio & Cañas – The ‘International Financial Law Review 2004’ ranked this firm as “Both the biggest firm in Costa Rica and the most recommended.”

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a) Costa Rica’s General Immigration Statute, Law No. 7033 of December 5, 1985, is the primary legal source and reference for immigration issues. This statute is complemented by Regulation Decree No. 19010-G of 11th of May, 1989. The general statute has not received any changes as of December 1997, while its regulation has experience several amendments and modifications, the last being on June 2004 (changes were also introduced in 2001, 2002 and 2003).

b) Currently an entirely new statute is being discussed before Costa Rican Congress for approval. If passed, the proposed law would supersede and replace the current statute, law No. 7033. It is expected that this new law may be approved by Q2 or Q3 of 2005.

c) In addition to the laws and regulation in place, immigration policy is also dictated on an every day basis by any of the following agencies or councils: i) General Direction of Immigration, ii) National Employment Agency (which is run under the Ministry of Labor), iii) and National Immigration Council.

d) The National Immigration Council is the highest ranking board with mandate over immigration policy in Costa Rica. This council is made up by representatives of several agencies and ministries, including representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Homeland Security and (2) representatives from the General Direction of Immigration.

e) Presently, Costa Rica has no quota system, nor does it allocate a restricted number of work permits or visas for foreigners seeking work in Costa Rica.

f) Under Costa Rica’s Constitution, foreigners have the same right to employment as a Costa Rican national (Article 33, 56 and 68 of the Constitution). However, the same Constitution also provides that under equal circumstances a local employer must prefer a Costa Rican employee before a foreign employee (Article 68 of the Constitution).

g) Consequently, in most cases (with the exception of high ranking executives) Immigration authorities will consult with authorities of the National Employment Agency to evaluate whether a particular job or position could very well be carried out by an unemployed Costa Rican. Should the National Employment Agency determine that there are available Costa Ricans for a specific job or position, Immigration authorities will be constrained to reject that foreigner’s work permit application. The National Employment Agency carries out these evaluations on a case by case basis.

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h) There are basically 4 different immigration options available for foreigners employed in Costa Rica:

1. Permanent Residency: Granted to foreigners with strong family ties with Costa Ricans (i.e. spouses, siblings or parents). Refugees and admitted immigrants are also often granted permanent status with permission to conduct work in the country.

2. Temporary Residency: Recommended for international hires or expatriates working assignments that exceed 12 months in the country. Immigration officials usually only grant this status to high ranking executives, managers and highly skilled technicians. Residency applications incorporate a great deal of requirements and paperwork, much of which must be supplied by the international assignee of foreign worker with documentation originating in his/her country of origin. A normal step back in completing most applications in a timely manner is the result of Costa Rica not being a member to the 1961 Hague “Apostile” Convention. As a result of this, all documentation originating in a foreign country must first complete an authentication process before a Costa Rican Consular office, prior to being filed with local immigration authorities. Residency applications are usually resolved in a 45 to 90 calendar day period, however, CR Immigration is also known for missing deadlines quite frequently.

3. Temporary Work Permit: Usually granted to technicians or international assignees with tasks that do not require a stay of over 12 months in the country. These permits are also used by interns, trainees, instructors and technicians with a temporary task in Costa Rica. These permits are also processed more rapidly than a temporary residency and require less paperwork and documentation.

4. Business visas (single entry and multiple entry): Business travelers may be allowed to undertake certain tasks (attend meetings, training and coaching sessions and perform managerial work) while holding a valid visa. Most visas expire at the end of 30 days, but may be extended for a total stay of 90 days in the country. Most EU countries and the United States citizens are allowed a 90 day entry in the country.

i) Certain facilities for obtaining work permits and temporary residencies are granted to companies that pass an accreditation process before the National Immigration Council. Componentes Intel de Costa Rica S.A. completed the accreditation process before Immigration authorities by early 2000. Facilities granted to accredited companies usually consist of quicker response times, less paperwork required to validate the order and financial soundness of the business in the country and fewer restrictions and limitations for hiring foreign individuals (specially regarding managerial positions).

j) In cases involving mass relocation of foreign assignees to Costa Rica, it is recommended to consult with the National Employment Agency first, in order to obtain their assessment on the

For more information you can contact Sergio Solera at Facio & Cañas – Tel: + (506) 256-5555, Ext. 803

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