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Costa Rica - Employment

Costa Rica has a strong economy with a good level of employment, and most available jobs can be found in the Central Valley region or the coastal towns. A typical working week is 48 hours and most people are employed in the services sector, industry and agriculture.

Strict labour laws benefit Costa Rican nationals but mean that finding a job as a foreigner can prove difficult. As a general rule, foreigners can only work in Costa Rica if they can prove that they possess a skill that Costa Ricans do not. There are ways around this though and there are opportunities to earn an income whilst living in Costa Rica. Spanish is the main language used for business and journalism in Costa Rica, therefore it is usually necessary to have a grasp of the language if you plan to work in any role that isn’t specifically English-centric (such as English teaching or call centre work).

If you have a permanent residency visa or one of a few specific types of temporary residency visa in Costa Rica then you will be allowed to work. It is also possible to apply for a work permit but these are normally very difficult to obtain. If you are based outside Costa Rica and applying to work for a company within Costa Rica they may be able to secure a work permit for you – it is recommended that you enquire about this when you apply. A work permit allows you residency only as long as the conditions for employment remain the same. Below you will find a list of the necessary requirements to obtain a work permit in Costa Rica:

  • You or your employer must provide evidence that you possess a certain skillset that cannot be found within Costa Rica.
  • You must provide full details of your employer in Costa Rica. The employer must provide evidence that they have the economic means to pay the relevant salary.
  • You must provide a certified copy of your passport and a certified birth certificate which must both be authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate in your country of origin.

You may want to consider working as an online freelancer or telecommuter and being employed by a company from outside Costa Rica. English language teaching jobs, whether TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) or in traditional schools, can provide a good source of income and are normally well paid.

As a result of the strict labour laws for foreigners, English speaking recruitment agencies are very difficult to come by, and the Costa Rican government does not have an official employment service. There are some online agencies which post job opportunities in Costa Rica, or another good source is the newspaper.

There are a handful of international companies that have offices based in Costa Rica but these are unlikely to provide employment opportunities as they normally employ from within Costa Rica or directly from their other offices worldwide.

Chambers of Commerce and other business organisations can be a helpful source when looking for employment in Costa Rica. Here are some suggestions of organisations to contact:

Costa Rica British Chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comercio Británico-Costarricense)
A non-profit association dedicated to developing commercial opportunities between the United Kingdom and Costa Rica.
Tel: +506 2201 6095
Email: info@britchamcr.com

International Chamber of Commerce Costa Rica
An organisation aiming to strengthen commercial ties between Costa Rica and other nations.
Tel: +506 22573282
Email: info@icccostarica.com

AMCHAM (Costa Rican – American Chamber of Commerce)
An organisation representing the interests of its members with regards to economic, educational and social factors.
Tel: +506 2220-2200
Email: chamber@amcham.co.cr

AED (Asociación Empresarial para el Desarrollo)
A non-profit business association for development.
Tel: +506 2231 2081
Email: info@aedcr.com

Do not consider working in Costa Rica without the necessary visa or work permit – this will likely result in deportation. If you do have permission to work in Costa Rica then you should carefully consider the salary that you will be earning. Salaries in Costa Rica are generally very low – the average is $500 per month. Realistically you will need to be earning around $1000 - $1500 per month to live a standard of lifestyle that is considered comfortable by Western standards.

Read more about this country

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