Costa Rica Immigration and Residency Summary

In this article I will set forth a summary of the most current Costa Rica Immigration laws and regulations which will guide you through the updated procedures for applying for residency in Costa Rica.

All information contained in this article is checked with the applicable Immigration Law and Immigration regulations for applying for residency in Costa Rica and is up to date for 2016.


The requirements to enter Costa Rica depend on your country of nationality. Generally, citizens of the United States, Canada and the European Union countries do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica. Those citizens can enter Costa Rica with their valid passport and remain in the country for up to a maximum of 90 days.

Visa renewal. If you are under the 30 or 60 day category then the law allows you to apply for an extension of up to 90 days. If you have a 90 day visa the law does not allow you to apply for an extension in Costa Rica you must leave the country and re-enter to obtain another tourist visa.

The amount of time that a Tourist can remain in Costa Rica is based upon their country of origin. Costa Rica ranks countries for visa purposes into 4 categories set forth below:

GROUP ONE. Those countries designated as Group One may enter Costa Rica without an entry Visa and may remain in Costa Rica for up to 90 days.

Example: United States Canada, European Union, Australia, Brazil,

GROUP TWO: Citizens of Group Two countries may enter Costa Rica without an entry Visa and may remain in Costa Rica for up to 30 days.

Example: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela

GROUP THREE: If you are a citizen of a Group Three country you need to obtain an entry VISA from a Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate abroad before you enter Costa Rica. If granted it is for a period of 30 days.

Example: Colombia, Ecuador, India, Nicaragua, Peru, China

GROUP FOUR: This is the most restrictive category. This means that citizens of Category Three Countries must have an entry visa BEFORE they are allowed to enter Costa Rica. The visa must be reviewed by the Director of Immigration before it can be granted. If granted the visa is for a period of 30 days.

Example: Cuba, Jamaica, Iran, Iraq.

You can view the Visa entry requirement list below:

Your Passport Entry Stamp: While you are in Costa Rica your passport and the immigration stamp that was placed in it when you entered the country is your proof of legal status. The Immigration Department allows you to carry a copy of your passport with the entry stamp so that you can keep your passport in a safe place.


All residency applications are processed by the Costa Rican Department of Immigration (Direccion General de Migración y Extranjeria) which in turn is overseen by the Ministry of Public Security and Police (Ministerio de Gobernacion, Policia y Seguridad Publica).

In the past the Department of Immigration required that applications be filed in your country of origin through the Costa Rican Consular Office in your country of origin. Under the current law the Department of Immigration will accept applications filed directly in Costa Rica with the Department of Immigration. However, if you file in Costa Rica as opposed to outside of Costa Rica then, in addition to the $50 application fee you will be charged an additional $200 fee for a change of status fee.

All the supporting documents that must accompany your residency application must be authenticated in your country of origin. If your country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then your certified documents should be “Apostilled” in your country of origin and may be used in Costa Rica without further authentication procedures in Costa Rica. If your country is not a member of Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then you will need to interact with the Costa Rican Embassy or Consular office in your home country in order to have your documents authenticated. See the following article on the Legalization of Documents for Countries that are members of the Hague Convention.

For list of Embassy and Consular Offices of Costa Rica around the world see the list on the Ministry of Foreign Relations site: Embassy and Consular List.

Be advised that the residency procedures change from time to time.  Since Costa Rica has become an attractive destination for many persons the processing of immigration applications at time has overwhelmed the Immigration processing system. As such, there are considerable delays in processing new applications. Also, the approval of residency is a discretionary matter of the Department of Immigration. The Department of Immigration favors applicants that can demonstrate that they will provide a financial benefit for Costa Rica citizens either in the form of direct investment (investors, entrepreneurs) or indirect investment (Rentista and Pensionados) .

The Residency options available in Costa Rica under the Immigration Law ( Law # 8764) are discussed below:


The majority of application for Costa Rican residency will fall into the Temporary Residency category which is regulated by Article 79 of the Immigration Law and has the following subcategories:

(1) The Spouse of a Costa Rican citizen as set forth in Article 73 of the law.

(2) Those of religious orders for religions that have been accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Culture

(3) Executives, Managers, Technical Personnel for Corporations which are established in the country. This may also include those specialized workers that are independent workers but whose technical expertise is required and the Department of Immigration as set forth the criteria to allow that specialty to work in Costa Rica.

(4) Investors

(5) Scientific, Professional and Specialized persons.

(6) Sports figures recognized by the National Council on Sports and Recreation

(7) International Press Correspondents

(8) Rentistas

(9) Pensionados


Pensionado and Rentista Residency

Pensionado adn Rentista are the two most common Temporary Residency categories that are processed before the Department of Immigration. If you qualify for either of these two categories this is the route you should take to start your residency process in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has had a Pensionado (Retiree) and Renitsta program for more than 40 years. This program continues to date as follows:

If you are planning to retire in Costa Rica and you have a pension or you receive investment income then you may qualify for either PENSIONADO RESIDENCY or RENTISTA RESIDENCY. I will go over the specifics of each program in more detail as follows:


The Pensionado (Retiree) applicant must demonstrate a permanent fixed income from a pension or similar retirement income of at least US$1,000 per month. The typical applicant in this category has a government, private sector pension or social security retirement benefits. The legal basis for the pensionado category under the immigration law is Article 81 of Law 8764.


To apply for residency under the Rentista portion the applicant must demonstrate a at least US$2,500 per month in a permanent and stable manner for at least 2 years. This amount includes the applicant, their spouse and all their children which are under the age of 25. The legal basis for the Rentista category under the new immigration is Article 82 of Law 8764.

Generally, those who seek the Rentista residency category do not have a pension source and instead have investment income. To apply for this category it is necessary to provide proof that you will receive the US$2,500 in a permanent and stable manner. This can be done by providing a letter from your bank or financial institution whereby they stipulate that you will receive $2,500 per month in Costa Rica. In some cases you will be able to deposit funds in a Costa Rican bank and have the local bank issue the letter for you.

I will emphasize that the ideal letter issued by the financial institution should state that the recipient will receive at least US$2,500 per month in Costa Rica in a stable and permanent manner for 2 years. Recently the Department of Immigration has been picky over the content of the letter.  They want to see the key words mentioned in the Immigration Law to also appear in the letter.  The key words they look for are “permanent and stable”  and that the amount of $2,500 will be “income” received.   To avoid processing delays make sure your bank letter which will be the basis of your application contains those key words.

In both cases, Pensionado and Rentista the beneficiaries must comply with the following:

Prove that the funds were deposited in Costa Rica. This issue generally comes up when you are going to renew your residency category. When you renew your status you will be asked to provide proof that the funds have been sent to Costa Rica. As such keep records of all deposits until you complete your renewal of status. The easiest way to comply with this requirement is to ask your bank to issue a letter stating that you have an account with them and indicating that during the year you have exchanged the amount required by the immigration law i.e. $12,000 per year for Pensionado or $ 30,000 per year for Rentista.

 Contribute to the Social Security System of Costa Rica. The Immigration Law (Law # 8764) requires that all those that have residency in Costa Rica contribute towards the Costa Rican Social Security and Medical System (C.C.S.S.) The easiest way to comply is to request a voluntary policy known as seguro voluntario. The amount you pay is based upon the amount of income you reported on the application and which was the basis of your residency process. The insurance is a percentage of the amount of income that you receive.  For more information on Social Security registration read my article on Mandatory Registration with Social Security in Costa Rica,

A. The Rentista and Pensionado Application Process

The application for Rentista or Pensionado status can be filed directly in Costa Rica with the Department of Immigration or through the Costa Rican Embassy or Consular office in your country of origin. Before the application can be prepared the applicant must compile all the supporting documentation that is required for the application as follows:

NOTE: All documents must be Apostilled in your country of origin. If your country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents that is all you will need to do. If your country is not a member then you will have to send it to the Costa Rican consulate for your jurisdiction for authentication.

1. Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your birth certificate and that of your dependents.

2. Marriage Certificate: If you are married and your spouse will be applying with you as well then you will also have to provide a certified copy of a marriage certificate.

3. Proof of Income: If your source of income is a government pension then obtain a letter from your government certifying the income (US citizens on Social Security can obtain this letter from the United States Embassy -Consular Section in Costa Rica).

If the income is from a Bank or Financial Institution then it must issue the letter. The letters must also be Apostilled or authenticated by a Costa Rican Consulate.

4. Police Certificate of Good Conduct: This certification is obtained from the police department where you last resided. Note that this certificate is only valid for 6 months from the date they are issued. If this document expires while you are pulling together the rest of the documentation then you will have to obtain another one. If the document expires after you have submitted it to immigration and they have not processed your obligation you will NOT have to submit another one.

5. Finger Prints for Interpol Background Check: This step is done in Costa Rica at the Ministry of Public Security. The applicant will be finger printed in Costa Rica and the prints will be checked with Interpol. You must take at least 3 photographs facing front.  Note.  The latest regulations require that the applicant first submit the residency application at immigration.  Once the applicant has proof that they have filed for residency status then they will be allowed to proceed with fingerprinting.

6. Photographs: The application requires two (2) photographs.  However we recommend you have at least six (6) photographs during the various stages of processing.

7. Photocopy of Your Entire Passport. With your application you will need to provide a complete copy of your passport. This means every single page from front cover to back. You will also require a very clear copy of the date of the immigration stamp where you entered the country.

8. Translation of Documents: Once you have compiled all your documentation, all documents which are in English must be translated into Spanish. This procedure can generally be handled by the Attorney that you have retained to process your application.

9. Power of Attorney for Representation. If you have hired an Attorney to process your application you will have to confer upon them a Power of Attorney to act on your behalf before the Department of Immigration.

10.  Background Information Sheet (Hoja de Filiacion). This form requests the personal background information of the applicant and must be attached to the application.

The form is provided for you below:

11. Proof of Registration With Your Local Embassy. Your local Embassy in Costa Rica must provide you with a letter or certificate indicating that you have registered with them. This is now a pre-requisite to the approval of immigration residency status in Costa Rica. Many embassies have an online regisration form so you can register online and then print the registration form out to include with your residency application.

 As previously indicated all documents that are issued in your country of origin such as a birth certificate, police certificate, marriage certificate etc.. must go through the document legalization and authentication process. This means the documents you will use for the residency process must first be be obtained from your vital records office and then certified by your local authenticating government agent. In the United States that would be the Secretary of State of the state where the document was issued. In the case of Canadian documents they can be legalized at the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Office. In the case of European documents they must be legalized by the Foreign Relations office of the country where they were issued. If your country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then you can skip the Costa Rican Embassy / Consular authentication step.

 The following is an example of a Secretary of State authentication. Since the United States is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents this document could be sent directly to Costa Rica for legalization.

Apostille Secretary of State

Apostille Secretary of State

 Once you have all the documentation set forth above you are ready to submit your application to the Department of Immigration. The cost of the application is $50 which must be paid to the Department of Immigration by way of deposit to their account at the Banco de Costa Rica. If you apply in Costa Rica instead of via your Consular office you will have to pay an additional $200 with your application since they consider this a change of status from a “tourist” status to the new category you are applying for. Generally the Department of Immigration will only receive applications that are accompanied with ALL the supporting documentation. Keep in mind that all the original documents that you submit become the exclusive property of the Department of Immigration and will NOT be returned to you. We strongly recommend that you pay the $250 and apply within Costa Rica.

Within the application process you will be required to provide the Department of Immigration with the following information:

1. Full Name, 2. Nationality, 3. Occupation, 4. Name of your Father, 5. Name of your Mother, 6. Name of your Spouse, 7. Race, 8. Color of your Eyes, 9. Color of your hair, 10. Your height (in meters), 11. Your weight (in kilos), 12. Marital Status, 13. Place of Birth, 14. Date of Birth, 15. Original Entry Date into Costa Rica, 16. Point of Entry into Costa Rica, 17. Physical Address in Costa Rica, 18. Telephone number in Costa Rica.

Once you application is received you will be given a receipt. This receipt is important since it is your proof that you have a pending residency application with the Department of Immigration. The form below is a copy of the receipt that you will be issued.


Your application first goes to the Legal Department within Pensionado/Rentista Section of the Department of Immigration who will review all the documentation for compliance. If all your paperwork is in order the Legal Department will forward the application to the approval committee for final evaluation. If there are any defects in the application the Legal Department will notify your legal representative of the defect and request that it be corrected before it will submit the application for approval.

 If your application is approved then the Department of Immigration will issue a formal resolution indicating the date on which the application was approved. You or your legal representative Costa Rica Residency Cardmust appear at the Department of Immigration for formally retrieve the resolution. Once you have the final resolution and have registered with the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS) then you can request an appointment with the Department of Immigration to have them issue you a picture identification residency card.

B. Renewal of Pensionado/ Rentista

 In order to renew you residency status under this category you must first must demonstrate that the income was received in Costa Rica. The renewal process has greatly improved since the Department of Immigration created an alliance with Banco de Costa Rica one of the largest banks in Costa Rica. As such residency holders can renew their residency status at some of the branch offices of Banco de Costa Rica. To do so you call their 900 number which is 900-00-34639 to request a renewal appointment. They have English speaking phone operators if you request it.




The Investor Category requires an applicant to demonstrate to the Department of Immigration that they will be coming to Costa Rica to invest in the country. The current Immigration Law maintains the investor category which had existed in previous immigration laws. The category is found in Article 79 (4) of the law. It is also addressed in the Regulations to the Immigration Law in Article 87 of Decree No. 37112-G.

To qualify for investment status the applicant will have to demonstrate an investment of at least US$200,000 in Costa Rica. According to the regulations:

 “The investment amount must be $200,000 United States dollars or more according to the official exchange rate which is established by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The investment can be made in tangible property, shares, negotiable instruments, productive projects or projects which are deemed of national interest”

The investor category allows individuals that have purchased real estate in Costa Rica either directly or by way of a Costa Rican corporation  with a value of US$200,000 or more to qualify for investor residency.

Be sure to properly document the value of the investment with official government records and a Costa Rican Certified Public Accountant (CPA) since the government will look at official documents to verify the investment.

 The Investor category once approved includes the main applicant, spouse and chilldren under the age of 25.


This category of residency is available to foreigners who are immediate relatives of a Costa Rica citizen.

1. Who is an Immediate Relative for Purposes of the Law

Those who are related in the First Degree with a Costa Rican citizen.

The law recognizes the following to qualify:

i. Parents of Costa Rican citizens,

ii. The minor children of a Costa Rican citizen.

iii. The children of a Costa Rican citizen that has a disability regardless of age.

iv. Minors which are siblings of a Costa Rican citizen or siblings that have a disability of any age.

2. The Spouse of a Costa Rican Citizen

The procedure by which a Spouse of a Costa Rican citizen may process residency is one of the significant changes in the new immigration law.

Under Article 73 and 79 (1) of the new immigration law the Spouse of a Costa Rican citizen is no longer allowed to apply for Permanent residency status. A Spouse must first apply under the Temporary residency category.

This is a response to massive marriage fraud cases that have been uncovered whereby foreigners would pay Costa Rican citizens to marry them in order to obtain permanent residency.

Under the new law the spouse of a Costa Rica citizen will be given Temporary immigration status for one year and renewable for additional one year periods so long as the immigration authorities do not determine that the marriage is a sham. After 3 years of marriage and with Temporary Residency status then the spouse may apply for Permanent Residency

The applicant must provide the following supporting documentation:

1. Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your birth certificate and that of your dependents. The certified copy must be sent to the Costa Rican consulate for your jurisdiction for authentication. The consulate charges US$40 for each document to be authenticated. Be advised that the Department of Immigration will not accept any supporting documentation which has not been authenticated by a Costa Rican Consul.

2. Proof of Relationship to Costa Rican Citizen: If you are basing your petition on marriage then you must have a Certified copy of the marriage certificate issued by the Civil Registry. If you are a parent or sibling to a Costa Rica citizen then provide the Certified birth certificate of the relative. You must also provide a certified copy of the identification document of the Costa Rican relative.

3. Police Certificate of Good Conduct: This certification is obtained from the police department where you last resided. This certification also needs to be authenticated by a Costa Rican Consulate. Note that this certificates is only valid for 6 months from the date they are issued. If this document expires while you are pulling together the rest of the documentation then you will have to obtain another one.

4. Fingerprints for Interpol Background Check: This step is done in Costa Rica at the Ministry of Public Security. The applicant is finger printed and the fingerprints are run through the Interpol computer index.  Under current regulations the applicant must first apply for residency and have proof of the application before they will be allowed to be fingerprinted.

5. Photographs: The application must provide 4 photographs facing towards the front.

6. Translation of Documents: Once you have compiled all your documentation, all documents which are not in Spanish must be translated to the Spanish language.

7. Register with the Embassy of your Country of origin. You must register with your Embassy and provide proof to the Department of Immigration.


In order to work in Costa Rica you must either have Permanent Residency or have a work permit that allows you to work.

If you have a Temporary Residency category you may only “carry out remunerated work or business activities on your own which are authorized by the Department of Immigration”. The work authorization shall be based upon the criteria developed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security along with other criteria of the Department of Immigration.

Article 18 section (20) of the Immigration law authorizes the Immigration police to investigate the immigration status of foreign workers and to that end they may “enter upon their place or work during business hours, check passports, residency status, work permits as well as any other identification document in order to determine any violations of the law.”

The Legal Guide to Costa Rica For more information on living, retiring or doing business in Costa Rica be sure you have a copy of the 2015 edition of The Legal Guide to Costa Rica now available from or Barnes and Noble

Watch the video below on How to Apply for Residency in Costa Rica.   Clear, concise and up to date information on the residency process in Costa Rica




Hi. This is Roger Petersen. Welcome to, the Costa Rica Legal Information Site. Don't miss out on important legal changes or events occurring in Costa Rica. Sign up for the Subscriber Advantage Network for free.


The content of this Residency Summary is copyrighted and may not be reproduced or copied in any way or form without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Roger Petersen

Costa Rica Labor Law in a Nutshell will help you understand the ins and out of Costa Rica labor laws. The Labor Law in Costa Rica can affect us all.   If you hire an employee in Costa Rica you will need to know some aspects of Costa Rica labor law to ensure you stay out of trouble.  In Costa Rica the Court will always interpret the labor law with the light most favorable to the employee.  In this article I will cover some of the basics of Costa Rica labor law.

1.  The Employment Agreement.

When you hire somebody to work for you in Costa Rica there is a presumption that an employer-employee relationship exists.  It is up to the employer  to legally rebut that presumption.  Pursuant to Article 18 of the Labor Code and relevant case law from the Costa Rican Labor Court if the employer exerts direction and control over the employee it is presumed that an employee-employer relationship exists.   What does direction and control mean ¿   If you set the hours in which your employee comes and leaves from work you have direction, control and subordination over the employee. On the other hand if the worker carries out their work in an independent and autonomous manner then you have an independent contractor relationship.

There is a habit of trying to label a contract as an “independent contractor” when the reality is different.  The Labor Court will look beyond the written agreement at the reality of the relationship when reviewing this determination.

Keep in mind that in Costa Rica the Labor Court will always resolve any issue in the light most favorable to the Employee.

2.  Your Obligations as an Employer.

If you have an Employer-Employee relationship then you are subject to the legal dispositions of the Costa Rican Labor Code.  As an Employer you will also have obligations before the Costa Rican Social Security Administration and the National Insurance Institute (INS) for Workman’s Compensation all of which I will discuss in more detail below.

3.  Employee Wages.

The minimum wage is established by the National Council on Wages and is revised every six months and published in the official newspaper “La Gaceta” and known as “Decreto de Salario Minimo” Wages can be paid by the hour, day, biweekly or monthly as agreed upon between the parties. In most cases the wages you will pay an employee are set by the market and are most are above the minimum wage scale.  If you are paying your employee above the minimum wage scale you are not obligated to provide your employee with a percentage wage increase when the government publishes its mandatory wage increase resolution since this is only applicable if the employee is being paid the minimum wage.

4.  The Work Week. 

The standard work week in Costa Rica may not exceed 48 hours per week.  If the employee works more than that it shall be considered overtime.  The typical work schedule in Costa Rica is 8 hours a day 5 days a week for professional employees and for laborers it is generally 8 hours a day for Monday-Friday and ½ day on Saturday.<
As part of your agreement with your employee you should establish the work schedule and hours since any hours worked above the standard work week fall into the “extraordinary” pay schedule which means overtime payment to the employee.

5.   Employee Vacations and Legal Holidays 

Workers are entitled to a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each fifty (50) weeks of continuous employment with the same employer.  The wages to be paid to the employee during their vacation must be based on the average weekly wage earned during the previous fifty weeks of employment.

The Labor Code does not allow the employee to accumulate vacation time and does not favor the partition of the vacation time.  Only under special circumstances will the law allowing breaking the vacation into a maximum of two part.

The officially recognized legal holidays in Costa Rica area as follows:  January 1 (New Years Day), April 11 (Juan Santamaria day), Easter (Holy Thursday and Good Friday), May 1 (Labor day), July 25 Nicoya Annexation day), August 15 (Mothers day), September 15 (Independence day), and December 25 (Christmas). Unpaid legal holidays include August 2 and October 12.8 An employee which is required to work on a legal holiday must be paid double wages.

6.    The Christmas Bonus  (Aguinaldo) 

Every worker in Costa Rica has the legal right to receive an additional month of wages paid by the Employer as a year end Christmas Bonus without any conditions.  The bonus must be paid by the employer between December 1st and the 20th.

7.  Firing an Employee.

In Costa Rica you must have cause to fire an employee at will.  If you don’t have cause you may still fire the employee but it will trigger severance payments to the employee by the employer.

To terminate an employee for cause it must be one of the grounds set forth in Article 81 of the Labor Code.    The dismissal must  be well substantiated since the employer carries the burden of proving that the termination was for cause should the employee file a complaint against the employer with the Labor Court.  If you terminate the employee without cause then you must compensate the employee with severance which is referred to locally as “Prestaciones Laborales”  as follows:

(i)   Pre-Termination Notice  (Pre-Aviso)  Before you can fire your employee you have two options.  You can provide them with legal notice of the termination and they can work out this pre-notice period or in lieu of this you can pay them the pre-notice period so that they leave the employment immediately.  The payment must be based upon the total average wage earned during the preceding 6 months or fraction thereof if they have not worked for six months. The amount of notice required depends on the length of time which the employee has worked for that particular employer.

If your employee has worked for you:

More than 3 months but less than 6 months then notice =1 week

More than 6 months but less than 1 year then notice = 2 weeksMore than 1 year then notice = 1 month.

(ii)     Severance Pay (Cesantia) If an employee is terminated without cause by the employer or if the employee quits for cause, they are entitled to severance pay.  If the employee has worked with the employer for more than three (3) months but less than six (6) months then they are entitled to the  equivalent of seven (7) days wages. If the employee has worked from six (6) months to one (1) year they are entitled to fourteen (14) days of wages. If the employee has worked for more than one year then the following schedule applies for each year worked up to a maximum of eight years:

No of Years Worked Days of Severance Payment
1 19.5
2 20
3 20.5
4 21
5 21.5
6 2.15
7 22
8 22
9 22
10 21.5
11 21
12 20.5
13 20

(iii)  Accumulated Vacation Pay (Vacaciones)   When an employee is terminated, any unused vacation time must be paid.   The employee is entitled as part of their severance one day for each month worked.  As such if your employee worked for you for 8 months and did not take any vacation period upon termination they are entitled to 8 days wages as vacation severance.

(iv)  Pro-rated Christmas Bonus  If you terminate your employee prior to December you must still pay them the pro-rated Christmas Bonus. To calculate the amount of the bonus, add the total wages paid to the employer from December 1 through November 30 and divide that amount by twelve (12).

For domestic servants (live in maid)  the law requires that you add an additional 50% to the wages paid as in kind payments (food and housing) in calculating their Christmas bonus.

8.  Registering your Employee with Social Security. 

In Costa Rica registration with the Social Security system is compulsory for anybody that hires an employee.   If you hire a worker it is your obligation to have the employee sign up with the Social Security Administration.   Prior to registering your employee it is necessary for you as the employer to register with the Social Security Administration as an Employer.  You can do this either as an individual or if you operate an incorporated business in the name of your corporation. You can register in the Social Security office where you are physically located.  If you are located outside of San José you can process the registration with the Social Security branch nearest to your location.

You need to file the following documents if applying as an individual. (1) The registration application form.   (2) Copy of your identification document. (3) Copy of the identification document of each of the workers you wish to register with Social Security. (4) Copy of the Electricity bill where the workers will be working.  If you apply as a Corporate Entity you will need in addition to all the above: (1) Certificate of corporate standing (personería jurídica) (2) Copy of the Articles of Incorporation of the corporation. (3) Copy of the Corporate Identification document. The Social Security system provides your employee with medical care, disability payments and retirement benefits.   The employer contributes 26% of the salary and the employee 9%.

 9.    The Worker’s Compensation Insurance  Policy.

The National Insurance Institute (INS) which is the Costa Rican government owned insurance monopoly oversees the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Policy known locally as “Riesgos del Trabajo”.   The policy covers injuries for accidents or illness of the employee that is work related.

Every employer is under the legal obligation to provide a Worker’s Compensation Insurance Policy for their employee.   If your employee is injured and you do not have the insurance you will be liable for the medical expenses incurred.

 If you are a homeowner and only need coverage for a maid and a part time gardner for example you can purchase the RT-Hogar policy from INS.

10.   Hiring a Maid.

The Costa Rican Labor Code has a specific provision that covers “Domestic Employees”.   It provides a 30 day probationary period where either party may terminate the relationship without and severance responsibility.  After the 30 day period the termination provision discussed above apply as well.

In addition to their salary the domestic employee is entitled to Room and Board (unless agreed otherwise).   The Room and Board will be considered as a payment in kind (pago en especies) of an additional 50% of the salary paid for all legal effects under the labor code. The Domestic Employee is obligated to work no more than twelve hours [12] per day which must include a one hour break. The employee is entitled to half a day off during any day of the week that the employer deems convenient.  At least twice a month those days off must be on a Sunday.

Copyright.  No portion of this article my be copied or reproduced without the express written consent of the copyright holder.


Costa Rica imports a lot of products.  Any product that enters Costa Rica with very limited exceptions must pay import duties to the Costa Rican Treasury Department (Ministerio de Hacienda).  The specific department that administers import duties is the Customs Department (Servicio General de Aduanas).  These Import taxes, duties and tariffs and all matters related to importing goods into Costa Rica is administered by the Customs Department of the Ministry of the Treasury of Costa Rica. The following is the organizational chart for the Costa Rica customs Department.

Costa Rica Customs
How do you know how much tax an item will have to pay. Costa Rica adheres to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) which is a goods classification code system developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) that is used as the basis to establish the custom duty tariff that each item will have to pay when imported into the country. This product classification systems is referred to locally as the “partida arancelaria”

For example if you wanted to import furniture to Costa Rica then you would look under Section XX – Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles of the HS coding system and there you would find Chapter 94 which covers “Furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports, cushions and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings, not elsewhere specified or included; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like; prefabricated buildings.” Then within that chapter you would have further sub classifications depending on the type of furniture. For example code # 9403.30 would be for “Wooden Furniture Of a Kind Used in Offices” and code # 9403.40 would be for “Wooden Furniture Of a Kind Used in the Kitchen”

So where do you find these code classification. For those of you that want to read on and get more detailed information about the classification codes and the procedure to calculate the import tariff by way of the Customs Department calculation system then read on. However, if you are just looking for a quick basic estimate on the import tax that a particular product will pay when you bring it into Costa Rica then take a look at the Alphabetical Product List With Tax Percentages  set forth below where you will find an alphabetical list of the most commonly imported items with the estimated import tax percentage next to the product.

The full customs classification system known as HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) can be accessed for free on the website of the United States International TraHTS Classification Systemde Commission.  The site lets you search by entering the product name or the classification number if you have it.  You can also obtain the classifications at the website of the World Customs Organization (WCO) but they have a paid subscripton system.  If you want the list in Spanish then you can view it at the following link: Spanish Partida Arancelaria

Once you have your product HTS classification number how do you find out the tax that the Costa Rican Customs Department will apply to that product ?  First of all the basis for calculating the tax will be the Cost of the product plus Insurance and Freight incurred to get the product to Costa Rica. This is referred to as the C.I.F. price.

The Import Duty that the product will pay is a percentage of the C.I.F. price of the product. To determine that duty you can visit the official site of the Costa Rican Customs Department.   You will be required to create an account before you can log in to conduct any searches in the system

Costa Rica Import Duties



Once you are at the input screen you will have to enter the HTS classification number range for the product that you are looking for. In our furniture import example above we determined that the classification for wooden furniture was 940330 for office furniture and 940340 for kitchen furniture. Enter those ranges and the date where indicated. That information reveals that the import duty for that products is 14%. In addition the product will also have to pay the 13% sales tax and 1% additional tax for Law #6946 bringing the total import duties to 28% of the C.I.F. value of the product.
This article is meant to provide you with a basic understanding of how the Costa Rican government applies the import duties on products that are imported into the country. If you are considering importing goods into Costa Rica I would suggest you contact a reputable Customs Broker that can assist you with all the documentation that you will require to import your goods into Costa Rica.


Find the product that you want to import in the list below and then take the cost of the product add the cost of shipping to the product as well since the import duties are based upon Cost + Freight (C.I.F.) of the product. The amount indicated includes the import tax and the 13% sales tax as well.

·Acoustic Guitar – (29.95%)

·Adapter – (14.13%)

·Agenda (Paper) – (29.95%)

·Air / Oil Filter – (24.30%)

·Air Bag – (13.00%)

·Alarm – (14.13%)

·Amplifier – (14.13%)

·Antenna – (14.13%)

·Auto Body Parts – (42.78%)

·Auto engine – (14.13%)

·Baby car seat – (13.00%)

·Batteries – (14.13%)

·Bicycle and a Motorcycle Rims – (24.30%)

·Bicycle Parts – (14.13%)

·Bike valued at more than $ 1000 – (29.95%)

·Bike valued at less than $ 1000 – (13.00%)

·Binoculars – (29.95%)

·Blender – (49.27%)

·Body Lotion – (29.95%)

·Book – (1.00%)

·Brakes and parts – (42.78%)

·Briefcase – (29.95%)

·Calculator – (13.00%)

·Camera (digital) – (13.00%)

·Camera (traditional) – (13.00%)

·Camera Accessories – (14.13%)

·Camping Tent – (29.95%)

·Car Lights – (19.78%)

·Car Mirror – (14.13%)

·Car Rack – (14.13%)

·Car Rims – (42.78%)

·Car Suspension – (24.30%)

·Car Wheel – (24.30%)

·Carpet – (29.95%)

·CD / DVD ROM (external) – (49.00%)

·CD Video Games – (13.00%)

·CD’s – (24.30%)

·CD/DVD External Burner – (49.00%)

·CD/DVD Internal Burner – (13.00%)

·CD/DVD ROM (internal) – (13.00%)

·Ceramic Plates – (29.95%)

·Charger – (14.13%)

·Chip (computer) – (13.00%)

·Clothing – (29.95%)

·Clutch – (24.30%)

·Coffee Maker – (49.27%)

·Coins – (19.78%)

·Comic Books – (1.00%)

·Computer Keyboard – (13.00%)

·Computer (LCD and Traditional) – (13.00%)

·Computer (normal or laptop) – (13.00%)

·Computer external accesories – (13.00%)

·Contact Lens – (19.78%)

·Copy Machine – (14.13%)

·CPU case – (30.00%)

·Curtains – (29.95%)

·Cymbals – (24.30%)

·Dampers – (42.78%)

·Diskman or walkman – (49.00%)

·Drinking Glass – (29.95%)

·Drum – (24.30%)

·Drum Set – (24.30%)

·Drumstick – (19.78%)

·DVD Player – (49.27%)

·DVD Recorder (external) – (49.27%)

·DVD Recorder (Internal for computer) – (13.00%)

·DVD’s – (13.00%)

·Electric Guitar – (24.30%)

·Electric Water Heater – (68.60%)

·Electronic Organizer – (13.00%)

·Engine Part – (14.13%)

·External hard drive – (13.00%)

·Eye glasses – (29.95%)

·Faucets – (29.95%)

·Fish Hook – (1.00%)

·Fishing Reel – (14.13%)

·Fishing rod – (24.30%)

·Fitness Accessories – (24.30%)

·Flatware – (24.30%)

·Fluorescent bulb – (29.95%)

·Forklift Part – (14.13%)

·Fryer – (49.27%)

·Furniture – (29.95%)

·Fuse – (14.13%)

·Garden Tools – (1.00%)

·Golf Balls – (24.30%)

·Golf Clubs – (24.30%)

·Guitar Pedal – (19.78%)

·Hair dryer – (49.27%)

·Hairstyling Iron – (49.27%)

·Hairstyling products – (68.60%)

·Heater – (14.13%)

·Home appliances – (49.27%)

·Home Theater System – (49.27%)

·Horn – (14.13%)

·Hose – (19.78%)

·Hydraulic Jack – (14.13%)

·Ink – (14.13%)

·iPAD – (13.00%)

·Jewelry – (29.95%)

·Karaoke – (49.00%)

·Lamp – (29.95%)

·Laptop Battery – (42.38%)

·Lawn Mower – (14.13%)

·Light Bulb – (19.78%)

·Lingerie – (29.95%)

·Mattress – (29.95%)

·Memory, Video and Mother Board – (13.00%)

·Microscope – (14.13%)

·Microwave – (37.58%)

·Mixer – (49.27%)

·Motor parts – (42.78%)

·Motorcycle damper – (19.78%)

·Motorcycle Helmet – (13.00%)

·Motorcycle Part – (42.78%)

·MP3 & MP4 Player,iPod – (49.27%)

·Muffler – (24.30%)

·Musical Accessories – (19.78%)

·Musical Instrument Case – (29.95%)

·Musical Keyboard – (24.30%)

·Oil Pump – (14.13%)

·Ornaments (Ceramic, Wood, Metal, Plastic, Glass, Paper) – (29.95%)

·Ornaments (stone) – (14.30%)

·Paints – (24.30%)

·Paper – (24.30%)

·Party Supplies – (29.95%)

·PC Processor – (13.00%)

·Percussion musical instruments – (24.30%)

·Perfume – (30.00%)

·Personal Shaver (electric) – (42.78%)

·Pinion – (14.13%)

·Portable Stove – (42.38%)

·Poster – (29.95%)

·Pots and Pans – (29.95%)

·Printer – (13.00%)

·Printer Part – (13.00%)

·Projector Accessories – (14.13%)

·Racket – (24.30%)

·Radiator – (42.78%)

·Refrigerator – (81.48%)

·Remote Control – (14.13%)

·Roller / Ice Skates – (24.30%)

·Router – (13.00%)

·Seat Belt – (13.00%)

·Sewing Machine – (14.13%)

·Shampoo – (49.27%)

·Shavers (disposable) – (24.30%)

·Sheets – (29.95%)

·Shoes – (29.95%)

·Signal Generator – (14.13%)

·Sleeping Bag – (29.95%)

·Soccer Ball – (24.30%)

·Software – (14.13%)

·Spark Plug – (42.38%)

·Speakers – (14.13%)

·Starter (Car) – (42.38%)

·Stereo (Normal and Car) – (49.27%)

·Stringed musical instruments – (30.00%)

·Stroller – (29.95%)

·Surf board – (24.30%)

·Table Games – (29.95%)

·Tablet – (13.00%)

·Tachometer – (14.13%)

·Telephone ( Normal and Cellular) – (13.00%)

·Telephone Headset – (14.13%)

·Telescope – (14.13%)

·Television (traditional, plasma or LCD) – (49.27%)

·Tools – (14.13%)

·Towels – (29.95%)

·Toy – (29.95%)

·Transformer – (14.13%)

·Transistors – (13.00%)

·Transmission Band – (14.13%)

·Tripod – (14.13%)

·Umbrella – (29.95%)

·UPS – (14.13%)

·USB Flash Drive – (13.00%)

·Vacuum Cleaner – (49.27%)

·Valves – (14.13%)

·Video camera (Camcorder) – (14.13%)

·Video Game Console – (55.55%)

·Video Game Control – (55.71%)

·Video Games PSP / DS – (29.95%)

·Video projector – (49.27%)

·Vinyl Disk – (29.95%)

·Walkie Talkies – (13.00%)

·Watches and Clocks – (29.95%)

·Water Filter – (14.13%)

·Water Pump – (14.13%)

·Weapons – (30.00%)

·Weigh Scale – (14.13%)

·Wheels – (19.78%)

·Wig – (29.95%)

·Windshield – (19.78%)

·Wire – (19.78%)

·Woodwind Musical Instrument – (24.30%)

Coyright -No portion of this article may be copied or reproduced without the express written consent of the author.


Considering Buyer or Building in Costa Rica ? Buying property and constructing buildings or a home can be an intimidating process, even when you are at home in your own culture and knowing what to expect and plan for. In a foreign country, the same processes can be downright frightening. In a new setting, you need to learn what the usual way to go about things is and also who is legally and ethically responsible for what-in other words you should invest some time in learning how things work and how to protect your investment.

Fortunately, in Costa Rica there is a defined process through which an intelligent buyer and builder should proceed. In addition, there is a licensing body for Architects and Engineers, which also sets standards for fees should you decide to build. But let’s start at the beginning.

I want to purchase property in Costa Rica. What is required?

So you’ve found, either through a real estate agent or your own searches, a piece of property that is perfect for you. Once you have negotiated a sales price and the seller has accepted your offer, then the legal procedures for transferring ownership of title begin.

How is title transferred?

In Costa Rica, property is transferred from seller to buyer by executing a property transfer deed (escritura) before a Notary Public. Unlike common law countries, such as the United States and Canada, where the role of the Notary Public is limited to authenticating signatures, in Costa Rica the Notary Public has extensive powers to act on behalf of the state. The Notary Public must be an Attorney and he or she may draft and interpret legal documents, as well as authenticate and certify the authenticity of

In order to close on the property, the buyer and seller must select a Notary/Attorney who will draft the transfer deed and register the sale in the centralized property registration office known as the Public Registry (Registro Nacional). All documents are centralized at this location. As such, all deeds executed in the provinces of Costa Rica must be filed in the Public Registry. The local custom is that the buyer may select his or her Notary/Attorney to draft the property transfer deed if the buyer is paying cash for the property. If the a portion of the purchase price is financed by the seller, there are generally three alternatives for selecting the Notary/Attorney.

1. If a large percentage of the purchase price is being financed by the seller and a mortgage needs to be drafted to guarantee payment, then the seller may request that her or his Notary/Attorney draft the transfer deed.

2. If a property is purchased 50 percent cash and 50 percent financed, it is common for the buyer’s Attorney and Seller’s attorney to jointly draft the transfer deed and mortgage in a single document. This is known as co-notariado.

3. Finally, the buyer nay insist that his or her Notary/Attorney draft the transfer deed and let the seller’s Notary/Attorney draft a separate mortgage instrument. In this case, because the mortgage is being drafted separately, it carries a higher registration fee. The registration fees are discussed below in the section on closing costs.

At your option, the property can be purchased in an individual’s name, jointly with other persons, or in the name of a corporation. The decision as to ownership should be based upon your particular situation and after consultation with your Attorney.

How can I ensure that I have clear title to the property?

Costa Rican law requires that all documents relating to an interest and/or title to real property be registered in the property section of the Public Registry (Article 460 of the Civil Code). Most properties have a titled registration number known as the folio real, and the records database can be searched with this number or by name index. The Public Registry report (informe registral) provides detailed information on the property, including the name of the title holder, boundary lines, tax appraisal, liens, mortgages, recorded easements, and other recorded instruments that would affect title.

Since Costa Rica follows the doctrine of first in time, first in right, recorded instruments presented to the Public Registry are given priority according to the date and time in which they are recorded. Obviously, every situation differs and in some cases a review of the Public Registry record will not be enough to uncover all encumbrances. That is why it is important that the buyer have her or his own attorney conduct an independent title search and investigation rather than rely on the seller’s

You can conduct a property title search at the website of the National Registry of Costa Rica which is www.rnpdigital.comThe resulting title report will look like the sample set forth below:

Costa Rica Property Title Report

How about closing costs?

The general custom is for the buyer and seller to share equally in the closing costs. This can be modified by agreement and usually depends upon the particular transaction. Closing costs involve three things: Government transfer taxes and registration fees, Notary Legal fee, and mortgage costs, if any.

[A] Government Transfer Tax and Registration Fees

(1) Real Estate Transfer Tax. The government collects a property transfer tax (Impuesto de Traspaso ) which is equal to 1.5% of the registered value of the property. The Public Registry will not record a transfer deed unless the transfer taxes and documentary stamps have been paid.

(2) Documentary Stamps. The government also requires that documentary stamps be affixed to the deed. These stamps include the following: Municipal Stamp: (Timbre Municipal) ;Legal Bar Association Stamp (Timbre del Colegio de Abogados); Agricultural Stamp (Timbre Agrario); National Archives Stamp (Timbre del Archivo Nacional); Fiscal Stamp:(Especie Fiscal). The Public Registry also imposes its own tax of .05% on documents presented for recordation to the Public Registry. (Derechos de Registro)

[B] Notary Fees. The Notary that drafted the contract for sale, carries out the real estate closing and records the property title transfer is entitled by law to a fee which is based upon a percentage of the value of the transaction. The Notary Fee Scheduled establishes the fees as a percentage of the value of the transaction as follows:

Up to 11 million Colones 2% of the value of the transaction
On the Excess of 11 million Colones to 15.5 million Colones 1.5%
On the Excess of 15.5 million Colones to 32 million Colones 1.25%
On the Excess of 32 million Colones 1%

Pursuant to the law these fees are the minimum that may be charged by the Notary Public. Depending on the circumstances and if the client agrees they may charge more than the amounts set forth above. You can calculate your closing costs on our Real Estate Closing Costs Calculator.

To find out the current exchange rate between the Costa Rican Colon and the US Dollar follow this link to the Central Bank of Costa Rica site.

The closing costs for a real estate transaction can be viewed in the following example of a property closing statement:

You can calculate the estimate closing costs for your transaction on our Closing Costs Calculator

[C] Mortgage costs. It is customary for the person who is receiving financing to pay the costs of drafting and registering the mortgage instrument. A mortgage can be created simultaneously at the time of sale by adding a mortgage clause in the transfer deed. Or, a separate mortgage instrument can be drafted. A mortgage document pays registration fees and documentary stamps. The Notary Public will also charge for drafting and recording the mortgage instrument and that fee is applied according to the same schedule as indicated above.

The buyer should be aware that Costa Rican real estate transactions sometime work on a two-tiered system. Since many Costa Rican properties still have a relatively low property tax appraisal base in relation to market value, it has become a local practice to run property sales through at the registered value, which may be substantially less than the actual sales price of the property. In such a case, all transfer taxes and fees discussed above would apply to the registered value as opposed to its sales price, with the exception of the notary fee. Buyers should be cautious and consult with their Attorney about the potential risks involved in undertaking this practice.

Registration of the transfer deed.

Once all the fees have been paid, it is the obligation of the Notary Public who drafted the transfer deed to ensure that the deed is presented (anotado) and registered (inscrito) in the Property Section of the Public Registry. I have stressed the words presented and registered to highlight the importance of following up with the notary to ensure registration. Although presentation guarantees your priority (i.e., first in time, first in right), it does not automatically guarantee registration. The Public Registry will not register a transfer deed unless all taxes and registration fees are included; a certified copy from the Municipality where the property is located is provided certifying that the seller’s property tax (bienes inmuebles) and municipal assessments (impuestos municipales) have been paid through the date of closing. Likewise, any prior
instruments that encumber the property (i.e., mortgages, liens, judgments, etc.) must be lifted before your transfer deed will be registered.

Once a transfer deed is accepted for registration, the Public Registry will return the original document with all the documentary stamps affixed to it and properly sealed. Assuming no defects in the transfer deed, it should be registered by the Public Registry with 30 to 60 days after presentation. It is therefore important to follow up with the Notary Public to ensure registration, otherwise you will run into problems in the future when you decide to resell the property and find out that your sale was not
properly registered.

Beach Front Property.

In most cases, beach front property is untitled property because in Costa Rica the ownership and The Maritime Zoning Law of Costa Ricapossession of the shoreline is governed by the Maritime Zone Law (Ley Sobre la Zona Maritimo Terrestre) which restricts the possession and ownership of beach front property. By law the first 200 meters of beach front starting at the high tide markers is owned by the government. Of the 200 meters, the first 50 meters are deemed public zones (Zona Publica) and nobody may posses or control that area.

Some Municipal governments have been demolishing constructions which were illegally built within the 50 meter public zone. The officer of the Attorney General of Costa Rica has issued findings mandating that the local Municipal governments enforce the law and remove illegal occupants for the Public Zone.

On the remaining 150 meters, referred to as the Restricted Zone (Zona Restringida), the government through the local Municipal government will lease by way of concessions the land to private individuals or corporate entities. Before granting the concession the law mandates that the beach area have the high tide markers in place (Mojones) and a Zoning Plan Approved (Plan Regulador). The Maritime Zone Law provides restrictions as to foreign ownership or possession of beach front property so a more in depth and careful study is always required when considering an investment in beach front property in Costa Rica.

I want to build. What do I do?

In order to build in Costa Rica, you will likely face a bureaucratic maze of governmental regulations. The law requires that any application for a construction permit be presented by a licensed architect or engineer (Article 83, Law of Constructions, Article II.2 Construction Regulations). It is therefore advisable to contact a reputable, licensed architect or civil engineer to guide you through the construction process.

What do architects and engineers charge?

All architects and engineers in Costa Rica must be licensed by the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects (Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Ingenieros y Arquitectos-CFIA). This governing body establishes the fee schedule that can be charged by its members. Most fees are based upon a percentage of the value of the construction project. According to the regulations of the CFIA (Reglamento para la Contratación de Servicios de Consultoría en Ingeniería y Arquitectura), the involvement of a licensed architect/engineer in a construction project is separated into two phases. Phase 1 is construction plans and permits and Phase 2 is control and execution.

Phase 1. Construction plans and permits. This phase is further subdivided into several distinct professional services that can be provided to the client by the architect/engineer. The percentages cited below are those that the CFIA has established as minimum chargeable fees.

Preliminary studies (estudios preliminaries): 0.5 percent. These studies may or may not be required, depending on the scope of the project. Preproject design (anteproyecto): 1.0 to 1.5 percent. Generally, during this stage, the architect/engineer will meet with the client in order to discuss the client’s construction requirements. With this information, the architect/engineer will prepare drafts of the proposed construction project for review by the client. These drafts should include site planning and preliminary work drawings. When you contract for this service be sure you agree with your architect/engineer before hand on what he or she is going to provide for you.

Construction plans and technical specifications (planos de construcción y especificaciones técnicas): 4.0 percent. This is one of the most important steps in the overall construction project since execution of the project will depend upon the quality and accuracy of your construction plans. Once you and your architect/engineer have agreed on the layout and design of the project, she or he will begin drafting the plans. In Costa Rica, a complete set of plans should include a site plan, distribution plan, elevationand transversal and longitude perspectives, roof design and drainage, design of footings and support beams, structural plans, electrical design, mechanical and sanitary systemdesign, as well as a plan that details all of the interior finishings of the construction.

Budgeting (presupuesto): 0.5 percent for global budgeting; 1.0 percent for itemized budgeting. Here the architect/engineer prepares a materials list based upon your construction plans and prepares a construction budget for you.

Phase 2. Control and execution. This stage involves the actual construction and project supervision. The regulations authorize three kinds of supervisory tasks, each of which requires a larger time investment from the architect/engineer. Inspection (Inspección): 3 percent of total construction value. Here your architect/engineer will visit the construction site at least once a week and will inspect it to ensure that the plan specifications are being followed by the general contractor. They will also verify the quality of the materials being used and review invoices being presented by the general contractor.

Supervision (Dirección técnica): 5 percent. This requires more direct involvement by the architect/engineer in the day-to-day operation of the project.

Administration (Administración): 12 percent. Here, the architect/engineer takes complete responsibility for the execution and completion of the project.

The option you choose will depend upon the type of project involved, the reliability of your builder/general contractor, and the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to the construction project. All told, phases 1 and 2 can range from 9 percent to 18 percent of the estimated value of the construction project, depending on the amount of services required. As such, it is common practice to negotiate fees with the architect/engineer. Most, of course, will be eager for your business and, depending on the scope of the project will be willing to work out an agreement tailored to your particular needs. Otherwise, have your Attorney do the negotiating for you to ensure that you will get the best agreement possible.

Before you sign any contract, be sure that you understand the fee structure and know exactly what is and is not included in the fee. Likewise, clearly define the responsibilities that your architect/engineer is going to assume. Do the same thing with your general contractor and any subcontractors.

Construction permits.

Before you purchase a lot with the intent of building on it, you should conduct some preliminary studies on buildingplansthe property to ensure that there won’t be a problem obtaining a building permit.

First, determine if the lot has basic services such as water, electricity, telephone, and drainage.

Second, make sure there are no restrictions placed on the lot that could result in the denial of a construction permit. It will not be enough to check the Public Registry. You should also check the Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte) for future road construction projects; the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud); the National Institute of Housing and Urban Development (Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo) ; The Emergency Management Commission (Comision Nacional de Emergencia)and the Municipality where the property is located (Municipalidad). You will also need to be aware of any environmental regulation that may effect your construction project, such as national wildlife refuges and areas deemed protected by the forestry Law.

Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Cost aRicaRequests for construction permits are filed first with the CFIA (Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos) who will put the construction value on the plans in order to collect the fees and establish the construction basis which will govern the fees charged by their Architects/Engineers.The next step is to present the documents at the Municipal government where the property is located.Depending on the type of Construction some pre-requisites may be required.Generally all constructions will be required to provide a letter from the water company (AyA) that water is available on the property.Depending on the type of project, for example a condominium project requires prior approval from the Institute of Housing (INVU) and from the Environmental Commission (SETENA) while a residential home generally does not.

For a single family home that measures more than 70 m2 (735.2 ft.2), the applicant must provide the following documentation:

1.Original and Copies of the construction plans

2.Certified copy of the property survey plot plan (Plano catastrado),

3.Certified copy of the property title report.

4.Copy of the consulting contract with your architect/engineer (contrato de consultoria)

5. Approval from the water company (AYA) regarding availability of water,

6.Copy of the electrical design plan properly approved.

As previously indicated Condominium projects, commercial construction, and urbanization projects all carry additional requirements for obtaining construction permits.

By law it is the municipality that has the responsibility to ensure that all constructions comply with building regulations (Article 1, Construction Law). You can, therefore, expect periodic visits to your construction site by the municipal building inspector, who must certify that the construction is proceeding according to code.

Whether you purchase an existing property or decide to build you dream home, be well informed about the procedures involved so that you ensure your investment will be a profitable one.

Copyright 2007-2016 By Roger A. Petersen
No Copying or Reproduction Allowed without written authorization from the copyright holder.





The regulations for the Costa Rican annual corporation tax have been published by the Ministry of the Treasury in the official Gazette (Alcance No. 114 Gaceta May 26, 2017).

This means that the law will come into effect on August 26, 2017 which is 3 months after the publication of the regulations (May 26, 2017).

In the past this tax was administered and collected by the National Registry of Costa Rica (RNP). Not anymore.   The new law transfers the administration and collection of this tax to the Department of Revenue of the Treasury Department (Tributación Directa)

What do I have to do to Register ?

According to the regulations The Department of Revenue will automatically pull all the corporation registration information into their RUT taxpayer database.  The RUT is the taxpayer registration system of the Revenue Department (Registro Unico de Contribuyentes de la Dirección General de Tributación.)

If the company does not have a RUT registration number then one will be automatically assigned. If the corporation already is registered with the tax department for other tax obligation then the corporation tax will be added to that registration profile.

What are my obligations once my corporation appears in the RUT of the Revenue Department ?

All corporations that did not have a taxpayer number in the RUT database will then have the obligation to file a form D-140 (Declaración de Modificación de Datos del Registro de Contribuyentes) to inform the tax authority of (i) Legal domicile for notifications (ii) an e-mail address.   Failure to file this form within the time frame indicated will result in a fine pursuant to the tax law.   The regulations indicate that the obligation must be done 30 days after the corporation appears in the RUT system. However for this first time the Department of Revenue is setting up a calendar based upon the identification (cedula juridica) number for the corporation as follows:

a) Id numbers that end in l & 2: Durante 30 days after the law comes into effect.

b) Id numbers that end in 3&4: Month 2 after the law comes into effect.

c) Id numbers that end in 5&6: Month 4 after the law comes into effect.

d) Id numbers that end in 7&8: Month 5 after the law comes into effect.

e) Id numbers that end in 9&10: Month 6 after the law comes into effect.

f)Id numbers that end in 11&12: Month 7 after the law comes into effect.

If I form a new corporation what happens ?

For new corporations that are formed in the National Registry it shall be the obligation of the corporation once formed to register and pay the pro-rated corporation tax within 30 days after the corporation is registered.

How much do I have to pay ?

Please refer to my video which details the amounts that will be due under the corporation tax:

What happens if I don’t pay ?

The Department of Revenue will create a public database of corporations that are delinquent in the payment of the tax.   After 3 consecutive years of non-payment the corporation will be administratively dissolved and stricken from the corporation registry.  However, the liability will not disappear the department of revenue could pursue collection against the legal representative of the company.

Can I resign from a Corporation ?

Yes.   The law allows the representatives of the corporation to resign from the corporation.   The regulations however have included a condition that indicates that in order to resign the corporation must be up to date in all past due corporation fees.   As such the window that the law left to allow the resignation and thus avoid liability appears to have been closed by the regulations.

The full text of the regulations are set forth in the following link:  Regulations Corporation TaxLaw


The Costa Rican legislature is voting on a new law that modifies Law # 7786 which is referred to as the “Drug, Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Law” (Ley sobre estupefacientes, sustancias psicotrópicas, drogas de uso no autorizado, actividades conexas legitimación de capitales y financiamientos al terrorismo).

The modifications to the existing law are aimed at expanding the circle of those individuals or entities that are subject to money laundering compliance. This type of legislation is generally referred to as “Gatekeeper Legislation” and is being pushed around the globe by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) known in Latin America as GAFI.

In the past the legislation was applicable only to financial institutions and entities that managed third party funds.   The new law is now including:

  • Trust administrators or any find of money management structure, which is carried out by individual or corporate entities.
  • In the real estate sector it will require that any individuals or entities that are intermediaries, owners or builders that are in the real estate business in a habitual manner to report these transactions.
  • Dealers of precious metals and stones have also been added to the list.
  • Lawyers, Notaries, Accountants and any other individual or entity that carries out the following activities on behalf of clients:
  1. The purchase or sale of real estate.
  2. Money management for a client.

Based on the wording of this section it would include real estate agents and real estate companies as well.

  • The administration or purchase and sale of corporate entities or structures.

All the individuals or companies indicated above would be required to register before the Costa Rica Financial Regulatory Agency known as SUGEF.

Since the Notary Public in Costa Rica is the individual responsible for recording property transfer in the recording office of Costa Rica the new law is imposing stringent reporting requirements on Notary Publics. The Notary Public in addition to collecting the identification information on all parties to a transaction will be required to collect the following:

  1. The method of payment that was used in the transaction as well as the taxes, recording fees and registry costs involved in the transaction.
  2. Must specify the bank account information where the funds are coming from including the number, date, hour of any deposits made and or checks issued.
  • When property transactions or trusts are involved they must now maintain a transaction registry and keep a registry of the following
  • Identification of all clients and carry out a “know your customer” due diligence report as to the source of funds.
  • Keep records available for inspection by relevant authorities.
  • Establish a policy for politically exposed persons
  • Establish a country risk evaluation procedure to scrutinize transactions from high risk money laundering jurisdictions.
  • Must report any suspicious activity or transaction.

This Costa Rica “gate keeper” legislation will increase the transaction costs for all the operations stipulated in the law. Those costs will simply be transferred to the consumer that uses the services.

In this video I explain the details of the new corporation tax law. The Costa Rican legislature approved a new corporation tax law on March 21, 2017 which will become applicable by August of 2017.     I also review some of the transitory provisions of the law that you need to take advantage of if you want to remove yourself from any corporation or transfer assets of a corporation out to your personal name or another corporation.

Property Tax Forms in Costa Rica

The Property Tax Law (art. 23) establishes the tax rate at 0.0025% of the recorded value of the property. I will discuss how the value is established in the next section.  Most Municipal governments will collect the property tax on a trimester basis as follows:

I Trimester:       January – March

II Trimester:      April – June

III Trimester:    July – September

IV Trimester:    October – December

Most of the forms used in 86 local governments are similar to the example included below.  I am also setting forth below the links to the property tax section of several local governments where  you will find links to download the Municipal Property Tax Declaration Form (Declaración Sobre Impuestos de Bienes Inmuebles).  If your Municipal government form is not listed below you can view the Municipal Government Contact Directory and contact them directly to request the form.

Province of San Jose

Municipality of San José

Municipality of Santa Ana

Municipality of Escazú

Province of Alajuela

Municipality of Atenas

Municipality of Grecia

Municipality of Naranjo

Province of Heredia

Municipality of Heredia

Municipality of San Rafael

Province of Cartago

Municipality of Cartago

Province of Puntarenas

Municipality of Osa

Province of Guanacaste

Municipality of Santa Cruz

Province of Limon

Municipality of Talamanca


The Political Subdivision of Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica is divided into seven (7) Provinces which are divided into 81 Cantons that are in turn  divided into 478 districts.  Each Canton in Costa Rica is governed by a local Municipal government (Municipalidad).

The seven (7) provinces of Costa Rica are:

  1. San Jose 2. Alajuela 3. Cartago 4. Heredia 5. Guanacaste  6.  Puntarenas,  7.  Limon


The 7 provinces 81 CANTONS and 478 districts with their size and date of incorporation are set forth below:



CANTON N° 1 SAN JOSE: Size: 45 Sq. Km. Founded: December 7, 1848

Districts: 1 Carmen,2 Merced, 3 Hospital, 4 Catedral, 5 Zapote, 6 San Francisco de Dos Rios, 7Uruca, 8 Mata Redonda.

CANTON N° 2 ESCAZU: Size: 35 Sq. Km Founded:December 7, 1848

Districts: 1Escazu Central, 2 San Antonio, 3 San Rafael

CANTON N°3 DESAMPARADOS: Size: 126 Sq Km,Founded November 4, 1862

Districts: 1 Desamparados Central, 2 San Miguel, 3 San Juan de Dios, 4 San Rafael, 5San Antonio, 6 Frailes, 7 Patarra, 8 San Cristobal, 9 Rosario, 10 Damas, 11San Rafael Abajo.

CANTON N° 4 PURISCAL: Size 561 Sq Km. Founded August 7, 1868.

Districts: 1 Santiago, 2 Mercedes Sur, 3 Barbacoas, 4 Grifo Alto, 5 SanRafael, 6 Candelaria, 7 Desamparaditos, 8 San Antonio.

CANTON N°5 TARRAZU Size: 233 Sq Km, FoundedAugust 7, 1868

Districts: 1 San Marcos, 2  San Lorenzo, 3 San Carlos.

CANTON N°6 ASERRI: Size: 182 Sq Km. FoundedNovember 27, 1882

Districts: 1 Aserri, 2  Tarbaca, 3 Vuelta de Jorco, 4 San Gabriel, 5 La legua, 6 Monterrey.

CANTON N° 7 MORA: Size: 161 Sq Km. Founded May 25, 1883.

Districts: 1 Colon, 2  Guayabo, 3 Tabarcia, 4 Piedras Negras, 5 Picagres

CANTON N°8 GOICOECHEA Size: 31 Sq Km. Founded June 8, 1891.

Districts: 1 Guadalupe, 2 San Francisco, 3 Calle Blancos, 4 Carmen, 5Ipis, 6 Rancho Redondo, 7 Mata de Platano .

CANTON N°9 SANTA ANA: Size: 62 Sq Km. Founden January 1, 1907

Districts: 1 Santa Ana, 2 Salitral,3 Pozos, 4 La Uruca, 5 Piedades, 6 Brasil

CANTON N°10 ALAJUELITA: Size 21 Sq Km. Founded April 5, 1909

Districts: 1 Alajuelita, 2 SanJosecito, 3 San Antonio, 4 Concepcion, 5 San Felipe

CANTON N°11 VASQUEZ DE CORONADO: Size 215 Sq Km. Founded Nov 15, 1910

Districts: 1 San Isidro, 2 SanRafael, 3 Jesus ( Dulce Nombre)

CANTON N°12: ACOSTA Size: 342 Sq Km. Founded: October 27, 1910

Districts: 1 San Ignacio, 2 Guaitil,3 Palmichal, 4 Cangrejal, 5 Sabanillas.

CANTON N°13 TIBAS: Size 9 Sq Km. Founded:July 27, 1917

Districts: 1 San Juan, 2 Cinco Esquinas, 3 Anselmo.

CANTON N°14 MORAVIA: Size: 29 Sq Km. Funded January8, 1914.

Districts: 1 San Vicente, 2 San Jeronimo, 3 La Trinidad.

CANTON N°15: MONTES DE OCA: Size 16 Sq Km. Founded October 2, 1915

Districtcs: 1 San Pedro, 2Sabanilla, 3 Mercedes, 4 San Rafael.

CANTON N°16: TURRUBARES: Size 415.69 Sq Km.Founded July 31, 1920

Districts:1 San Pablo, 2 San Pedro, 3 San Juan de Mata.

CANTON N°17 DOTA: Size 483 Sq Km. FoundedJuly 23, 1925.

Districts: 1 Santa Maria, 2 El Jardin, 3 Copey

CANTON N° 18 CURRIDABAT: Size 16 Sq Km.Founded August 21, 1929

Districts: 1 Curridabat, 2 Granadilla, 3 Sanchez, 4 Tirrases.

CANTON N° 19 PEREZ ZELEDON: Size: 1-800 SqKm. Founded October 9, 1931

Districts: 1 San Isidro del General, 2GENERAL, 3 Daniel Flores, 4 Rivas, 5 San Pedro, 6 Platanares, 7 Pejibaye, 8Cajon.

CANTON N° 20: LEON CORTES: Size 120 Sq Km.Founded June 12, 1962.

Districts:1 San Pablo, 2 San Andres, 3 Llano Bonito, 4 San Isidro, 5 Santa Cruz



CANTON N° 1:  ALAJUELA: Size: 389.14 Sq Km. Founded December 12, 1848.

Districts: 1 Alajuela, 2 San Jose, 3 Carrizal: 4 San Antonio, 5 Guacima,6 San Isidro, 7 Sabanilla, 8 San Rafael, 9 Rio Segundo, 10 Desamparados, 11Turrucares, 12 Tambor, 13 Garita, 14 Sarapiqui.

CANTON N° 2: SAN RAMON: Size 774.23 Sq Km. FoundedOctober 21, 1856.

Districts: 1 San Ramon, 2 Santiago, 3 San Juan, 4 Piedades Norte, 5 Piedades Sur, 6San Rafael, 7 San Isidro, 8 Angeles, 9 Alfaro, 10 Voho, 11 Concepcion, 12Zapotal, 13 Piedras Blancas.

CANTON N° 3 GRECIA: Size: 217.38 Sq Km. Founded July 24, 1867.

Districts: 1 Grecia, 2 San Isidro, 3 San Jose, 4 San Roque, 5 Tacares, 6Rio Cuarto, 7 Puente de Piedra, 8 Bolivar.

CANTON N° 4: SAN MATEO: Size 135 Sq Km. Founded October 7, 1868.

Districts: 1 San Mateo, 2 Desmonte, 3 Jesus Maria.

CANTON N° 5: ATENAS: Size: 125 Sq Km. Founded October 7 1868

Districts: 1 Atenas, 2 Jesus, 3 Mercedes, 4 San Isidro, 5 Concepcion, 6San Jose, 7 Santa Eulalia.

CANTON N° 6  NARANJO: Size: 128.31 Sq Km. Founded March 9, 1886.

Districts: 1 Naranjo, 2 San Miguel, 3 San Jose, 4 Cirri Sur, 5 SanJeronimo.

CANTON N° 7: PALMARES: Size: 45 Sq Km. FoundedJuly 30, 1888.

Districts: 1 Palmares, 2 Zaragoza, 3 Buenos Aires, 4 Santiago, 5 Candelaria, 6Esquipulas, 7 La Granja.

CANTON N° 8 POAS: Size 68.56 Sq Km. Founded October 15, 1901.

Districts: 1 San Pedro, 2 San Juan,3 San Rafael, 4 Carillos, 5 Sabana Redonda

CANTON N° 9: OROTINA: Size: 130 Sq Km.Founded August 1, 1908.

Districts: 1 Orotina, 2 Mastate, 3 Hacienda, Coyolar, 5 Ceiba.

CANTON N°10: SAN CARLOS: Size 3.373-40 Sq Km. Foundesd September 26, 1911.

Districts: 1 Quesada, 2 Florencia, 3 Buena Vista, 4 Aguas Zarcas, 5 Venecia, 6Pital, 7 Fortuna, 8 Tigra, 9 Palmera, 10 Venado, 11 Cutris.

CANTON N°11: ALFARO RUIZ:Size: 129.29 Sq Km. FoundedJune 29, 1915.

Districts: 1 Zarcero, 2 Laguna, 3 Tapezo, 4 Guadalupe, 5 Palmira, 6Zapote.

CANTON N° 12: VALVERDE VEGA: Size: 307.20 Sq Km. Founded October 26, 1949.

Districts: 1 Sarchi, 2 Sarchi Sur, 3Toro Amarillo, 4 San Pedro, 5 Rodriguez.

CANTON N° 13 UPALA: Size: 1.780 Sq Km.Founded: March 17, 1970.

District: 1 Upala, 2 Aguas Claras, 3 San Jose, 4 Bijagua, 5 Delicias.

CANTON N° 14 LOS CHILES: Size: 1.264 Sq Km.Founded March 17, 1970.

Districts: 1 Los Chiles, 2 Caflo Negro, 3 El Amparo, 4 San Jorge.

CANTON N°15 GUATUSO: Size 724 Sq Km. FoundedMarch 17, 1970.

Districts: 1 San Rafael, 2 Buena Vista, 3 Cote.



CANTON N° 1 CARTAGO: Size: 143.23 Sq Km. Founded December 6, 1848.

Districts: 1 Oriental, 2 Occidental, 3 El Carmen, 4 San Nicolas, 5 SanFrancisco, 6 Guadalupe, 7 Coralillo, 8 Tierra Blanca, 9 Dulce Nombre, 10 LlanoGrande.

CANTON N° 2 PARAISO Size: 287.22 Sq Km. Founded December 12, 1848.

Districts: 1 Paraiso, 2 Santiago, 3 Orosi, 4 Cachi.

CANTON N° 3 LA UNION: Size: 48.00 Sq Km. Founded December 7, 1848.

Districts: 1 Tres Rios, 2 San Diego, 3 San Juan, 4 San Rafael, 5Concepcion, 6 Dulce Nombre, 7 San Ramon, 8 Rio Azul.

CANTON N° 4 JIMENEZ: Size: 345.65 Sq. Km. Founded August 19, 1903.

Districts:1Juan Viñas, 2 Tucurrique, 3 Pejibaye.

CANTON N° 5 TURRIALBA: Size: 1.644.57 Sq Km. Founded August 19, 1989.

Districts: 1 Turrialba, 2 Suiza, 3 Peralta, 4 Santa Cruz, 5 SantaTeresita, 6 Pavones, 7 Tuis, 8 Tayutic, 9 Santa Rosa.

CANTON N°6 ALVARADO: Size: 152.62 Sq Km. Founded July9, 1989.

Districts:1 Pacayas, 2 Cervantes, 3 Capellades.

CANTON N° 7 OREAMUNO: Size: 32.32 Sq Km. Founded October 17,1914.

Districts: 1 Sn Rafael, 2 Cot, 3 Potrero Cerrado, 4 Cipreses, 5 Santa Rosa.

CANTON N°8 EL GUARCO: Size: 194 Sq Km. Founded July 7,1939.

Districts:1 El Tejar, 2 San Isidro, 3 Tobosi, 4 Patio de Agua.



CANTON N° 1 HEREDIA: Size: 282.51 Sq Km. Founded December 7, 1848.

Districts: 1 Heredia, 2 Mercedes, 3 San Francisco, 4 Ulba, 5 Varablanca.

CANTON N° 2 BARVA: Size: 59.72 Sq Km. Founded December 7, 1848.

Districts: 1 Barva, 2 San Pedro, 3 San Pablo, 4 San Roque, 5 SantaLucia, 6 San Jose de la Montaña.

CANTON N° 3  SANTA BARBARA: Size: 73.50. Inni. Founded: September 29, 1882.

Districts:1 Santa Barbara, 2 San Pedro, 3 San Juan, 4 Jesus, 5 Santo Domingo.

CANTON N° 4 SANTO DOMINGO: Size: 31.01 Sq Km. Founded October 28, 1869.

Districts: 1 Santo Domingo, 2 San Vicente, 3 San Miguel Sur, 4 Paracito,5 Santo Tomas, 6 Santa Rosa, 7 Tures, 8 Para.

CANTON N° 5 SAN RAFAEL: Size:57.42 Sq Km. Founded May 5, 1885.

Districts. 1 San Rafael, 2 San Josecito, 3 Santiago, 4, Angeles, 5Concepcion.

CANTON N° 6 SAN ISIDRO: Size: 25.84 Sq Km. Founded July 13, 1905.

Districts: 1 San Isidro, 2 San Jose, 3 Concepcion.

CANTON N° 7 BELEN:  Size: 12.63 Sq Km. Founded June 8, 1907.

Districts: 1 San Antonio, 2 Ribera, 3 Asuncion.

CANTON N° 8 FLORES: Size:  7.61 Sq Km. Founded October 12, 1915. I

Districts: 1 San Joaquin, 2 Barrantes, 3 Llorente.

CANTON N° 9 SAN PABLO: Size 8.50 Sq. Km. Founded July 18, 1961. J

District: 1 San Pablo

CANTON N° 10 SARAPIQUI: Size: 2.349.37 Sq Km: Founded: November 8, 1970.

Districts: 1 Puerto Viejo, 2 La Virgen, 3 Horquetas.



CANTON N° 1 LIBERIA: Size: 1.567.65 Sq Km: Founded: December 7, 1948.

Districts: 1 Liberia, 2 Cañas Dulces, 3 Mayorga, Quebrada Grande, 4Nacascolo, 5 Curubande, Cereceda.

CANTON N° 2 NICOYA: Size: 1.316.00 Sq Km: Founded: December 7, 1948.

Districts: 1 Nicoya, 2 Mansion, 3 San Antonio, 4 Quebrada Honda, 5Samara.

CANTON N° 3  SANTA CRUZ: Size: 1.428.23 Sq Km: Founded: December 7, 1948.

Districts: 1 Santa Cruz, 2 Bolson, 3 Veintisiete de Abril, 4 Tempate, 5Cartagena.

CANTON N° 4 BAGACES: Size: 1.019.61 Sq Km: Founded: December 7, 1948.

Districts: 1 Bagaces,2 Fortuna, 3 Mogote.

CANTON N° 5 CARILLO: Size: 601.57 Sq Km: Founded: June 16, 1877.

Districts: 1Filadelfia, 2 Palmira, 3 Sardinal, 4 Belen.

CANTON N° 6 CAÑAS: Size: 938.04 Sq Km: Founded: July 12, 1854.

Districts: 1 Cañas.

CANTON N° 7 ABANGARES: Size: 662.75 Sq Km: Founded: January 1, 1989.

Districts: 1 Las Juntas, 2 La Sierra, 3 San Juan, 4 Colorado.

CANTON N° 8 TILARAN: Size: 623.15 Sq Km: Founded: August 21, 1923.

Districts: 1 Tilaran, 2 Quebrada Grande, 3 Tronadora, 4 Santa Rosa, 5Libano, 6 Tierras Morenas.

CANTON N° 9  NANDAYURE: Size: 586 Sq Km: Founded: October 15, 1961.

Districts: 1 Carmona, 2 Santa Rita, 3 Zapotal, 4 San Pablo, 5 Porvenir,6 Bejuco.

CANTON N° 10 LA CRUZ: Size: 430 Sq Km: Founded: July 23, 1969.

Districts: 1 La Cruz, 2 Santa Cecilia, 3 La Garita, 4 Santa Elena.

CANTON N° 11 HOJANCHA: Size: 215 Sq Km: Founded: November 11, 1971.

Districts: 1 Hojancha.



CANTON N° 1 PUNTARENAS: Size: 2.165.64 Sq Km: Founded: December 12, 1984.

Districts: 1 Puntarenas, 2 Pitahaya, 3 Chomes,  4 Lepanto, 5 Paquera, 6 Manzanillo, 7 Guacimal, 8 Barranca, 9 Monte Verde, 10 Isla del Coco, 11 Cobano.

CANTON N° 2 ESPARZA: Size: 227.20 Sq Km: Founded: November 6, 1851.

Districts: 1 Esparza, 2 San Juan Grande, 3 Macacona, 4 San Rafael, 5 SanJeronimo.

CANTON N° 3 BUENOS AIRES: Size: 2.260 Sq Km: Founded: July 29, 1940.

Districts: 1 Buenos Aires, 2 Volcan, 3 Potrero Grande, 4 Boruca, 5Pilas, 6 Colinas.

CANTON N° 4 MONTES DE ORO: Size: 176.70 Sq Km: Founded: July 17, 1915.

Districts: 1 Miramar, 2 La Union, 3 San Isidro.

CANTON N° 5 OSA: Size: 2.262.20 Sq Km: Founded: July 29, 1940.

Districts: 1 Puerto Cortes, Palmar 2 Palmar Norte, 3 Sierpe.

CANTON N° 6 AGUIRRE: Size: 496.60 Sq Km: Founded: October 10, 1948.

Districts: 1 Quepos,2 Savegre, 3 Naranjito.

CANTON N° 7 GOLFITO: Size: 2.292.30 Sq Km: Founded: June 10, 1949.

Districts: 1 Golfito 2 Puerto Jimenez, 3 Guaycara.

CANTON N° 8 COTO BRUS: Size: 967.00 Sq Km: Founded: December 12, 1965.

Districts: 1 San Vitor, 2 Sabalito, 3 Agua Buena, 4 Limoncito.

CANTON N° 9 PARRITA: Size: 472 Sq Km: Founded: July 17, 1971.

Districts: 1 Parrita.

CANTON N° 10 CORREDORES: Size: 567 Sq Km: Founded: October 19, 1973.

Districts: 1 Neilyr,2 La Cuesta, 3 Canoas.

CANTON N° 11 GARABITO: Size: 350 Sq Km: Founded: September 25, 1980.

Districts: 1 Jaco.



CANTON N° 1 LIMON: Size: 1.756 Sq Km: Founded: July 25, 1892.

Districts: 1 Limon.

CANTON N° 2 POCOCI: Size: 2.348Sq Km: Founded: September 19, 1911.

Districts: 1 Gaupiles, 2 Jimenez, 3 La Rita, 4 Roxana, 5 Cariari, 6Colorado.

CANTON N° 3 SIQUIRRES: Size: 920.00 Sq Km: Founded: September 19, 1911.

Districts: 1 Siquirres, 2 Pacuarito, 3 Florida, 4 Germania, 5 Cairo.

CANTON N° 4 TALAMANCA: Size: 3.004 Sq Km: Founded: May 20, 1969.

Districts: 1 Bratsi,2 Sixaola, 3 Cahuita.

CANTON N° 5 MATINA: Size: 770 Sq Km: Founded: June 27, 1969.

Districts: 1 Matina,2 Batan, 3 Carrandi.

CANTON N° 6 GUACIMO: Size: 502.00Sq Km: Founded: May 8, 1971.

What is the role of a Notary Public in Costa Rica ?

In common law countries such as the United States the Notary Public is limited to certain authentication and certification acts.   In Costa Rica the Notary Public must be a licensed Attorney and has broad powers to act on behalf of the government.  The Notary Public is the recording agent of the government in the property transfer system.

In this video, attorney Roger Petersen explains the role of the notary public in the Costa Rican legal system and in real estate transactions.

Law Protecting Minority Investors in Costa Rica

Costa Rica approves a law protecting minority investors. Costa Rica has consistently ranked poorly in the World Bank Doing Business report for protecting minority investors (in the 160’s out of 190). In an effort to improve their rankings in this particular category the Costa Rican legislature passed the Law to Protect Minority Investors (Ley de Protección al Inversionista Minoritario – Ley 9392).   The Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) spearheaded the approval of this law in the legislature.

The World Bank Rankings

When the World Bank conducts its review for rankings it generally does so with a standard set of assumptions. The standard assumptions and fact pattern are then sent to the country representative’s for a response.

Regarding the protection of minority investors the question that was posed by the World Bank was based on the following assumptions:

Assumptions about the business The business (Buyer):

  • Is a publicly traded corporation listed on the economy’s most important stock exchange. If the number of publicly traded companies listed on that exchange is less than 10, or if there is no stock exchange in the economy, it is assumed that Buyer is a large private company with multiple shareholders.  (Emphasis is added)
  • Has a board of directors and a chief executive officer (CEO) who may legally act on behalf of Buyer where permitted, even if this is not specifically required by law………………….

How did Costa Rica deal with it ?

When Costa Rica passed the Protection of Minority Investors Law it did so without any limitations to “publicly traded companies” or “large private company with multiple shareholders”. Instead, it did so by modifying the existing Commercial Code and Code of Civil Procedure.  By doing it this way the law now encompasses ALL entities regulated by the Commercial Code. Article 32 ter of the law indicates that:

Article 32 ter. The entities, corporations or any other entity that is regulated by this code must adopt corporate governance policies approved by the Board of Directors or equivalent governing body which must include ………

The effect on small holding companies

One of the clauses in the new law that is causing some confusion is section b) of Article 32 ter.   This section imposes a new requirement on any entity regulated by the Commercial Code.   The law now requires  the approval of all shareholders that own more than 10% of the company in order to sell, mortgage or lien of any corporate asset of the company.

Many real estate purchasers in Costa Rica use a local entity as a holding company for their property.  As such this new legal requirement could be burdensome under certain circumstances.

An example of the impact on small entities

For example, assume we have a limited liability company (SRL) which is a family owned holding company for real estate.  The LLC does not do any commercial business activity whatsoever.  Further assume that  the stock of that LLC is divided as follows:  40% of the shares belong to the husband, 40% of the shares belong to his spouse and 20% belongs to their son. The sole asset of the LLC is the residential home of the couple.

The LLC has 3 managers, which are the husband, spouse and their son. Assume all 3 have unlimited Power of Attorney over the corporation acting independently of each other.

Assume the husband who owns 40% of the stock of the company dies. Now the surviving spouse who has an unlimited power of attorney as Manager of the corporation needs to sell the property. Traditionally any corporate officer or Manager that has full power of attorney to do so could sell the property without any further requirement.

Under the new law, specifically Article 32 ter b), it would appear that the surviving spouse would not be able to sell the property because she would need the approval of all shareholders that own 10% of the company (her husband owned 40% and son owns 20%). Her only solution would be to probate the shares that her deceased husband owned in the company.  This process is both time consuming and expensive.

This may not have been a result the legislators wanted but it is the effect of the wording of the law. As I indicated in the beginning the assumptions used by the World Bank are based upon a “publicly traded corporation listed on the economy’s most important stock Exchange” , or if there is no stock exchange in the economy, it is assumed that Buyer is a large private company with multiple shareholders. “ (emphasis is added)

I don’t believe it was intended to affect small holding companies which are widely used in Costa Rica to hold real estate and other assets.

The resolution of conflict in the Costa Rican judicial system is notoriously slow and inefficient. In my view the country would be better served if it revamped its judicial system before it continues to pass additional laws that clutter the court system and slow the judicial process even further. If the country wants to protect investors it needs to do so by implementing access to a judicial system that provides a prompt and efficient resolution to shareholder disputes.




Condominium property due diligence is the key to avoiding problems in Costa Rica.

If you are purchasing a condominium in Costa Rica you need to ask the right questions to ensure your dream of paradise does not turn into your nightmare.

Infighting between condo owners and management? Financial statements out of order? Minutes of meetings not available? Condominium regulations out of date? All are signs that you are looking at a condominium purchase that could be toxic.

Do you have a Will ?   In Costa Rica it is best to have a Will that addresses your Costa Rican assets to avoid an extended probate process.   In this video I provide an overview of the probate process in Costa Rica.

One of the ultimate nightmares of owning property in Costa Rica is finding out that criminals have fraudulently sold your own property out from under you.

Here’s a video from Costa Rican attorney Roger Petersen explaining how this can happen and what to do to prevent it.

The Costa Rican government imposed a Corporation Tax on all corporations registered in the National Registry.  The tax had been imposed in 2012 and was charged during the years 2013, 2014 and 2015.  For 2016 the Constitutional Court had ruled that certain provisions of the corporation tax were unconstitutional and ordered that the tax could NOT be charged for 2016.   However the Constitutional Court was clear in its ruling that the tax charged from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 was valid and could not be avoided.  In the meantime the Legislature approved another corporation tax law which is due to come into effect in 2017.

The close proximity to the International airport in Liberia, Guanacaste make Playa Hermosa a very popular destination.   The beach at Playa Hermosa was perfect for swimming since it was very calm.  That is what makes Playa Hermosa a great option for  diving safaris and snorkeling opportunities .]