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Costa Rica one-year remote work visa for digital nomads

by rpetersen

The Costa Rican Legislature is currently reviewing a proposed law that would grant one-year remote visa for digital nomads.  The las is called “Law to Attract International Workers and Remote Service Providers”.   It is legislative bill number 22215.

The proposed law would create a subcategory under the existing ESTANCIA immigration category to digital nomads, professionals that work remotely and will generate their income from sources outside of Costa Rica.

Who will Qualify for the Program

The program is aimed at any foreigners who renders paid services remotely using computer technology, telecommunication or analogous means and whose services are provided outside of Costa Rica.  What we commonly refer to as remote digital nomads

What are the Requirements

You must prove that you have income from a foreign source of at least US$5,000 per month.

You must have a medical insurance policy that will cover you for the duration of your stay in Costa Rica.  

Does it include the family?

Yes, the law will include the immediate family group of the applicant.  “The remote service provider who intends to enter and remain in the country …..may apply to cover his or her spouse or partner, sons or daughters or other members of the family group, as appropriate….”

What are the benefits?

It allows you to stay in the country for one year and renewable for an additional six months.  You can leave anytime and there is no required time commitment to keep the status. 

Any income that you make from outside sources are tax exempt in Costa Rica.

How do you apply?

For those of us that work with Immigration files this will be one of those – I have to see it to believe it moments –  According to the law they will create a digital platform or expedited window to handle these applications in an “expeditious” manner.  According to the text of the law the Department of Immigration will have 15 calendar days to rule on the application.  

When will it be approved?

This is difficult to predict.   Since it is a proposed law it requires approval by the Costa Rican legislature so it will depend on their priorities and consensus among the several political factions in the legislature. It was presented on September 21 and official notice for comment published in the Gazette on October 2, 2020.  The bill is sponsored by 20 legislators which is a good sign and there does not seem to be any major opposition so far to the bill.

Full Text Translated to English

LAW TO ATTRACT INTERNATIONAL WORKERS AND REMOTE SERVICE PROVIDERS

TITLE I

GENERAL PROVISIONS

ARTICLE 1- General Objective- The present law aims to promote the attraction of professionals and service providers that work remotely, in order to encourage long-stay visitation in Costa Rica and increase the expenditure of resources of foreign origin in the country.

ARTICLE 2- Scope of application- The provisions of this law shall apply to the category of non-resident, subcategory of stay as “Remote Worker or Service Provider”, who qualify as beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions of this law.

ARTICLE 3- Definitions – For the purposes of this law, the following definitions shall apply

1- Remote Worker or Service Provider: A foreign person who renders paid services remotely, as a subcontractor or not, using computer, telecommunication or analogous means, whose services are provided outside of Costa Rica.  This will have the Immigration category of non-resident, within the subcategory of Estancia, as it is categorized in the General Law of Migration and Foreigners, Law No. 8764 of August 19, 2009

2- Beneficiaries: The service provider who is the beneficiary of the law and their family.

3- Administration: General Directorate of Immigration and Foreigners.

ARTICLE 4- Competencies of the Department of Immigration- The Department will be the administrative agency in charge of receiving, processing and issuing the applications to take advantage of the benefits of this law, also it will be able to determine the cancellation of the same ones, in accordance with this law.

ARTICLE 5- Functions of the Department- In accordance with the provisions of this law, the Department shall have the following functions

1- Review the documents presented by the applicant;

2- Processing the migratory subcategory of Remote Service Provider;

3- Approve the status of beneficiary as appropriate under the requirements of this law;

4- Decree the cancellation of the condition of beneficiary, when applicable;

5- Coordinate with other related government institutions, when applicable, for the due granting of the condition of beneficiary;

6- To notify by digital means to the General Directorate of Customs and the General Directorate of Taxation, all resolutions issued in which the condition of beneficiary is granted, together with a digital copy of the certified file; and

7- The others that are conferred to him through the present law.

TITLE II

PROCEDURES AND DIGITAL PROCESSING

ARTICLE 7- Digital Procedure- The Department of Immigration will use a digital platform or window for the expeditious management of the applications of those foreigners who wish to opt for the category of non-resident, subcategory Estancia, as a Remote Service Provider and its consequent benefits.

The Department will establish by means of regulations everything corresponding to the charges for any procedure or migratory requirement established in the present law; which will have to do by means of the application of objective parameters relative to the administrative cost.

ARTICLE 8- Of the procedure- The foreigners who wish to opt for a non-resident visa, in the subcategory of Estancia, Remote Service Provider, must present a form where the visa is requested, and provide the necessary information to comply with the substantive and formal requirements that the procedure demands, according to article 11 of this law, and its respective regulation.  The Directorate will have a term of 15 calendar days to resolve it.

Likewise, the workers or remote service providers who wish to apply with their spouse or partner, sons or daughters or other members of their family, must submit a family group form.

Upon receipt of the application, the Directorate must verify within 5 working days that the information submitted by the applicant complies with the provisions of the General Law on Migration and Aliens, Law No. 8764 of August 19, 2009, this law and the respective regulations and prevent him/her, only once and in writing, from completing the requirements omitted in the application, or from clarifying or correcting the information.

The above-mentioned prevention suspends the term of resolution of the Administration and will grant the interested party up to eight working days to complete or clarify the application; after these days, the calculation of the remaining term foreseen to resolve will continue. The Department must resolve in writing, by means of a reasoned administrative act, in accordance with the General Law of Public Administration, Law No. 6227 of May 2, 1978.

ARTICLE 9- Rejection of the beneficiary’s application- In case the formal and substantive requirements established in this law are not met, the application will be rejected and the applicant will be given the option of obtaining the tourist visa or one of the other existing categories. Against the resolution that contains the rejection there is a right of revocation and appeal, which also will be able to be made through the digital system.

ARTICLE 10 – Availability of information – To facilitate compliance with the objectives of this law, the Department of Immigration will make available to the public on its website the rules for the management of the condition of Worker or Remote Service Provider, as well as a list of substantive and formal requirements to be met to opt for such a condition.

TITLE III

REMOTE WORKER OR SERVICE PROVIDER

ARTICLE 11- Of the condition of Worker or Remote Service Provider-Foreign persons who intend to enter and remain in the country under the migratory category of non-resident, subcategory of Estancia, Worker or Remote Service Provider, must comply with the following requirements:

a) Proof that they receive a stable monthly remuneration, fixed income or an average monthly income, during the last year, for an amount equal to or higher than five thousand dollars (currency of the United States of America) or its equivalent.  If the applicant chooses to apply for the benefits also for his family group, the mentioned amount of income to be proved may be validly integrated by his and his spouse’s or any of the other members’ income.  In any of the cases it will have to be an income that can continue being received although the person is not in his country of origin.

b) To obtain a medical services insurance that covers the applicant for the entire duration of his stay in the country. Likewise, all members of the family group must be covered if they choose to apply for inclusion as beneficiaries.

c) Make the payment, for one time only, for the granting of a non-resident visa, as a Worker or Remote Service Provider. The amount will be determined by regulations issued by the Directorate.

d) Any other requirement established by regulation, in compliance with the provisions of the General Law of Immigration and Foreigners Law No 8764.

The proof of income of paragraph a) may be made through bank statements that support the necessary income, or through other means of evidence to be indicated by regulation.

ARTICLE 12- Of the family group- The remote service provider who intends to enter and remain in the country under the migratory category of non-resident, subcategory of stay, may make the application to cover his or her spouse or partner, sons or daughters or other members of the family group, as appropriate, for which he or she must comply with the following requirements

a) Present passport photos of the members of the family group.

b) A copy of the certificate or proof of birth in the case of the children.

c) Make the payment, just once, for the granting of the visa of each member, amount that must be determined by regulations issued by the Directorate.

d) Provide any other information required by the Directorate to prove the relationship between the applicant and the members of the family group.

e) Any other requirement established by regulation, in compliance with the provisions of the General Law of Immigration and Foreigners Law No 8764

TITLE IV

REQUIREMENTS FOR MAINTAINING BENEFICIARY STATUS

ARTICLE 13- Compliance with the requirements of the migratory subcategory

The beneficiary must keep up to date with the requirements of his or her migratory subcategory of Estancia.

Likewise, when it is necessary and in a reasoned manner, the Directorate may require the beneficiary to prove, within a period of not less than eight working days, that the situation that granted him his status is still valid, which will be done through the digital platform.  Such statement shall have the character of a sworn statement for all legal purposes. The Management will regulate the corresponding procedures.

ARTICLE 14- Loss of Beneficiary Status- In the event that the applicant beneficiary does not prove that the situation that allowed him/her to be accredited as such is still in force, or that he/she carries out work or provides services other than those authorized by this law, they shall be responsible for such condition and it shall revoke any type of benefit, and shall also cancel national taxes in order to nationalize those goods that would have been imported without the payment of taxes. Likewise, the members of the family group will lose the condition of beneficiaries.

ARTICLE 15- Employment – The persons covered by this law may not engage in paid work or services in the national territory other than those permitted by their migratory subcategory of stay as an international Worker or Remote Service Provider.

TITLE V

BENEFITS

ARTICLE 16- Benefits related to the migratory condition- The migratory benefit will be granted for one year, extendable for a period of six more months. The people with the condition of beneficiaries will not have to remain in the country a minimum of days to preserve this subcategory.

ARTICLE 17- Benefits related to profit tax- The beneficiaries will have total exemption on income tax, as well as, on any other profit tax, with respect to their income from abroad

ARTICLE 18- Benefits related to the importation of equipment – The beneficiaries may opt for exemption from tariffs and other charges related to the importation of equipment, instruments, tools or computer, telecommunications or analogous means, necessary to perform their work or provide their services.  In these cases, the beneficiary must duly justify the need for the equipment to prove the exemption and this justification will have the character of a sworn statement.

ARTICLE 19- Of the term of the benefits – All the benefits established herein shall be governed by the same terms of the immigration benefit granted.

TITLE VI

PENALTIES

ARTICLE 20- False documentation- False documentation proven at the administrative level in the documents or reports provided for the granting of visas or the benefits conferred by this law, shall be sanctioned, in accordance with due process, ordering the immediate payment of the exempted taxes, plus an additional amount of 100%, as a fine.  The foregoing without prejudice to the judicial procedures that may apply for these purposes.

TITLE VII

FINAL PROVISIONS

ARTICLE 21- Reforms- Amend Article 88 of the General Law of Migration and Aliens Law No 8764, to contain a paragraph 5). The text is as follows:

Article 88- For the purposes of granting the visa and the term of stay, the following persons shall be included in the subcategory of stay:

[…]

5) Foreign persons who work remotely for clients and companies outside Costa Rica, and wish to remain in the country, while working or providing services remotely.  This condition will be known as “Remote Worker or Service Provider.

ARTICLE 22- Promotion and marketing – The Costa Rica Tourism Board will include in its marketing and promotional activities this segment of long-stay visitors. It may also collaborate with the Directorate of Immigration and Foreigners in providing data, statistics or analysis, as well as other actions that it requires for the most efficient achievement of the objectives of the law.

ARTICLE 23- Regulations- The Executive Branch will elaborate and issue he Regulations to this law within two months from the date of its coming into force.

This law is in force since its publication.

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