Costa Rica: New Immigration Law

Costa Rica: New Immigration Law

Costa Rica: New Immigration Law

Executive Summary

Costa Rica recently enacted a new immigration law that is scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2010 and will introduce significant changes to the business visitor and temporary residence categories, including a new visa-on-arrival category for certain business visitors, new minimum salary requirements for foreign executives working in Costa Rica, and work authorization for spouses of temporary residents.

Costa Rica recently enacted a new immigration law that is set to take effect on March 1, 2010. The Costa Rican authorities are expected to issue regulations before the new law’s effective date that will provide greater detail on the changes under the new law. Fragomen is monitoring these developments in Costa Rica and will issue updates as they become available.

The following is a summary of key changes to be implemented under the new law:

New “Consular Visa-on-Arrival” for Business Visitors

Foreign nationals who require a “Consular Visa” (visa consular) from a Costa Rican consulate to enter Costa Rica as business visitors will be eligible to apply for a Consular Visa-on-Arrival upon arrival at a Costa Rican port of entry. Currently, Consular Visas may only be obtained by nationals of designated countries at a Costa Rican consular post abroad prior to entry. Consular Visas generally allow for stays in Costa Rica of up to 30 days.

Foreign nationals who require a “Restricted/Authorized Visa” (visa restringida/autorizada) to enter Costa Rica as business visitors will not be affected by the new law and must continue to obtain a Restricted/Authorized Visa from a Costa Rican consulate prior to entry. Restricted/Authorized Visa applications are subject to greater scrutiny than Consular Visa applications and allow for stays determined in the discretion of the Costa Rican authorities.

New Labor Market Protection Provision for Executives
Costa Rican employers will be required to pay foreign national executives a salary of at least 25% above the minimum salary determined under Costa Rican law for a similar position. Currently, while Costa Rican authorities designate minimum required salary amounts by job title, there is no specific minimum salary provision for foreign executives.

New Social Security Requirement for Temporary Residence Renewal Applications
Temporary residents seeking to renew their status will be required to demonstrate that they have complied with their required salary contributions to the Costa Rican Social Security Administration (Caja Costaricense de Seguros Social or CCSS). Currently, while foreign workers are required to make regular contributions to the CCSS, no proof of compliance is required for temporary residence renewal applications.

New Travel Rules for Temporary and Permanent Residents
Temporary residents will be authorized to remain outside of Costa Rica for up to two years continuously without losing their temporary resident status. Currently, temporary residents are only allowed to remain outside of Costa Rica for up to six months consecutively without abandoning their status as temporary residents. Similarly, permanent residents will be authorized to remain outside of Costa Rica for up to four years continuously without losing their permanent resident status, up from twelve months currently.

Work Authorization for Dependents of Temporary Residents
Dependent spouses of temporary residents will be eligible to work in Costa Rica incident to their dependent status. Currently, dependent spouses of temporary residents are not authorized to work in Costa Rica.

New Application Procedures and Fees for Temporary Residents and Overstays
All Costa Rican companies sponsoring foreign nationals for temporary resident status will be allowed to submit Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) applications on their behalf directly to the immigration authorities in Costa Rica. Currently, only companies that are accredited by the Costa Rican immigration authorities may submit TRP applications directly in Costa Rica, while applications sponsored by unaccredited companies must be submitted to a Costa Rican consular post abroad. See our prior client alert for more information on company accreditation in Costa Rica.

In addition, foreign nationals in Costa Rica on expired tourist visas will be allowed to submit TRP applications, provided they pay a fine of US$ 100 per month of overstay. Currently, foreign nationals who are present in Costa Rica beyond their authorized period of stay are prohibited from submitting immigration applications and must depart Costa Rica before applying for temporary resident status.

Filing fees for all immigration applications are expected to increase under the new law.

Heightened Application Requirements for the Independently Wealthy and Retirees
Foreign nationals seeking to enter Costa Rica under the “rentista” category for independently wealthy individuals will be required to demonstrate that they receive a monthly income of at least US$ 2,500, whether or not they enter with dependent family members. Currently, foreign nationals must receive a monthly income of at least US$ 1,000 if entering alone, plus US$ 1,000 for a dependent spouse and US$ 500 for each dependent child.

In addition, foreign nationals seeking to enter Costa Rica as retirees will be required to demonstrate that they receive a monthly income of at least US$ 1,000, up from US$ 600.

The content of this alert is provided for information purposes only.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen Global Immigration Services or send an email to lar@fragomen.com.

Source: Fragomen