San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Residency Regs Good News for Some

The Immigration Authority recently issued new regulations that will finally facilitate the granting of temporary residencies to foreign executives and specialized technicians working for qualifying companies.

Before these regulations were issued, Immigration had wide discretion in approving or denying applications based on investments or job contracts.

The parameters were not clear and the timing and results were not reliable. Some applicants have waited years for a decision, and their files seem to be forgotten still. Applicants also have had to file their forms at Costa Rican consulates in their native countries, a requirement that has proved challenging and caused more delays to the reviewing procedures.

Not all companies and foreign employees will be able to take advantage of this policy change. The companies that will benefit from the new regulations are mainly export companies registered with the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) or the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER). The list also includes tourism-related companies such as airlines and high-end hotels, banking and financial companies registered or supervised by the Superintendency of Financial Entities (SUGEF), and subsidiaries of well-known multinational companies. According to Immigration, other companies are to be included by an amendment to be issued in the future, after specific requirements are established in coordination with industrial chambers and other related entities.

The first step in obtaining these benefits is to register the company by filing a series of corporate, legal and accounting documents, plus some specific documents related to the type of company (export, tourism, etc.). The Immigration Authority will then grant the applying company a special authorization that will permit its foreign employees to obtain residency. This process should take no more than 20 working days if all documents are filed correctly.

The second step is to file a residency petition for each employee. This filing will require a birth certificate and criminal record from the applicant’s country of origin, among other documents. Approval of residency applications should take no longer than 35 working days if they are complete and filed correctly.

These new temporary residencies will be valid only as long as the applicant works for the filing company. The status also covers the principal applicant’s spouse and minor children, who may study but not work while in the country; appropriate marriage and birth certificates will be required.

All documents issued abroad must be certified and authenticated by the competent Costa Rican Consulate for the place of issue.

Application documents produced and reviewed by experienced immigration attorneys offer the best chances of success.

Although the documents needed are the same as those currently required for similar types of residencies, the rules are now much clearer, and the timing and reliability are much improved.

For more legal advice, contact Lang & Asociados at 2204-7871 or visit


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