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Considerations on Moving to Costa Rica – Part Two

September 1st, 2006

Here is Part Two written especially for the under 50 crowd.

Under 50

Everything I wrote in Part One (for the over 50’s) is certainly applicable to the under-50 crowd of course. The biggest difference as I see it is that this younger group may not have financial independence, and thus they have to work in order to live here. With that in mind, their needs are clearly different.

The two greatest factors affecting this need-to-work crowd are the two basic facts about working in Costa Rica:

1. The pay levels here are a fraction of the pay rates in the USA. By a fraction I mean maybe 5-10% of what a person is paid in The United States for the same job.

2. In general, you may not work at all in Costa Rica unless you have Permanent Residency.

Now one could argue that is is cheaper to live in Costa Rica, and that is true. However when I speak of differing wage rates, I am talking serious stuff.

Example: I recently received an email from a guy in Kansas City who is a car mechanic. Last year he earned (his figures) about $50,000 plus benefits working in a union shop for a new car dealer. I have no idea if this is accurate BUT… Here in Costa Rica, he would be VERY lucky to earn $450.00 per month! More important, without fluent Spanish, he would be unemployable – period.

While most people assure me that they can adjust, I doubt if this fellow, his wife and 2 kids could do so.

More important is that Costa Rica protects its labor force just as most countries do, including the USA. You cannot work here if you do not have Permanent Residency which is NOT easy to get. I am not going to get into residency as it is covered here, but a person under 50 would probably need the Rentista form of residency unless they could show a pension or other permanent income source.

Rentista requires a deposit of $60,000 to a qualified bank. It gives you the right to live here, but excludes the right to work here.


A Rentista can OWN a business here, but cannot WORK in his own business. So you could keep the books, manage the operation, buy stock, make the bank deposit, etc., but you cannot do any actual labor or work in a position which could be done by a Costa Rican.

A Rentista can also work for a US (or other foreign) company by “telecommuting”. That is when they can work here using a computer and still receive a paycheck from their US employer. I am seeing more and more of these arrangements, especially those who live in the virtual computer world.


No matter what… Some form of residency is ALWAYS required to live legally in this country.

Regardless of what a perspective employer tells you, you cannot work here without either Permanent Residency or a Work Permit (even harder to get!) This includes schools teaching English, Real Estate agencies, Sports Books or other gambling operations. If you get caught, you are expelled!
So come to Costa Rica if you like! It a a wonderful place but NOT a perfect place.

Use good common sense. Do your homework. Read about the country and its history. Read up on Culture Shock and how it can affect you and your family.

Then… give it a go! You’re only young once!

5 Responses to “Considerations on Moving to Costa Rica – Part Two”

  1. Loy Pacheco on October 25, 2006 12:11 am

    My husband and I are considering moving to Costa Rica next year. I am Canadian and he is landed immigrant from Chile. We hope to seek a less stressfull, more real/deeper upbringing for our children (9 & 10). We want them to experience another culture, learn another language, expand their horizons. My husband and I are both adventurous, open to new experiences, and willing to work hard for what we want. Our dream has always been to run a restaurant or a B&B somewhere in the world where we and our children could maximize our life experience. We were hoping that Costa Rica would be that place. Any advice to our plans? How can we open/buy a restaurant or B&B and follow CR employment regulations etc?

  2. Sweetbasil on February 10, 2007 3:20 pm

    You had mentioned that one could telecommute. My husband does this and our family would like to move to CR to do this. He works for a US company. Would we apply under the Rentista and if so would we still have to put $60,000 in a CR bank, even though we are not starting a business in CR? Thanks!

  3. Tim on February 11, 2007 9:56 am

    The 60K has nothing to do with a business.

    It is proof that you have sufficient resources to live here for 5 years without needing to work.

    So yes, you WILL need 60K and remember that is 60K EACH for you and your husband (120K) and I believe a deposit also due for the kids.

    Residency rules change, so always best to check with http://www.arcr.net to see what are the current laws affecting you.

  4. Sweetbasil on February 11, 2007 10:14 pm

    OUCH! Thanks for the info. I don’t think we will be able to go that route then! Have you heard about the possibilities of coming down for 3 months a year and doing a telecommute/holiday? Is that considered illegal? That is just arriving as a tourist for 3 months and during that time doing telecommuting? Thanks again for all the info!

  5. Tim on February 12, 2007 12:30 pm

    Sure… you could probably do it 2 times per year without drawing attention.