Table of contents
Given the continuous popularity that Costa Rica has gained over the years, the number of visitors has increased, as well as the percentage of foreigners wanting to stay for longer periods of time, even permanently.
If you are an expat considering working in Costa Rica or are already living here and are currently looking for a job, you came to the right place. Our simple guide and tips will help you get valuable knowledge about the Costa Rican job market, and assist you in finding a suitable option.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before starting a job hunt in Costa Rica keep in mind that it could be a bit harder to find employment here compared to other countries in the region. A couple of valid reasons to affirm this are:
Costa Rica is a highly educated country where 97.76% of Costa Ricans are literate. This means that finding qualified professionals is not a difficult task.
The unemployment rate is currently high, at around 11.7%. Recovering from the pandemic has been a slow process where job opportunities have not been that numerous.
Legal Requirements to Work in Costa Rica as an Expat
To be able to work legally in Costa Rica, you need to either have citizenship, a permanent residency (for which you need a temporary residency first), or a work visa.
Foreigners with a residence or a valid refugee/asylee status can work without applying for a work permit. Being a duly authorized permanent, temporary, or refugee resident allows you to work and be subject to all labor rights and duties.
It is a widely known fact that in most countries locals have an advantage over foreigners to get a job. However, don’t let that discourage you as there are job opportunities for expats too.
Subscribe to our newsletter
to stay up to date
Different Avenues to Make Money in Costa Rica as an Expat
Expats can generate an income in Costa Rica’s market under two different scenarios, with a work visa (by being employed for a company on Costa Rican soil) or through other options we will talk about here.
Options With A Work Visa
If you are not a legal resident, a citizen or a refugee, you need to have a work visa to be allowed to work legally for a company in Costa Rica. Two ways of getting a work visa are as a skilled worker or through relocation.
#1 Skilled Workers
Many international companies established under Costa Rican law are aware of the challenge of filling certain complex jobs. This makes them willing to consider offering to sponsor a work visa to skilled workers that are not local. Applying for a job that requires a high level of expertise that is hard to find in the country increases the chance of landing a good job for a skilled expat.
Costa Rica currently has around 250 foreign companies with offices in other countries. Although a multinational company typically hires local talent, sometimes they need to bring more experienced or trained professionals already working in other countries to support their operations. Being relocated through an already-established company has been the case for many expats. If you currently work for an enterprise with offices in Costa Rica, you may want to explore the possibility of a relocation.
Making Money Without a Work Visa
If you do not wish to work for any employer in Costa Rica, your options are:
Becoming a business owner. Fortunately in Costa Rica, you don’t need to be a resident to start your own business, you can do so even with your tourist visa. You need to prove how your business will boost the Costa Rican economy and hire locals. You can generate income through your business, not as an employee, but as the owner. Many expats have done that through restaurants, shops, hostels, and cafes, to name a few examples.
Getting an investor visa. You get an investor visa for 2 years if either you or your spouse invest a minimum of $150,000 USD. There are several projects that apply, including a company, real estate, forestry, and more.
Obtaining a temporary residency through a Rentista Visa. Costa Rica awards a brief residency visa under the class of “rentista”, to expats ready to move to the country. The minimum wage per month should be no less than US$2,500 from a reliable source for at least 2 years.
Working as a Digital Nomad. Working as a digital nomad might be the easiest option for those who already work for an employer outside of Costa Rica’s borders and have total freedom to work from anywhere in the world. The process to become a digital nomad is fast and easy. You can find more info about this here.
Popular Industries for Expats
Before the pandemic, but certainly even more once it hit, freelance work became quite popular. Many professionals in different industries have the choice to work remotely not only within their country of origin but from other geographies. That being said, expat job seekers should know that some of the most popular jobs in demand are the ones that digital nomads have like graphic design, writing, editing, translation, software development, recruitment, project management, customer service, and more.
Other options that seem to fit quite well with Americans are in a call center, the tourism sector, and English teaching jobs. When it comes to teaching English, it is highly recommended to have either a TEFL, CELTA or TESOL certification as that will open more doors for you to teach English. Even when requirements can vary, some options you have access to as an English teacher are private classes (for kids, teenagers, and adults), business lessons in an institute, classes in bilingual/private schools, and upscale lessons at a University.
Job Resources for Expats
Fortunately, expats count on many useful online resources to identify good job openings. Our suggested options are LinkedIn, Expat Exchange, Craigslist Costa Rica, Costa Rica Job Search, Glassdoor, and the Tico Times, which always informs about job fairs or when big companies are hiring.
Tips for Finding a Job
To assist you in finding a job, please take into account the following tips.
Start your quest for employment as soon as you can. Don’t wait until it becomes a real need to start looking for work, you never know how long it will take for you to find one.
Have a customized resume ready. Make sure your resume is not only updated but that it reflects the specific job experience and skills that are required in the job you are applying to. Customizing your resume will certainly increase your chances of accessing a good job instead of using the same one for all jobs.
Grow your network. LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Instagram are great ways to interact with locals or other expats that can give you valuable advice, share their personal experiences, confirm data, get good feedback and recommendations, etc.
Make the effort to learn Spanish. Even when many Costa Ricans speak English, and especially around tourist areas, learning the local language will certainly help you bond with the locals and make your life easier.
To summarize, there are several options when it comes to getting a valid permit to work and live in Costa Rica, as well as different opportunities to generate income. Hopefully, any of the alternatives shared here will click with what you want or need and the tips shared will guide you in the right direction.
If part of your job search also includes a place to rent or live, take a look at the properties we have, we can surely help you find something that will meet your budget and expectations.