If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to live in a tropical paradise while supporting yourself with your work, opportunities abound in Costa Rica. In July 2022, Costa Rica joined the growing list of countries that have formal digital nomad visa programs.
Costa Rica's digital nomad visa was approved and went live in July 2022.
Whether your dream is to work from the beach in Nosara, the mountains of Monteverde, or a coworking space in the middle of San José, Costa Rica is becoming even more welcoming to remote workers than it already has been in recent times.
What is a digital nomad visa?
A digital nomad visa is a relatively new category of residence permit designed for remote workers, self-employed people, and freelancers who want to stay and legally work in a foreign country. In the wake of the covid pandemic, many countries, like Costa Rica, decided that welcoming workers and not just tourists to stay for a long time in the country was a good strategy.
Tourist visas are visas that usually allow people to stay somewhere for a short time. Costa Rica tourists must have a return ticket and can only stay in the country for 90 days. This leads to people gaming the system and doing "tourist visa runs" and working only semi-legally.
The Costa Rican Digital Nomad Visa allows you to work within the country — so long as the source of income is from outside the country. It is not a license to work for cash or a paycheck for a local Costa Rican employer.
You will need to prove the source of your income coming from outside the country.
Let’s review a few key ways that Costa Rica is a great place for remote workers to take a workation, and why this visa is a big step in the right direction.
Costa Rica has Beautiful Weather
Costa Rica has beautiful weather year-round, and in this blog post, we will explain the different climates and weather on the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica. On the Pacific side, the weather is typically dry with some humidity, while on the Caribbean side the weather is more humid and tropical.
The Pacific side of Costa Rica has two climates: dry and wet. The dry climate is found in the Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula regions, and this area experiences little rain between December and April. The temperatures are also cooler here, averaging in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. The wet climate is found in the Central Valley and Pacific coastal regions, and this area experiences more rain between May and November. The temperatures are warmer here, averaging in the low 80s Fahrenheit.
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica has one climate: tropical. This region experiences more rainfall than the Pacific side, with rain occurring throughout the year. The temperatures are also hotter, averaging in the mid-80s Fahrenheit.
Costa Rica has Time Zones that line up with North America
- For those working with North American clients, the time zone is Central Standard Time all year — in line with the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies, and in between the common North American time zones of Pacific and Eastern on the West and East coasts.
- Costa Rica has consistently warm and tropical weather between 72 and 82 °F (22 and 28 °C). Temperatures are a bit lower in November in December but there are no Northern Hemisphere-style winters this close to the Equator.
- The digital nomad visa will allow you to do things like drive a car with your foreign license and be exempt from local taxes. American citizens, remember you are responsible for paying taxes on worldwide income! (This is not official tax advice, talk to an accountant!)
- The cost of living is pretty cheap, relative to other countries: $2,000 USD per month for a single person is perfectly reasonable.
To take advantage of these benefits, you need to understand some of the rules. The digital nomad visa will be available for travelers for up to one year.
To be eligible for this visa, there are certain things you need to have:
- You need to prove that you have a stable income of at least $3,000 USD per month (or $4,000 for a family)
- You need to purchase medical insurance that covers your stay in Costa Rica.
- You need to pay a filing fee to obtain the non-resident visa (amount TBD)
- There is no import tax on equipment that you'd like to bring into the country to be able to work.
- You can renew the visa an extra year after the first year if you like
- There is no income tax payable to Costa Rica for the duration of the visa timeframe
Steps to Apply
The first step is to get together the documentation that you need to apply.
Proving that you are truly a 'digital nomad' or remote worker is the key point of the application and something you should make clear in your application.
- An employment contract or self-employment incorporation documents (articles, appointment of director)
- A declaration letter stating that you will be working remotely in Costa Rica
- A letter from your employer if you are employed
- Bank account statements that prove the income requirement as an individual or family member.
- Health insurance — we recommend nomad-specific insurance like Insured Nomads
- Completed visa application form
You will also be required to submit your valid passport, travel insurance, and a visa application form.
After you have successfully applied for your Costa Rica DNV, you will be notified by the authorities that your DNV has been issued.
Do I have to pay taxes on the Costa Rica digital nomad visa?
The good news here is that you do not have to pay local income taxes to the Costa Rican government while you are a digital nomad.
For Americans especially, it's important for this not to lull you into a false sense of automatic compliance with the IRS. All US citizens are still taxed on their worldwide income.
For people from other countries, you still may very much want to consult a tax accountant. If you only go away for four or five months and return to your home country, you may still be an income tax resident of your home country during that year.
For longer trips away, you may want to organize your affairs so you cease to be a tax resident of your home country. If you are looking to plan a tax-free existence in Costa Rica or any digital nomad location, look for professional advice before you assume you are in the clear and don't have income tax filing or payment obligations.
Where can I work in Costa Rica?
Check out our list of coworking spaces if you want to plan your trip around a convenient, easy-to-use workspace.
You can also check out the different regions of Costa Rica to get a sense of what part of this diverse country you might want to settle into — there are mountains, beaches, jungles, and much, much more!