Working in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica: Challenges for Expats
Although the previous part of this article might paint a very rosy picture, Costa Rica does, of course, also have a number of pressing, but unresolved, issues. Unemployment is just below 10%, and around one in five are living below the poverty line. Erratic infrastructure and large amounts of red tape can make it hard for upcoming businesses to get established in the nation. Nevertheless, the country’s prospects for the future are very promising, and those problems will surely be addressed within the next few years.
Protecting the Local Workforce
Seeing how Costa Rica offers so many incentives and possibilities for companies and employees alike, many of you might be expecting some kind of catch. Unfortunately, you are right: Costa Rica is very protective of its workforce and makes it very hard for foreigners to get in and get to work.
As we have detailed in our article on living in Costa Rica, the level of education in the country is unparalleled in the region. Costa Ricans are, of course, very well aware of this fact and take more than a little pride in it. A job will only be given to an expat when capable personnel are not available domestically. Your chances of finding employment — or actually getting a work permit — are best when you have a special set of skills that Costa Rica’s workforce is lacking in.
Help with the Paperwork: Immigration Lawyers
The most convenient way of handling the application for your work visa is, of course, just letting your future employer take care of it. Many of the multinational companies in Costa Rica have special departments taking care of immigration and work permit issues, helping prospective new employees circumvent the considerable red tape involved in the process.
If you do not have any such luck, you will find the road towards employment in Costa Rica somewhat time-consuming and complicated. In any case, we strongly advise you to consult one of the many Costa Rican lawyers specializing in these issues. The embassy of your home country in Costa Rica can provide you with a list of lawyers proficient in English (and sometimes additional languages).
Even if your Spanish skills are generally fine, you should get in touch with one of those specialists, as official Costa Rican procedures can get quite confusing. Fortunately, as with almost every service in Costa Rica, lawyer’s fees are quite a bit lower than you might expect. It will definitely be money well spent.
If you are undertaking the road towards employment without the aid of a Costa Rica based employer, you can expect the whole process to take more than half a year. Costa Rican immigration law requires prospects to supply notarized translations of all documents which are not in Spanish. You cannot just let any translator do it, though; they must be government approved and must either be located in Costa Rica or work for a Costa Rican consulate. The embassy of Costa Rica in your home country will gladly help you with names and addresses.
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