The high flow of immigration and the relocation of foreign employees managed by national and transnational companies in Costa Rica mean that there is a need to obtain work permits in the shortest possible time and with the least risks and contingencies for companies.

When hiring foreign personnel for its work structure, a company must immediately identify the job position, as well as the functions to be assumed within the company in order to evaluate the probabilities of approval and thus avoid rejection by the immigration authority. An analysis is required in accordance with the technical studies carried out by the Department of Labor Migrations of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security on the needs established by the national labor market in order to avoid reducing or displacing the national labor force.

In relation to the foregoing, and with the aim of being able to advance the process and assure the immigration status of the executives concerned in the shortest possible time, there are two immigrant categories that meet the requirements of effectiveness and urgency to qualify workers duly authorized to perform paid work in Costa Rica: (1) Temporary Residence, and (2) Stay by Special Relevance.

The Costa Rican immigration legislation regulates the special category of Stay by Special Relevance, which is a legal category that allows foreign workers to perform paid work in accordance with Article 92 of the General Migration Act 8764, which leads to the most important question to be asked: When should a company seek Temporary Residence or opt instead for a Stay by Special Relevance? The answer is because our Immigration Administration contemplates a tolerance once the immigration process is begun, the executive can regulate his condition through the Stay process much more expeditiously and with fewer requirements than when seeking Temporary Residence. This does not mean that the executive can work freely because, in order to do so, he must obtain Temporary Residence, but the Stay will already allow the issuance of an immigration document.

Once the application for a Stay is presented, a company should avoid creating problems for itself by hiring employees under irregular circumstances.  Most importantly the review, study and approval process in the Stay category would take 2 to 3 weeks to conduct, representing a major advantage for the employer as many companies cannot afford to have an executive spend 3, 4 or 5 months without an identification document and without the possibility of registration with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund or the National Insurance Institute, as would be the case with other ordinary channels.

An important advantage of securing an identity document pursuant to the Stay protocol is that it enables an executive to open a bank account expeditiously as compared to applying for Temporary Residence which would require a much longer wait during which time, in the absence of an identity document, the opening of a bank account would be impossible.

Another benefit is the qualification for a driver’s license, which cannot be obtained without the issuance of an immigration document.

It is important to emphasize that the migratory template, which is issued by the General Directorate of Migration after the presentation of the process allows the foreigner to reside in Costa Rica while their process is reviewed, and grants a tolerance to work while this process is resolved, but it does not constitute a work permit until the moment the process is approved. Likewise, until the process is approved, every time the executive leaves the country while his process is not approved, he must have an exit ticket from Costa Rica, which implies an additional expense for the company.

The use of the protocol Stay by Special Relevance, for executives, professional and technical positions, opens a window of a period of approximately 2-3 weeks (for Companies with Migration Recognition), during which they will be able to obtain a document of immigration identification, which represents a tool that facilitates both the management of the executive and the employees, as indicated above, being able to perform remunerated work on a regular basis, be enrolled in Social Security, be able to open bank accounts, free entry to Costa Rica without the need to obtain a return ticket , and most importantly, the peace of mind for the company and the executive. Once the Stay is approved for Special Relevance, you must proceed with the initiation and obtaining of a Temporary Residence, a process that will be the definitive one and that will be under review for 3 to 4 months and will be approved for a period of 2 years with the possibility of renewal for the same term.

Under the status of Temporary Residence, the family of the foreign executive can be included if it comes with dependents in accordance with the principle of family reunification, a situation that is not allowed to the applicant of Stay by Special Relevance, which is a category solely for and benefit of the principal executive and the company.

The use of both categories or only of the Temporary Residence will depend upon the needs of the contracting company, and the acceptable time frame for putting in order the foreign executive’s papers. Whether the company is willing to wait for 3 to 4 months for the temporary residency process to be approved by the immigration authority, assuming this process is chosen initially, or if the need is to have the executive’s status in order in the shortest time possible, application in both categories is highly recommended, with the Stay application presented first followed by a later change to Temporary Residence. Taking such dual steps is well-accepted and represents a valid solution to the problem of long waiting times for immigration approval, thus favoring the growth and expansion of companies in Costa Rica.


Marco Abellán.