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Frequently Asked Questions
 

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do I need a passport to visit Costa Rica?

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

When will the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica be closed?

How do I pay consular fees?

How do I help someone apply for a U.S. visa?

How do I get a document notarized?

How do I register for the Selective Service while in Costa Rica?

Do you have a list of lawyers and their specialties?

I am traveling with my pet. What do I need to do?

How can I find a friend or relative living in the U.S.?

What are the requirements on emissions testing for used cars and motorcycles being imported to Costa Rica?

How can I get a job or internship at the U.S. Embassy in San José or find a job in Costa Rica?

How can I teach school or volunteer in Costa Rica?  

What documents do I need to get married in Costa Rica? 

Where can I get information about investing in Costa Rica? 

Where can I get information about Costa Rica for my student research project? 

Do I have access to APO privileges in the U.S. Embassy?

What is the Consular Section's role in the event of the arrest of a U.S. citizen?

I am concerned about the welfare of an American Citizen in Costa Rica. How can the Consular Section in San José assist me in finding out if that person is okay?

How do I report / replace lost or stolen credit cards or travelers checks? 

What services does the U.S. Embassy provide to assist U.S. Citizens in Costa Rica who need temporary financial assistance because they are destitute? 

How can the U.S. Embassy assist in the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Costa Rica? 

How do I apply for a passport? 

How can my child born abroad become a U.S. citizen?

TRAVEL AND HEALTH ISSUES 

What medical services are available for travelers?

What inoculations do I need to visit Costa Rica and how is medical care in Costa Rica?

How is the crime situation in Costa Rica?

Is there a departure tax to leave Costa Rica?

What are the entry/exit requirements for dual U.S./Costa Rican citizens?

Where can I get tourist information about Costa Rica?

Where can I get information about relocating or retiring to Costa Rica?

How do I register my trip to or my residence in Costa Rica with the Embassy?

TAXPAYER INFORMATION

Can a consular officer assist me in filling out and filing my taxes?

Is there an IRS office or representative at the U.S. Embassy in San José?

I am a U.S. citizen resident in Costa Rica. Do I need to file taxes?  

Does the U.S. have a tax treaty or a totalization agreement (Social Security) in effect with Costa Rica? 

Does my state's revenue service have a website?

VOTER INFORMATION

Where can I find information on voting absentee? 

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do I need a passport to travel to Costa Rica?

Yes, U.S. citizens must have a current valid passport and evidence of onward travel to exit Costa Rica (either to return to the U.S. or travel to another country).  Because of possible fines levied by Costa Rican Immigration, many airlines will not permit passengers without proof of onward travel to board flights to Costa Rica unless they have Costa Rican citizenship, residency, or a visa.  Travelers may want to check with the airlines they will be traveling with to verify any additional requirements imposed. 

Please check the Costa Rican Consulate website for the most current information about requirements to visit Costa Rica. 

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

 For purposes of tourism, you may visit Costa Rica for up to 90 days without a visa. Please see the website for the Costa Rican Embassy in the U.S. for information regarding visa and entry requirements.  

When will the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica be closed?

  See Holidays Page  

How do I pay consular fees?

 Most consular fees can be paid to the Consular Cashier. The exception is the fee associated with nonimmigrant visa applications, which can only be paid at local Banco Nacional branches. Consular fees may be paid in cash, either in U.S. dollars or in local currency (Costa Rican Colones), or with a major credit card. The Consular Section does not accept checks or money orders.

How do I help someone apply for a U.S. visa?

Nonimmigrant visa applicants must qualify for a visa based on their own ties to a place of residence outside of the U.S. While an invitation may be helpful, friends and relatives in the United States cannot act as guarantors for nonimmigrant visa applicants. For more information on requirements for a nonimmigrant visa, please consult the Nonimmigrant Visas section of this site.

Applicants for Immigrant or Diversity visas should consult the Immigrant Visas section of this site for details about eligibility requirements.

I need a document notarized. What do I do?

All routine services, including notary services, are available by appointment only.

Please click here to make a notary appointment.

How do I register for the Selective Service while in Costa Rica?

If you are a U.S. citizen male aged 18 to 25, you are required to register with the Selective Service. You may register online 

Do you have a list of lawyers and their specialties?

See Attorneys List

I am traveling with my pet. What do I need to do?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is an excellent resource for general questions about travel with pets.

How can I find a friend or relative living in the U.S.?

Government records about U.S. citizens and residents are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974; as a result, the U.S. Embassy generally cannot help locate a person living in the United States. There are, however, public sources of information, including a variety of websites that specialize in locating people. 

What are the requirements on emissions testing for used cars and motorcycles being imported to Costa Rica?

The Government of Costa Rica requires emissions testing for all vehicles, regardless of whether they are driven or shipped into the country, and regardless of whether they are being imported permanently or for temporary use.

U.S. citizens wishing to drive or ship a car or motorcycle into Costa Rica are strongly encouraged to contact the nearest Costa Rican consulate for more information, and to delay shipping or driving a vehicle to Costa Rica until they are certain they have complied with the requirements.

How can I get a job or internship at the U.S. Embassy in San José or find a job in Costa Rica?

The U.S. Embassy hires locally only a very small number of administrative personnel, and openings are fairly infrequent.  Employees hired locally are paid local salary rates and are covered by Costa Rican labor laws.  See the official Embassy of Costa Rica website for information work permits for the local market.

If you are a U.S. citizen and are interested in a career or internship in the U.S. Foreign Service, you can find complete information on the U.S. State Department website.  The Department's internship program offers the possibility of working in many different countries, including Costa Rica.

How can I teach school or volunteer in Costa Rica?

There are several U.S.-curriculum and English-speaking schools in Costa Rica, and some of them recruit teachers in the U.S.  If you are interested in teaching school in Costa Rica, see the Department of State's Overseas Schools page for a list of recruiting organizations and for information on schools that are supported by the U.S. Government overseas.

The Peace Corps has a small number of volunteers in Costa Rica.  Other U.S. non-profit programs such as WorldTeach have placed volunteers in Costa Rica in past years. The Embassy of Costa Rica may have additional information about volunteer programs.

What documents do I need to get married in Costa Rica?

Costa Rican law permits U.S. citizens to get married here.  A lawyer can perform the required legal ceremony (see our list of attorneys).  You will need the following documents:

  • A valid passport;
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate; 

If you have been married before:

  • A certified copy of the divorce decree or
  • A certified copy of your previous spouse's death certificate; 

If you have not been married before, you must come to the Embassy's Consular Section and make a sworn statement to that effect before a consular officer (there is a $50 fee for this service).

If you are marrying a Costa Rican citizen, he/she will need:

  • a Costa Rican identity card (cédula de identidad); and
  • a certificate from the Civil Registry that he/she is single (certificado de soltería del Registro Civil). 

In the United States, laws regarding marriage vary from state to state. Please contact the County Clerk's office in the county in which you plan to reside in or in which you are a residentwith any questionsregardingrecognitionof your Costa Rican marriage documents in the United States.

Where can I get information about investing in Costa Rica?

Check the Embassy's Commercial Section for services for American investors.  Also see our Trade page for research reports, general information and links to business-related organizations.

Where can I get information about Costa Rica for my student research project?

Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica (this site) provides information primarily about U.S. Government programs in Costa Rica.

There is a wealth of information about Costa Rica on the Internet. 

Do I have access to APO privileges at the U.S. Embassy?

No, APO service at the embassy is no longer avialable for military retirees.

What is the Consular Section's role in the event of the arrest of a U.S. citizen? 

See Arrest of U.S. Citizens page

I am concerned about the welfare of an American Citizen in Costa Rica. How can the Consular Section in San José assist me in finding out if that person is okay?

See Welfare and Whereabouts Services page

How do I report / replace lost or stolen credit cards or travelers checks?

You will need to contact the bank that issued the credit cards or traveler’s checks directly. The Embassy cannot assist with lost or stolen credit card or traveler’s checks claims.

What services does the U.S. Embassy provide to assist U.S. Citizens in Costa Rica who need temporary financial assistance because they are destitute?

See Financial Assistance page

How can the U.S. Embassy assist in the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Costa Rica?

See Death and Estates page

How do I apply for a passport?

See Passport page

How can my child born abroad become a citizen?

See Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) page

TRAVEL AND HEALTH ISSUES

What medical services are available for travelers?

See Medical Emergencies page

What inoculations do I need to visit Costa Rica and how is medical care in Costa Rica?

There are no required inoculations for Costa Rica, but it is a good idea to check with your physician for recommendations of optional inoculations and health precautions. Costa Rica is suffering an outbreak of dengue fever (both classic and hemorrhagic), although the incidence remains lower than in other Central American countries. Dengue is transmitted by mosquito bite and there is no vaccine. Anyone planning to travel in affected areas should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. These include wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin, and sleeping under mosquito netting.

Medical care in the capital city of San Jose is adequate. However, in areas outside of San Jose, medical care is more limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful in many emergencies.

For additional health information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How is the crime situation in Costa Rica?  Is it a safe destination?

For information, see the "Crime Information" section of the Department of State Consular Information Sheet for Costa Rica. Please also visit our page on Safety and Security

Is there a departure tax to leave Costa Rica?

Yes, the departure tax for short-term visitors is currently $29. Tourists who stay over ninety days without receiving a formal extension can expect to pay a higher departure tax at the airport or land border. Persons who have overstayed previously may be denied entry to Costa Rica.

What are the entry/exit requirements for dual U.S./Costa Rican citizens?

Dual U.S./Costa Rican citizens are required by Costa Rican authorities to comply with entry and exit laws that pertain to Costa Rican citizens. This means that even U.S. citizen minors who are also Costa Rican citizens, and who might normally travel on U.S. passports, will be required to comply with entry /exit requirements applicable to Costa Rican children.

American parents of minors who may have obtained Costa Rican citizenship through birth in Costa Rica or to a Costa Rican parent should be aware that these children may only depart Costa Rica upon presentation of an exit permit issued by the Costa Rican immigration office. Parents of dual citizen children are advised to consult with the Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. about entry and exit requirements before travel to Costa Rica.

Additional information on entry and exit requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Costa Rica.

Where can I get tourist information about Costa Rica?

There are a number of websites, including the official website of Costa Rica Tourism, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, and the Embassy of Costa Rica.

Where can I get information about relocating or retiring to Costa Rica?

The U.S. Embassy does not have jurisdiction or influence over the Costa Rican residency process for American citizens. The basic information below, translated from documents provided by Costa Rica's immigration office, is only intended as an English language introduction to the process. For complete information, please visit the official Costa Rican immigration website.

Four Basic Types of Residency (There are other more specific types)

  • Family Relationship to a Costa Rican
  • Pensioner -- Must show evidence of a monthly pension of $1000 or more
  • Rentista -- Must show evidence of a permanent monthly income from a source outside Costa Rica of $2500 or more
  • Investor -- Must invest $200,000 in an approved sector of the Costa Rican economy

Required Documentation (all documents must be translated into Spanish by an official translator)

  • letter addressed to Director of Immigration explaining residency application
  • digital fingerprints taken by the Ministry of Public Security
    certified copy of all pages of current passport
  • proof of registration with the United States Embassy (Costa Rican immigration will only accept a notarized verification of registration, for which there is a notarial fee of $50.)
  • proof of registration with the Costa Rican Social Security system (CCSS)
  • three passport-size photos
  • birth Certificate
  • certificate of arrest record
  • certification fees
  • bank receipt for application fee
  • bank receipt for change of immigration category fee

In addition to the above documents, each type of residency will require documents specific to that category. For more detailed information, please visit migracion.go.cr

How do I register my trip to or my residence in Costa Rica with the Embassy?

See Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) page

TAXPAYER INFORMATION

Can a consular officer assist me in filling out and filing my taxes?

No, consular officers are not permitted to assist with either filling out or filing taxes. You should contact an accountant, a tax attorney or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for assistance with your taxes. Tax forms and booklets are available at the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy during the annual tax season, from about mid-January through the end of April, and are available online at www.irs.gov.

Is there an IRS office or representative at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose?

No, there is no IRS office or representative at the Embassy. We do, however, stock many federal tax forms and booklets at the American Citizen Services Unit.

I am a U.S. Citizen resident in Costa Rica. Do I need to file taxes?

Maybe. U.S. citizens and U.S. legal permanent residents are taxed on their worldwide income. Every U.S. citizen or permanent resident must file a U.S. income tax return if certain income levels are reached. Income for filing requirement purposes is determined without regard to the foreign-earned income exclusion. To determine whether you are required to file a U.S. income tax return you will need to review the income levels for filing purposes which appear in IRS publications, including Publication 17 (Tax Guide for Individuals) and Publication 54 (Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad).

Does the U.S. have a tax treaty or a totalization agreement (Social Security) in effect with Costa Rica?

No, the U.S. does not currently have a tax treaty or totalization agreement with Costa Rica.

Does my state's revenue service have a website?

For links to state tax agency web sites, please see the Federation of Tax Administrators web site.

VOTER INFORMATION

Where can I find information on voting absentee?

See Voting Information page

Lost or Stolen Passport?

  • If you have an urgent need to travel and your passport was stolen, you may come to the U.S. Embassy on Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to apply for an emergency passport.

    In addition to the requirements listed on this page, please bring your police report detailing the theft.