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Costa Rica – Restricted or Free-Condition Residence: Can I work in Costa Rica?
Publications || 2018 || Costa Rica – Restricted or Free-Condition Residence: Can I work in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica – Restricted or Free-Condition Residence: Can I work in Costa Rica?

by charbds, 3 December, 2018


December 03, 2018
José Joaquín Acuña / jacuna@bdsasesores.com
Partner BDS Asesores


Our immigration laws provide for a number of categories from which foreigners may choose to apply to validly stay in the country.  Each category entails different requirements and will determine the conditions under which said foreigner can stay in the country.

Some categories will allow the foreigner to stay in the country beyond the time established in his/her tourist visa, while others will allow foreigners to do remunerated work in the country, to study, or even to invest here. This is why it is important to understand the wording that will be included in the relevant migratory identity document.

Starting by the simplest one, there are documents that include the wording “Free Condition”. These documents are usually associated to a permanent residence and mean that the holder is not subject to any restrictions.

A person subject to this category may be allowed to do lawful remunerated work, regardless of the company, the type of contract (fixed-term/indefinite), or duties performed by the individual within the relevant organization. Foreigners holding a free-condition residence are authorized to stay in the country without labor restrictions.

On the other hand, a restricted condition residence is subject to rules, which is why this must be carefully considered. Special residences, permits, or categories including this wording mean that the permanence authorization is subject to certain restrictions and, therefore, these should be taken into account.  Initially, the resolution issued by the General Immigration and Foreigners Agency (DGME) will be the most relevant document to determine the conditions and restrictions imposed by this document.

As soon as the resolution has been issued, it should be verified whether the person is authorized or not to work in the country. Individuals holding a residence as dependents or under student permits will be granted a resolution including a warning that the approval of these migratory categories do not allow the foreigner to work and, therefore, that if they wish to do remunerated work they should opt for a different category or request the authorization from the DGME.

In case that the person does have a work permit, we should consider the topic of the possible positions that may be filled by this person. Professionals of different sectors may opt to apply for work permits that will allow them to conduct work in their specialty area.

Lastly, there is a migratory category in which the authorization to work is associated to a specific company or employer; this means that the DGME allows the foreigner to work in the country, but exclusively for such employer.

In the latter case, the person may not conduct remunerated work until submitting a “Change of Employer” application, and such application is duly approved.

There are special cases such as students and refugees, who initially are subject to a restricted condition but with certain caveats.

In the case of students, there are university careers that include professional practices in their academic curriculum, which is why if this is the case the interested party should apply for an authorization of the DGME in order to conduct job duties and to meet this requirement.

As for refugees, their restricted condition is not generally associated to work limitations and, therefore, these persons can choose to perform any lawful remunerated work; provided that they have been granted their refugee condition or as applicants they have been granted a valid work permit and their application is undergoing analysis.

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