Costa Rica Digital Nomad Visa: What You Need to Know

Have you ever visited a country and thought to yourself – I could live here? Costa Rica is certainly an attractive place to want to live and work, with rich biodiversity, pristine beaches, access to fresh produce, and plenty of outdoor activities. With the rise of digital nomadism, many travellers are searching for the perfect place to settle down for a few months to work away at their laptop amidst a beautiful place with a great lifestyle balance. And Costa Rica seems to tick a lot of people’s boxes.

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Now that Costa Rica offers a digital nomad visa, it’s becoming a popular place for nomads to congregate and indulge in the pura vida lifestyle that the country is known for. If you’re looking for the perfect work-life balance, somewhere you can surf or dive in the morning, hike in the afternoon, work in between and find a vibrant community, then the Costa Rica digital nomad visa might just be for you.

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What is the Costa Rica Digital Nomad Visa?

In 2022, Costa Rica followed several other countries in the world and embraced the concept of digital nomadism. Costa Rica introduced a special digital nomad visa that allows those who are working remotely to reside in Costa Rica for a longer period of time, and also continue to work online legally while retaining full income tax exemption.

As with many digital nomad visas, the Costa Rican government has set a few requirements and eligibility criteria that must be met for the visa to be approved. Foreign nationals applying for the Stay (Estancia) for Remote Workers and Service Providers must provide services remotely to a person or entity located outside of Costa Rica. 

There is also an income minimum of US$3,000 per month for individuals or $5000 for families, and mandatory medical insurance must cover you for the entirety of your intended stay.

Working on the porch of our house in Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Working on the porch of our house in Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Benefits of the Costa Rica Digital Nomad Visa

While most people can visit Costa Rica for 90 days as a tourist, this is not necessarily enough to really explore the country if you’re working remotely at the same time. The digital nomad visa allows remote workers to stay for an initial 12 months, plus an option to extend for a further 12 months. With two years up your sleeve, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the pura vida lifestyle of Costa Rica, and really get to know the beautiful country on an intimate level. 

The digital nomad visa also solves some of the legal gray areas that come with being a digital nomad. Visiting a country as a tourist while working online can be a little problematic legally, as it doesn’t fit under the tourist visa or traditional work visa category. With a digital nomad visa, you can freely work online, and retain the benefits of income tax exemption without feeling guilty about breaking any laws.

There are also other perks for working online in Costa Rica. The digital nomad visa allows you to not only be exempt from local income tax but also provides the ability to open a local bank account and validate your home driver’s license. Things which are usually reserved for residents.

Unfortunately, the digital nomad visa is not accessible to everyone though. You won’t be eligible for the visa if you earn less than $3000 per month or if some of that money is earned with a Costa Rican company. Ensure you meet the requirements before applying.

Playa Lagartillo, Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Lagartillo and Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Application Process

The application process for the digital nomad visa is pretty straightforward. First, foreign nationals must fill out the online application through the official immigration website. Once you submit the form, you’ll find out within two weeks whether the Costa Rican authorities have approved your application. 

There are two separate payments required as part of the application process. The first is US$100 to the Costa Rican government as an application fee. The second is US$90 to cover the processing and delivery of the Digital Nomad Visa by immigration. 

Once your application is accepted, you may enter Costa Rica. However, after you arrive in the country, you have 90 days to obtain your immigration accreditation document and make your status official for one year. This can be done in person with an immigration official in the capital city, San Jose. You’ll have to submit the accompanying proof of pay, bank statements, insurance, passport photo and fingerprints.

It’s important to note that all the documents must be translated into Spanish. The documents you’ll need to gather for the application include:

  • Online application form signed by the applicant
  • Bank statements from the previous year showing a stable monthly income of at least US$3000 per month
  • Receipt confirming US$100 payment made to the Government of Costa Rica and deposited into the Banco de Costa Rica
  • Proof of health insurance for duration of stay
  • Photocopy of foreign national’s valid passport, including photo page and Costa Rican entry stamp
  • Additional paperwork may be required if you’re taking a family member or any dependents with you, such as a birth certificate 
San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica

Cost of Living and Lifestyle in Costa Rica

While Costa Rica is a very attractive destination for digital nomads, it’s not an overly cheap place to live in comparison to other countries in Central America or digital nomad hubs in Asia. It’s likely still cheaper than many Western nations though, so you’ll still find plenty of fellow digital nomads enjoying the local life in Costa Rica.

Here is a rough breakdown of what you might expect from the cost of living in Costa Rica:

  • Accommodation/rent: $1000 per month
  • High-speed internet: Around $50 per month
  • Local restaurant meal: $7-10
  • Basic utilities: $50-100 per month
  • Groceries: Up to $100+ per week
  • Coworking spaces: $100-300 per month

There are ways of doing things a little cheaper too. Look for long-term rentals or try to steer clear of really popular beach towns and tourist hubs where prices are higher. If you rent somewhere with a kitchen, you can also shop at markets for local produce and eat out a lot less than you have to. Otherwise, you can easily live a more luxurious life as well, it all comes down to your foreign income and budget.

costa rica backpacking
The town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Remote Work Infrastructure and Digital Nomad Lifestyle

The Internet in Costa Rica is generally pretty good compared to other Central American countries. However, if you rely on high-speed internet at all times, you may have to invest some extra money or utilize co-working spaces. 

Most rentals or accommodations will have shared Wi-Fi, but it may not be the strongest. You can purchase a local SIM card and hotspot from your own device for a more secure network. However, it’s also important to consider that electricity can fluctuate in the rainy season when outages are common.

The best way to combat these struggles is by joining co-working spaces. There are lots of working spaces opening up along the coast, especially in popular beach towns like Tamarindo. This is the best way to guarantee good internet, power generator backup, desk space, and regular networking opportunities or social events.

You can also join Facebook groups like Expats in Costa Rica, Digital Nomads in Costa Rica or find the Facebook page of the town you’re living in to see what’s going on that week. This is a great way to make new friends and ask questions!

Working away, thanks to nordVPN free trial
Working remotely

Popular Locations for Digital Nomads in Costa Rica

Most of the popular places for digital nomads in Costa Rica are on the coast and close to beautiful beaches, but you’ll also find hubs in larger towns and cities like San Jose. Here’s where we recommend you head to find a digital nomad community:

Tamarindo

One of the most attractive places for digital nomads in Costa Rica is Tamarindo. This popular tourist town has a bit of everything, including a strong internet connection, vibrant nightlife, plenty of accommodation, and a big community of backpackers, surfers, and nomads. It’s certainly a fun place to live, although you’ll also find restaurants and shops are a bit pricier than other places.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula is a more laid-back option, but still with good vibes and a buzzing community. It has beautiful beaches nearby, plenty of cafes with strong Wi-Fi, and activities like surfing and yoga to keep that work-life balance strong. It definitely feels less crowded than Tamarindo, but you still get the comforts of a tourist town. However, because of its location, it’s best to have your own vehicle or scooter to get around.

Backpacking in Costa Rica: Main road in Santa Teresa
Main road in Santa Teresa

Puerto Viejo

If you’re looking for the ultimate hidden gem for digital nomads, Puerto Viejo feels like a slice of paradise on the Caribbean coast. Known for its gorgeous beaches, lush jungle, and abundant wildlife, it’s a beautiful spot to spend a few months. Digital nomad-friendly cafes and guesthouses have been popping up lately, so you’ll find a small but tight-knit community looking for a more laid-back lifestyle. Although it’s a little more remote and difficult to reach than other hubs, the rewards are worthwhile.

The town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
The town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

San Jose

If you want all the conveniences of city life, San Jose is definitely an option for digital nomads, especially with some of the most consistent internet and electricity in the country. Plus, there’s an endless variety of accommodations, so you can feel more like a local pretty quickly. It doesn’t have the more appealing sides to other digital nomad hubs, though, so you’ll have to travel an hour or more for the beach and finding a good sense of community amidst the traffic and population can be difficult.

costa rica digital nomad
San Jose, Costa Rica

Uvita

Located just 17 km south of Dominical, Playa Uvita is a small coastal town with a laid-back vibe that’s growing in popularity. It’s dominated by its natural beauty, with incredible national parks, wildlife, beaches, hiking trails, and surfing close by. However, the town is a little spread out, and it’s not yet firmly on the digital nomad map, so meeting people may be difficult. However, if you’re in search of peace and quiet, this is a beautiful option.

Uvita, Costa Rica
Uvita coastline, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Jaco

This booming surf town is conveniently only 1.5 hours from San Jose. With plenty of higher-end accommodation options, a loud nightlife, and fine dining, it’s probably ideal for those who earn a decent wage. However, it’s super close to big waves on the Pacific Coast and surrounded by the rainforest and national parks, so you can easily escape into nature on the weekend.

moving to Costa Rica
Aerial View of Jaco, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Best Place to Live in Costa Rica

Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for the digital nomad visa to be approved. We highly recommend investing in comprehensive health insurance coverage, which will cover you for accidents, sickness, hospitalization, death, and even extra things like luggage, possessions, and theft.

Depending on the required treatment and type of facility, you will have to pay for any healthcare you receive in Costa Rica. While it’s generally a lot cheaper than in the US, it’s still incredibly helpful to have insurance that will help you cover any costs incurred. You never know when something might happen overseas, and you don’t want to be stuck with a crippling bill.

Legal and Tax Considerations

The benefit of a digital nomad visa is that you can work around the limitations of a Costa Rica Work Visa which does not adequately cover the legal aspects of remote work. The digital nomad visa allows remote workers to gain tax benefits such as avoiding local income tax from any income earned from a foreign company or individual based overseas.

Remote workers are also exempt from paying import taxes on any equipment required for their job in Costa Rica. This equipment is generally technologically based and includes things like a laptop or computer, mobile phone, tablet, camera and more.

However, you should be aware that the digital nomad visa does not create a pathway to residency. Temporary residency or permanent residency in Costa Rica is a completely separate application. Temporary residency usually requires the individual to live in Costa Rica for at least four months of the year, while permanent residence requires at least six months.

Oksana and Max, Playa Avellanas
Oksana and Max, Playa Avellanas

Conclusion

Being able to live, work and explore Costa Rica for a year is an absolute dream. Now, with the digital nomad visa, it’s completely possible for remote workers to spend up to two years in the country, continue to work online, and enjoy a range of tax benefits. If you’re a digital nomad looking for your next base in Central America, Costa Rica provides a very attractive place with an abundance of nature, wildlife, outdoor activities, good food, and a sense of community.

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