If you are a citizen of the U.S., Canada, and most European and Latin American countries, Costa Rica will issue you a tourist visa which is valid for 90 days. Your passport must not be expired and needs to be in good condition to gain proof of legal status in the country. When traveling to Costa Rica you will need to provide proof of a return ticket to your home country or an onward ticket to another country within the 90-day time period.
How to stay longer than 90 days in Costa Rica
If you are wanting to stay longer in Costa Rica than the 90-day limit, you must leave the country and re-enter. This can be accomplished by flying back another country or traveling to the land border of Nicaragua or Panama which is called “border runs”.
There is no minimum amount of time you have to spend outside of Costa Rica if you don’t require a visa to enter the country. So Americans and Canadians could technically leave Costa Rica and return the same day to renew their travel visa. However, if your country of origin does require a visa you will need to leave Costa Rica for a week before reentering.
Once you return, your passport will be validated again by immigration and you will have another 90-day travel visa. Make sure your passport is stamped as you return because if it is not stamped correctly you may have trouble renewing your travel visa. On the document you fill out once returning to Costa Rica, there is a question asking if the traveler has been out of the country for at least 72 hours. This form is not for immigration purposes but rather how much a person can bring with them into Costa Rica. According to Article 115 of the General Customs Law, a traveler must stay out of Costa Rica for at least 72 hours and have less than $500 worth of goods to return without having to pay taxes (i).
Overstaying your 90-day travel visa
It is important to note that if you do overstay your maximum 90 days, there are hefty fines involved and it may be difficult to re-enter Costa Rica. Once departing Costa Rica, you will need to pay for an exit visa for $45 when you leave. This fee waives the standard airport tax.
There is also a fine of $100 for each month you remain in the country after your visa expires. If you do not pay your fines you may be barred from reentering the country for a period equal to three times the length of you overstayed. So, if you overstay your tourist visa by 6 months, you will not be allowed to renter for a period of 18 months. Its also key to note that immigration officials start becoming suspicious once you have done “border runs” several times.
If you plan on staying long-term or moving to Costa Rica it might be in your family’s best interest to apply for residency.
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