Attention tourists (perpetual or otherwise)! If you’re from a “Group One” country, you now get up to 180 days in Costa Rica rather than up to 90 days.
At the end of last week, Costa Rica quietly changed the law regulating the maximum amount of time some tourists can spend in the country before needing to leave. Tourists from Group One countries (meaning those countries whose citizens were allowed up to 90 days in Costa Rica), can now spend up to 180 days (six months) in Costa Rica before having to leave the country to renew.
The new regulations went into affect on Friday, and over the weekend people entering the country began noticing they had “180” scrawled across their entry stamps rather than the usual “90” (or less).
There are currently 60 Group One countries, comprising the United States, Canada, the European Union/Western Europe, UK, most of Latin America and the Caribbean, Japan, Australia, and others. Basically the most affluent countries from where most of Costa Rica’s tourists come from.
The Costa Rica tourist visa rules regarding the rest of the world (Groups Two, Three, and Four) remain unchanged at up to 30 days. There are no plans to change this right now.
¡Buenas noticias! Costa Rica amplía a 180 días la estancia máxima para turistas de 60 países. ¡A disfrutar de más tiempo en este hermoso país! 🌴✈️🇨🇷 #CostaRica #Turismo #Economia https://t.co/zH7nDRlbb5
— La República (@La_Republica) September 9, 2023
Tourists entering Costa Rica need to be aware of three things
First, as always, the rule is “up to 180 days”. Not 180 days. The immigration officer in front of you can give you as much or as little time in Costa Rica as he/she wants. That’s their discretion. It was the same under the 90-day system and will remain the same. Do not expect an automatic 180 every time.
Second, perpetual tourists with cars will find that the ruling over driving licenses has not changed. You are still allowed 90 days to drive around with your foreign license, meaning that to legally drive, you will still need to leave every 90 days. This may be an oversight that they’ll change, but for now, that’s how it is.
Third, many airlines in the United States and elsewhere haven’t yet received the memo about this. We’ve already heard reports of people with flights out of Costa Rica AFTER 90 days having to change their return flight to within 90 days. This is definitely an oversight that they’ll change very soon, but if you’re coming to Costa Rica within the next week or so, be aware of possible pushback when you’re checking in.
What’s better? Costa Rica residency or the visa run shuffle? (updated for a post-pandemic world) https://t.co/sOSHCcoigE
— Central America Living (@VidaAmerica) March 24, 2021
The idea behind the extension to Costa Rica tourist visa is to encourage longer stays in the country to boost the economy
It’s something Canatur (Costa Rica’s National Chamber of Tourism) has wanted for a while. The ruling obviously makes things easier for perpetual tourists, but its more about helping everyone else to stay longer if they want to, and to spend more money. It remains to be seen how immigration officials will react to perpetual tourists coming in and out every six months rather than every three.
“The National Chamber of Tourism says the length of stay is very short to encourage consumption by tourists,” said Francisco Gamboa, Costa Rica’s Economic Minister.
Overall, this is a great idea that makes life easier for tourists coming to Costa Rica
There is some concern that the new ruling might make the Remote Worker Visa rather obsolete, but in our opinion the benefits of the new ruling far outweigh this. It’s possible that in the long term, it might make life harder for perpetual tourists, especially if less people apply for residency due to these changes. That’s something to monitor and see how it plays out in six months time.