Under Costa Rica law, a current driver license from a person’s home country can be used to legally operate a vehicle in Costa Rica during the period of validity of their Tourist Visa (up to 90 days). The laws of the country DO NOT allow a person with a Tourist Visa to apply for a Costa Rica driver license.
Those persons who have been granted Costa Rican residency may, by appointment, on the 91st day after their last entry into Costa Rica (established by the most recent Visa stamp in their passport), go to COSEVI with their passport and cédula and apply for a Costa Rica license. The applicant must also have in their possession a completed medical exam form, a copy of their current driver license translated into Spanish, and a receipt for payment of the license issuing fees.
CAUTION: Persons who have obtained residency and who operate a vehicle using a foreign driver license more than 90 days after the date of their LAST entry Visa are doing so illegally and are subject to fines and penalties. Obtaining a Costa Rica driver license is the only way for those persons with residency to drive here legally.
ARCR offers MEMBERS a service to assist them in obtaining a Costa Rica driver license. The application procedure includes undergoing a physical exam as well as paying a fee. The ARCR service includes translation services and a personal escort to the appropriate locations to complete the licensing process. (Government charges, medical examination fees, translation services, and transportation costs are not included.)
The cédula is the Costa Rica National ID card. Cédulas are credit card-size plastic cards which contain a picture of the “owner,” as well as their vital data. All Costa Rica residents have a cédula and it is the primary form of identification used for most things.
Expats who are approved for residency in Costa Rica will automatically be provided a cédula, which differs slightly in appearance from the ones Ticos carry, but serves basically the same purpose.
Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is the ONLY way a non-citizen can obtain a cedula, all others must use their passport for identification. ARCR can provide MEMBERS with assistance in all aspects of obtaining residency.
Costa Rica law allows for Tourist Visas of up to 90 days. Those persons entering the country must depart the county on or before the date the Visa expires, and re-enter to obtain a new Visa.
There are three very good reasons to become a legal resident of Costa Rica:
The requirement for departing and return to Costa Rica every 90 days to renew a Visa can become bothersome; it can mean a trip of six or more hours (one way), depending on where one lives, plus the hassle of making two border crossings (one out-of and one into, the county). Residency eliminates that requirement and the associated expense. Other than for an emergency, receiving medical care from the public healthcare system (the CAJA) is only available to those persons who are Costa Rican citizens or residents. Persons who are residing in Costa Rica but have not applied for or obtained residency, are barred from receiving treatment (except in cases of emergency) at CAJA clinics or hospitals. Residents can receive healthcare at any CAJA facility. Under Costa Rica law, a current driver license from a person’s home country can be used to legally drive a vehicle in Costa Rica, during the period of validity of their Visa. Even a person who has obtained residency, but is in the country beyond the expiration date of their LAST entry Visa, and who operates a vehicle using a foreign driver license, is doing so illegally and is subject to fines and penalties. Note: The laws of the country DO NOT allow a person with a Tourist Visa to apply for a Costa Rica driver license. Applying for residency allows a person to obtain a Costa Rica driver license.
Read FAQ #14 for more information about how to obtain residency, and FAQ #11 for additional information on how to get a Costa Rica driver license.
Note: Contrary to common folklore, persons DO NOT have to remain out of the country 72 or more hours before returning to obtain a new Visa; a visit to another country of only one hour is all that is legally required for the issuance of a new Visa.
Residency is a complex legal matter which has too many types and variations to go into details here. If you desire to obtain residency, consult with a qualified attorney about your specific circumstances.
Note: Some Costa Rican attorneys will claim experience in the residency process that they do not possess. ARCR has 23 years’ experience in residency procedures, if you already have someone to do the work for you, Do your due diligence and verify that the attorney has the claimed expertise by asking friends and neighbors for references.
Read FAQ #13 for more information about why one should obtain residency in Costa Rica.
WE AT ARCR have the knowledge and experience with our English-speaking attorneys to prepare, submit, follow up and approve residency for our MEMBERS.
Applying for residency in Costa Rica is a complicated and legally complex matter with multiple options and exacting requirements. To apply for residency, the expat should consult with an experienced attorney who can advise them about what type of residency best fits their situation, and then guide them through each necessary step.
ARCR has English-speaking attorneys who have extensive experience in assisting expats applying for residency. We work closely with our MEMBERS with additional assistance, such as providing personal escorts to official government offices and a referral to a licensed document translation expert. Applying for residency through ARCR can make the process smooth, easy, and pleasant.