What is the change? Costa Rica has implemented a rule that allows some foreign nationals to begin work while their immigration applications are still under consideration.

What does the change mean? Foreign nationals working for accredited companies are among those who are now eligible to begin work while their applications are pending. Transportation workers, business agents, journalists and professionals invited by a government agency, university or college are also eligible.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing. The rule was published and took effect Oct. 16.
  • Visas/permits affected: Temporary residence permits for executives of accredited companies, Estancia permits for business agents, Estancia permits for journalists, Estancia permits for relevant importance.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals with pending residence permit applications.
  • Business impact: Companies may be able to move start dates up in some cases.

Background: Non-resident foreign nationals are generally prohibited from working in Costa Rica, even when they have a pending residence permit application. Under an act that took effect Oct. 16, the following categories are exempt and are eligible to begin work upon submitting an application:

  • Foreign nationals working for accredited companies.
  • Foreign nationals working for international transportation companies, e.g., airlines or cruise ships.
  • Business agents who enter on matters related to the company or companies they represent, provided they do not require Costa Rican residence are not paid on local payroll and have an Estancia permit request filed.
  • Journalists, including reporters, cameramen and social media personnel, provided they are not paid on a local payroll an Estancia permit request filed.
  • Economists, politicians, scientists, athletes, religious leaders, cultural figures and some other professionals who are invited to Costa Rica by a government agency and university or college (public or private).

To take advantage of the exemptions, employers must register with Costa Rica’s social security fund and abide by Costa Rican wage and labor laws. Foreign workers will only be permitted to conduct activities consistent with those described in their applications; performing other activities could jeopardize their immigration status.

Analysis & Comments: While the change eases work authorization procedures in some cases, the new rule does not apply to all foreign workers. Those who are covered by the new rule, however, will be able to start work as soon as they file their application, rather than having to wait for final approval.

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