One of the things that holds a lot of people back from moving abroad is not knowing how to go about it legally. It’s so difficult to navigate the drama and intricacies of visas. I moved to Germany without a visa and I did it again when moving to Costa Rica.
Here is what I learned in Costa Rica…..
To enter Costa Rica you need proof that you are leaving the country again within 90 days. This proof can come in the form of a bus ticket or plane ticket.
My boyfriend’s colleague bought us bus tickets from Tica Bus when we moved to Costa Rica and mailed them to us in Germany. Unfortunately, you can not buy a bus ticket online through Tica Bus, so you will have to know someone already in the country to buy and mail the ticket to you.
Another popular company is Easy Ride. On their website they claim you can make reservations by email, but I am not sure if they send you an actual ticket or just a confirmation email and if that is accepted as a valid form of proof you are leaving the country.
When you book your flight check how much it would cost to make your flight round trip. Maybe you will find it actually will not change the cost too much. If that is the case, I would do that and figure out a plan to leave the country once you get to Costa Rica.
Another option is booking a one way flight to Costa Rica and then booking a roundtrip flight to another country that departs within 90 days of your arrival. Flights are generally not exactly cheap from San Jose, Costa Rica, but check out Spirit Airlines. They are typically the cheapest option from San Jose. I recently flew round trip to Florida for about $150.
When you fly into Costa Rica you will have to fill out immigration forms on the plane. There are two forms that ask basic things like where you are staying, how long you are staying (less than 90 days cough cough), passport number etc.
As you enter the airport you have to go through customs. You will speak to an officer who will ask for the forms you filled out on the plane, passport, and proof that you are leaving in 90 days. I can safely say that nobody has ever cared to look at my bus or plane ticket that says I’m leaving the country, but I always have one anyway. It’s not worth the risk. The officer will stamp your passport and off you go!
Now, don’t forget to actually leave the country within 90 days. I know a lot of people who go to Nicaragua or Panama for a long weekend by bus. I have yet to do this, as I’ve only had to leave the country once so far and I went to Florida, but I hear it can be a bit of an adventure. Imagine people lined up on the border hounding you to buy things and exchanging money at unfair exchange rates.
By law, when you leave after 90 days you are supposed to be out of the country for 72 hours, but I’ve spoken to many people who say they literally just cross the border and turn around to enter the country again. You have to decide if that’s a risk you are willing to take.
Also, usually they will give you a stamp to stay for 90 days, but there is a possibility that they could give you less. I have heard about people getting a stamp for only 60 days. And don’t forget that you will need another bus or plane ticket showing you are leaving again in another 90 days.
From my experience, entering through the airport is far less stressful than what I’ve heard about entering the country by bus.
Please be careful and make sure you actually leave after 90 days. If you stay past your 90 days you have to pay a fine for each day you are over.
If you are offered a job in Costa Rica that will not provide you with a visa, don’t worry. I thought this was unusual and not worth the risk, but it is very common practice here. The amount of paperwork involved in getting a visa is ridiculous. If you are planning on staying long-term, it’s probably best to find a way to get a visa, but if you are planning on only staying for a year or so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Obviously it sucks to have to leave the country every 90 days, but I try to just think of it as an excuse to travel to new exciting places.
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