In a significant move to bolster tourism and business ties, Costa Rica extends the stay period to 180 days for Group One visitors. This strategic decision underscores the nation’s commitment to offering an enhanced experience for travelers and professionals alike, positioning Costa Rica as a premier destination for extended stays and fruitful collaborations.

Costa Rica, a gem in Central America, has always been a favored destination for tourists and business visitors alike. Recognizing the importance of these visitors, the Costa Rican government has taken a significant step to further enhance its appeal. The recent resolution to extend the period of stay for Group One visitors is a testament to this commitment.

La Gaceta, Costa Rica’s official legislative publication, recently highlighted a pivotal law. The clause, released on Aug. 31, states:

Countries whose citizens can enter without a visa are in the first group. Their legal stay is set by the General Directorate’s official, not exceeding one hundred eighty days from entry.

This development has seen limited coverage in Costa Rican media, both English and Spanish. However, for long-term visitors, this means reduced border runs, a notable relief.

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Extended Stay Period: What’s New?

The Costa Rican government has recently announced a pivotal change for visa-exempt tourists and business visitors from Group One countries. The maximum period of stay has been increased to 180 days for each visit. This is a substantial increase from the previous limit of 90 days.


  • Group One Countries:  The first group included visa-exempt nationals who can travel to Costa Rica with just their passport. This consists of the United States, Canada, and most European countries. A list of eligible countries can be found here.
  • Applicability: The extension applies to nationals from countries in Group One as classified by the General Immigration Directorate. This list is dynamic and includes countries like the United States and Canada.
  • Stay Duration: The new maximum stay duration for visa-exempt tourists and business visitors from Group One is 180 days per visit. However, the actual duration granted will be at the discretion of immigration officials upon entry. The previous limit was 90 days.
  • Extensions: If granted a shorter stay upon entry, foreign nationals (from any group) can apply for an extension of up to 90 days.
  • Other Groups: The stay duration for tourists and business visitors from Groups Two, Three, and Four remains unchanged at 30 days, which can be extended up to 90 days.
  • Entry Requirements: All visitors must show proof of financial means (minimum USD 100/month) and a return or onward travel ticket. Those from high-risk countries must also present a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate, issued at least ten days before arrival.

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Who Benefits from This Change?

Group One primarily comprises countries like the United States, Canada, European Union citizens, the United Kingdom, and others that may be added to the list. Citizens of these countries, among others, can now enjoy a more extended stay in the picturesque landscapes of Costa Rica without the need for visa extensions or frequent travels.


    • Extended Stay: Nationals from Group One countries can now enjoy a longer stay in Costa Rica for tourism or business purposes.
    • Decision Complexity: The extended stay period might complicate the decision-making process for business visitors paid from abroad, especially when considering the Visa for Remote Work.
    • Restrictions: Business visitors paid by a Costa Rican company are not eligible for this status. They should consult with immigration professionals to determine the right visa category for their activities.
    • Snowbirds: Typically, retirees seeking warmer climates during the colder months can now enjoy a more extended escape in Costa Rica’s tropical paradise without the hassle of visa renewals or frequent travels.

costa rica immigration stamp 2023

A Boon for Canadian and U.S. Snowbirds

The decision by Costa Rica to extend the stay period to 180 days is a significant boon for snowbirds from Canada and the United States. These individuals, often retirees or those seeking a respite from the harsh winter climates of their home countries, can now enjoy a longer, uninterrupted stay in the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. This extended duration not only offers them a chance to deeply immerse in the local culture, traditions, and natural beauty but also provides added convenience, reducing the need for frequent visa renewals or travel arrangements. With Costa Rica’s warm weather, pristine beaches, and vibrant biodiversity, snowbirds can now have an enhanced and prolonged experience, making their winter retreats even more memorable.

Why This Change Matters

By extending the stay period, Costa Rica is not only promoting tourism but also encouraging business opportunities. A longer stay means tourists can immerse themselves more deeply in the culture, traditions, and natural beauty of the country. On the other hand, business visitors have the flexibility to establish stronger ties, explore investment opportunities, and foster long-term collaborations.

Background: This move is a part of the government’s strategy to boost the tourism sector, a significant revenue source for Costa Rica. Data from the General Immigration Directorate indicates that Group One countries contribute more to the country’s revenue than other groups, aiding in the national economy’s revival.

immigration law firm Costa Rica

Potential Impact on Tourism and Business

This move is expected to boost Costa Rica’s tourism sector significantly. With the extended stay, tourists might be more inclined to plan longer vacations, leading to increased revenue for local businesses, hotels, and tour operators.

For the business sector, this change provides an opportunity for deeper market penetration, longer project executions, and the establishment of more robust business relationships. It’s a win-win for both Costa Rica and the visitors.

Driving Regulations Remain Unchanged (for now)

Despite the updated regulation, the laws for driving in Costa Rica with an international driver’s license remain the same. Foreign nationals can drive for up to 3 months, after which they must exit the country to refresh their visa.

Foreign licenses remain valid for three months due to the law’s specific three-month provision.

Should you be halted by law enforcement, they’ll request both your international driver’s license and passport, verifying the date of your most recent entry visa. Driving beyond the 90-day mark is deemed illegal. In such cases, the police have the authority to confiscate your vehicle’s license plates. To reclaim them, a trip to the border for a new visa is mandatory, coupled with the possibility of substantial fines.

For vehicle owners in Costa Rica, the new 180-day visa likely won’t impact your driving status. Regrettably, the 90-day border trip remains a necessity.

Driving Regulations UPDATE Sep 15:

The latest version of the Ley de Tránsito No. 9078 says:

Los conductores acreditados con licencia de conducir en el extranjero, que se encuentren en el país en condición de turistas o en tránsito, quedan autorizados para conducir el mismo tipo de vehículo que le autoriza dicha licencia, por un plazo de tres meses.

The law is “hard-coded” to “3 months” and is not dependent on the length of the visa stamp given upon entry.

The length of visa stamps given is a matter of regulation (“Reglamento para el Otorgamiento de Visas de ingreso a Costa Rica”), which can be changed by the president’s decree.

To change the validity of a foreign driver’s license would require a modification of the law (Ley de Tránsito No. 9078) to be passed by the legislative assembly.

Implications for Digital Nomads

The recent law might diminish the allure of the “digital nomad” visa. This visa, tailored for remote workers, permits a year-long stay in Costa Rica without the need for quarterly border trips. However, with the option now to make a single border trip every half-year, the motivation to secure this specialized visa, which demands evidence of a minimum monthly income of $3,000, might wane.

While the extended stay is beneficial, the digital nomad visa might lose its appeal. Why apply for it when a six-month stay is possible with just a single border trip?

The allure of permanent residency might also decline. One primary benefit of residency application is the receipt of an ‘expediente’ document post-acceptance, which waives the need for border trips. Yet, with only two required border trips annually, the appeal diminishes.

Some might opt for a six-month stay in Costa Rica and spend the rest of the year in their homeland. However, for those with investments in Costa Rica, it’s always advisable to pursue residency to ensure uninterrupted access to the country.

A Look Ahead

While the immediate impact of this resolution is evident, the long-term benefits are even more promising. Costa Rica is positioning itself as a top destination for both leisure and business. With continuous efforts to enhance visitor experience, the country is on a trajectory to set new benchmarks in tourism and business hospitality.

Future Outlook: The government might introduce more changes to immigration policies to further stimulate the tourism sector and the broader economy. A proposed law aims to reduce the income requirement for the Short-Term Visa for Remote Workers or Service Providers.


The decision by Costa Rica to extend the stay period to 180 days for Group One visitors reflects its forward-thinking approach. This initiative not only promotes tourism but also strengthens business relations, ensuring Costa Rica remains a top choice for extended visits and collaborations in the global arena. As the world becomes more interconnected, such initiatives ensure that Costa Rica remains a top choice for many. Whether you’re planning a vacation or a business trip, Costa Rica’s doors are open wider than ever before.

Note: This information is for general awareness. For specific queries, please consult with CRIE.

-Article by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the new stay period for Group One visitors in Costa Rica?

The new stay period for Group One visitors in Costa Rica is 180 days per visit.

What countries are on the Group One visitors list?

Group One primarily comprises countries like the United States, Canada, European Union citizens, the United Kingdom, and others that may be added to the list. Citizens of these countries, among others

Who are considered Group One visitors?

Group One visitors primarily include citizens from countries like the United States and Canada.

Was there a previous limit to the stay period?

Yes, the previous stay limit for Group One visitors was 90 days.

Does this change apply to all tourists and business visitors?

This change specifically applies to visa-exempt tourists and business visitors from Group One countries.

Why did Costa Rica implement this change?

Costa Rica aims to promote tourism and foster longer-term business opportunities by extending the stay period.

Do visitors need to apply for this extended stay?

No, the extended stay is automatically granted to visa-exempt tourists and business visitors from Group One countries.

Can visitors from other groups also benefit from this extension?

Currently, the extension applies only to Group One visitors. Other groups have different stay regulations.

What happens if a visitor overstays the 180-day period?

Overstaying might lead to penalties or restrictions on future visits. It’s advisable to adhere to the stipulated stay period.

Are there any other significant changes to the visa policy?

This resolution specifically addresses the stay period for Group One visitors. Other visa policies remain unchanged as of now.

How does Costa Rica benefit from this change?

By extending the stay period, Costa Rica aims to boost its tourism sector and encourage deeper business collaborations.



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