In a stunning move from the Costa Rican government, law makers have extended the maximum stay period for tourists from 90 days to 180 days. This move will have a profound effect on tourists, retirees and digital nomads alike looking to stay in Costa Rica for an extended amount of time without having to worry about their tourist visas expiring. In this article, we will discuss how long some foreigners can now stay in Costa Rica, why the government proposed an extension on tourist visas, which countries this will affect, and what happens when you overstay your tourist visa.
How Long Can I Stay In Costa Rica?
As of September 2023, if you arriving into Costa Rica from a visa-waiver country, the maximum stay of your tourist visa is now 180 days or close to 6 months from the moment you passport is stamped by immigration officers. That means that, for example, if you arrive in early January, you can remain in Costa Rica as a tourist until the end of June. The significance of this is that many tourists can now stay in Costa Rica for nearly half a year without having to face overstay fines or penalties. This puts Costa Rica in-line with a number of other countries that offer 180 day tourist visas to some travellers including Panama, Mexico, Peru, Canada, and some continental European countries.
Though you may be able to stay in Costa Rica as a tourist, this does not mean you will be able to work for a Costa Rican business without a work visa or be entitled to Costa Rica’s social programs such as their national healthcare, parental leave, pension, disability, and employment insurance.
Why Did The Government Extend The Tourist Visas?
The decision to increase the maximum length from 90 days to 180 days came in collaboration with the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) and the Costa Rican government. Tourism makes up roughly 8% of Costa Rica’s GDP and there has been a steady increase in tourists over the past few years. 2022 saw a huge boom in tourism following the pandemic, with over 2.4 million international tourists arriving into the country last year. Even this year has seen over 1.3 million tourists in the first half of 2023, with an annual average growth of over 74% from previous years.
According to the Costa Rican government, the hopes is that this visa extension will attract more visitors to stay and explore the many places that Costa Rica has to offer, especially considering that early reports suggest that the recent 13% tourism tax has already had a negative effect on tourism. The government believes that this move will boost the economy and benefit a number of Costa Rican industries including hotels, restaurants, transportation, tour providers, retail and other businesses throughout this country. Some experts are concerned that an extended tourism visa may actually deter digital nomads or retirees into becoming permanent residents. However, government officials are confident that any potential negative impacts or risks from this policy change will be outweighed by an overall increase in tourism and foreign spending.
Which Countries Can Stay In Costa Rica For 180 Days?
It is important to note that this new regulation will not impact all tourists. There will be many foreigners that will still have to apply for a visa in order to enter Costa Rica and their stay may be limited to a shorter amount of time. The visa extension only applies to countries which are visa-exempt such as the USA, Canada, and most of Europe. The list of countries that are visa-exempt as of 2023 are as follows…
Republic of Ireland
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America (USA)
If your country does not fall within this list, please check with your government’s website to see what the immigration requirements are to visit Costa Rica.
What Happens If You Overstay Your Tourist Visa In Costa Rica?
Apart of the reason the tourist visa was extended to 180 days was so that foreigners would no longer have to go through the hassle and stress of having to do border runs every 90 days in order to remain perpetually in Costa Rica. Having to only leave the country once every 180 days gives tourists a lot more freedom to remain in or move around Costa Rica without having to worry about their visa expiration.
However, those who do overstay their maximum 180 day allowance can be subject to a fine of $100 USD for each month they remain in Costa Rica after the expiration of their visa. In worse case scenarios, you can be barred from re-entering Costa Rica for up to three times the length of the period you overstayed your tourist visa. It’s certainly something that you would not want to risk and it is recommended that foreigners planning to stay in Costa Rica for a long time look into residency options.
What Can I Do With My Extended Time In Costa Rica?
Now that you may be applicable to stay nearly 6 months in Costa Rica, you may want to consider spending this time exploring this magnificent country and seeing all the natural beauty on offer. If you would like to book any tours and activities during your stay, then be sure to visit our website and get in-touch with one of our travel agents for more information.