Extended Stay! Costa Rican Tourist Visas now valid for 180 days

New decree allows tourists to extend their visit in the country. 
Have you ever heard about the “border run day tour”? Well, if you haven’t, it used to be that most tourists staying for extended periods in Costa Rica had to go on a “border run” and leave Costa Rica every 3 months to renew their stay…until now!

On September 8th, 2023, Executive Decree No. 44187-MGP proposed by authorities came into effect, which amends Articles 7 and 8 of the Regulations for Granting Entry Visas to Costa Rica.

With this new regulation, tourists from a select group of countries can now relish an extended regular stay of up to 180 days according to the Directorate General of Migration.

This is great news for residents, as well as an opportunity for new tourists to extend their stay (or plan their border runs) under this tourist subcategory. Before this extension, foreign tourists had to plan trips to leave and re-enter the country after 90 days.

Which tourists will now have a 180-day stay in Costa Rica?

The Directorate General of Migration, guided by the General Guidelines for Entry and Stay Visas for Non-Residents, categorizes passport holders into four distinct groups.

The first and second groups enjoy visa-free entry, while the third group requires a consular visa (e.g., Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Colombia).

The fourth group necessitates a restricted visa (e.g., Cuba, Haiti, and Afghanistan).

Who has Visa-Free Entry to Costa Rica?

According to Directive DG-55-03-2023, the first group includes passport holders from the United States of America and Canada, as well as citizens of Argentina, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Poland, Portugal, Principality of Monaco, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates,  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Vatican City.

Is it an automatic process?

No. Immigration officers are responsible for entry control and retain the discretion to determine a shorter stay period based on individual circumstances.

Currently, there are no automated passport scanners in ports of entry to Costa Rica.

Why is Costa Rica extending Visas?

First: the country needed to revisit its Entry and Stay Visa rules, after a long time without reforms.

Second: Costa Rica wishes to attract additional visitor contributions to reactivate the local economy, especially those by visitors from the first groups.

Third: extending their stays is a strategic move that not only bolsters the national economy, but also aligns with Costa Rican plans to develop rural areas.

Can I now drive for six months?

Unfortunately, no. Despite the positive implications of this reform, as of today (November 2023) these rulings are yet to be integrated with existing regulations on foreign drivers’ licenses, resulting in notable inconsistencies in the implementation of this decree.

Nevertheless, authorities are aware of these discrepancies, and are likely to be working on further adjustments to these guidelines.  

Lastly, it’s vital to note that individuals who entered the country before the September 8th reform and were granted a 90-day stay cannot request an extension to reach the new 180-day limit, as the decree expressly prohibits it.

Andres Vedova

CR Nomads Commercial Director

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