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What visa do I need to teach English in Costa Rica?
- The combination of a tropical climate, stunning beach filled coastline, exotic flora and fauna, and some of the most pristine rain forest in the region, makes Costa Rica one of the most popular destinations in Latin America for teaching English abroad.
- The majority of foreign English teachers working in Costa Rica have no more than a tourist visa in their passport. Unlike many other countries, it is technically legal for teachers to work without the need for a work visa. For many nationalities, including Americans, Canadians, and most Western Europeans, tourist visas are issued on arrival in the country. Visas are valid for 90 days and can be renewed by crossing a border to a neighboring country and then simply crossing back to receive a new one.
- When entering Costa Rica it is worth remembering that you are not legally allowed to work on a tourist visa until you have registered for a tax number from within the country. To avoid any unnecessary problems at the airport, you should avoid mentioning your intention to work and declare yourself to be a regular tourist if asked. Also, it is not a good idea to arrive with bags full of teaching paraphernalia in case you are randomly searched by customs officials. By arriving as a normal tourist you should have no problems entering the country.
- In order to work legally on a tourist visa you need to register for a tax number at a government office known as the Tributaci?n. All you need to register is a copy of your passport and your local address in the city where you are registering. You do not need to wait until you have secured a job before applying. Once you are issued a number, you need to visit a print shop to obtain a book of receipts. Whenever you receive a payment you simply rip out a receipt and hand it over to your employer. The threshold for paying taxes starts at $8,000 per year so many teachers end up paying none or very little. In addition, many teachers and their employers find there are ways to avoid paying tax even if you do cross the threshold.