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How to apply for a Costa Rica student visa

If you’re an international student looking forward to studying abroad in Costa Rica, you’ll need to begin the student visa application process.

The process is split into two sections. Firstly, you’ll need to apply for a provisional student visa which grants you entry to the country for up to 90 days. Part two involves getting a student residence permit so you can remain in Costa Rica for the duration of your studies.

Each stage can take between 30 and 60 days, so it’s best to get started soon after accepting your university place. Although fees will differ depending on your nationality, you can expect to pay around $50 for a provisional visa, and an extra $200 to convert it into a residence permit.

How to apply for a student visa and residency permit

There are various steps you’ll need to take before being granted a student visa and residency permit. Some of these need to be completed in your home country, while others must wait until you’ve crossed the Costa Rican border.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the entire process:

Part 1: Applying for a provisional student visa

  1. Accept a place at a Costa Rican University: Receive a formal admissions letter and pay any enrollment fees.
  2. Make an appointment with your nearest Costa Rican consulate: You can find a list of consulates in your home country here.
  3. Gather documentation: It’s important to get all of the required documents in order before attending your visa appointment. A complete list of what you need can be found in the section below.
  4. Attend your appointment: A member of staff will ask you about the purpose of your visit and will collect your personal details. You’ll submit your supporting documentation at this meeting, so remember to bring it along with you.
  5. Receive a decision: The turnaround time on applications is normally between one and two months.

Part 2: Applying for a student permit

  1. Formally register your arrival: After arriving in Costa Rica, you should visit the Ministry of Public Security to record your entry into the country and have your fingerprints taken.
  2. Schedule an appointment at an immigration office in Costa Rica: This can only be arranged once your provisional visa has been approved and you’ve arrived in the country.
  3. Write an application letter: This letter should be directed to the immigration department and outline the reasons behind your application, as well as your name, nationality, age, and residence in Costa Rica. You must bring this to your appointment.
  4. Collect supporting documents: Without the specified documents, your application will be refused. A complete list of what you’ll need can be found in the next section.
  5. Go to the appointment: Again, you’ll be asked some questions about yourself and the purpose of your stay. You’ll be presented with an application form, asked to submit your documents, and charged a fee.
  6. Await approval: It can take up to 60 days to receive a decision, so it’s important to get the ball rolling to avoid your 90-day visa expiring.

Required documents

All of the documents you submit as part of your visa and residency applications must be translated into Spanish and legalized at the Costa Rica consulate. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need at each stage:

When applying for a provisional student visa at a consulate in your home country:

  • A letter of application addressed to the Consul of Costa Rica
  • Admissions letter from your university
  • A valid passport with an expiry date beyond six months
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of police clearance
  • Three passport-sized photos
  • Evidence of sufficient financial resources

When applying for a student residence permit at a Costa Rican immigration office:

  • A signed and completed application form (this will be given to you at the appointment)
  • A valid passport
  • University enrollment letter
  • A letter of application directed to the head of immigration
  • Your approved temporary student visa
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of police clearance from your home country
  • Two passport-sized photographs
  • Proof of fingerprint registration at the Ministry of Public Security
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Means to pay the application fee

Can your family members travel with you?

Your family members can join you in Costa Rica, but they’ll need to apply for a dependant visa. These visas entitle the spouses and children (under the age of 25) of international students to stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days.

If you’d like them to remain in the country for the entirety of your studies, they’ll need to follow the residence permit application process too.

Can you work as an international student in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica doesn’t allow international students to work alongside their studies, so it’s important to factor this in when deciding on a study abroad destination. You’ll need to be confident that you have the funds to cover your academic and living expenses.

These strict rules are enforced to ensure that Costa Rican citizens have the best employment opportunities possible.

What happens if your visa is denied?

It’s highly unlikely that your visa will be denied as long as you’re enrolled at a Costa Rican university, have submitted all of the requested documents, and have a clean criminal history.

In the rare event that your application is rejected, you can reapply after six months. Addressing the issues in your original application will give you the best chance of success next time around.