The first and most important step is to be sure that you, and any accompanying family members, have a passport that will be valid for at least six months after you enter Costa Rica (longer, if you are staying longer). Each passport should have adequate space after the information pages for the immigration agent at the airport in Costa Rica to stamp it when you enter the country. Unless you already have a provisional visa (see below), the official will give citizens of most countries a tourist visa that allows them to remain in Costa Rica legally for 90 days.
Obtaining a provisional student visa before coming to Costa Rica has two advantages: a) you will not need to purchase a ticket out of Costa Rica, and b) you will not have to pay $200 per person to change your immigration status from “tourist” to “student” after you arrive. If you decide to get a provisional student visa, you will need to do the following:
If you plan to remain in Costa Rica after language school, we recommend that you apply for a provisional religious worker visa instead of a provisional student visa. In this way you will avoid having to pay twice for permission to remain in the country.
Ask your Ministry/Sending Agency to apply for a provisional religious worker visa at the Costa Rican Consulate in your country, at least two months before you come to Costa Rica.
You will need to contact the Consulate ahead of time to ask them exactly what documents your Sending Agency will need to provide.
If you decide not to apply for a provisional student visa or a provisional religious worker visa and choose instead to remain as a tourist, you must leave the country every 90 days for 72 hours. The Institute has scheduled one or two long weekends into the calendar, so that you can do this without missing classes. This may not be the best option for families with young children, since the trip is long and the border crossing quite tedious.
Students who are coming for only one trimester, will want to weigh the consequences of not making the border trip and overstaying the 90-day limit, which are:
Because of more stringent immigration laws now imposed by the Costa Rican government, airlines are required to ensure that all passengers coming to Costa Rica have either a return ticket within 90 days or some form of visa before boarding the plane.
Below are a few suggestions to meet the return ticket requirement if you do not have a provisional visa. (Please check with your travel agent or sending agency for the best choice for your situation.):
*Remember that laws (and their enforcement of them) are constantly changing; so make sure to check with the airline to verify that these options are viable solutions to your situation.
Obtaining a provisional student visa is the first step in obtaining a student visa. A student visa will allow you to remain legally in the country without having to make border trips. If you decide to obtain a student visa, the Institute will help you with the process. You will need to bring the following documents with you to Costa Rica:
Note: When you get to Costa Rica, you will need to pay approximately $250 per person in fees for the student visa. If you did not obtain a provisional student visa before coming to Costa Rica, you will need to pay an additional $200 per person (for changing your immigration status from "tourist" to "student").
If you have any questions concerning the immigration process, please feel free to contact the Admissions Coordinator by choosing "Admissions Coordinator" in the To: field of our Contact Us form.
These last nine months at the Institute have truly been nothing but a joyous experience. I came to the Institute with absolutely no Spanish background and will be graduating in December with the ability to not only speak, but to write and read in this beautiful language, as well. The faculty and teachers as a whole have such vision and passion to see the students succeed and take personal interest in seeing this come to pass. The atmosphere is a blessing to come to each day...and I thank God for the opportunity to study at a school that strives for excellence and to be surrounded by such positive influence pointing me towards Christ in my learning.