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Admissions: Pre-Arrival Guide: Visa Information


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.

How to Obtain a Provisional Student Visa — Before You Come to Costa Rica

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:

  1. Get original documents together with the apostille seal: birth certificate (all family members, including children); police record (all adults over 18), from the state in which you have lived for the last two years; marriate certificate (if only one spouse will be studying).
  2. Ask the Institute to send you a special letter (not the usual acceptance letter) to show that you have been accepted into the Spanish study program.
  3. Take these documents, or mail them, to a Costa Rican embassy or consulate in the country where you live.
  4. Take your passport(s) to the embassy or consulate, so that they can stamp the provisional visa into the passport. (If you cannot go yourself, you can authorize someone else that lives closer to the consulate to do it for you. They will need to have a notarized letter from you authorizing them to act on your behalf.)

Don't Apply for a Provisional Student Visa if...

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.

Remaining as a Tourist

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:

  1. Exposing themselves to the unlikely possibility of being deported; and,
  2. Paying a fine of $100 the next time they come to Costa Rica OR waiting the required period of time before returning. (The period of time required equals three times the amount of time that was overstayed. For example, if you overstayed by one month, you must wait at least three months before you can return, or else pay a fine of $100 when you re-enter the country.)

Purchasing Your Plane Ticket

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.):

  1. Purchase a round trip ticket with a return date no later than 90 days after entering Costa Rica. Please note that lately this particular option seems to be what's being most frequently required by the airlines.*
  2. Purchase a ticket to fly to Panama or Nicaragua (more expensive than a bus ticket, but possibly less expensive than flying back to the U.S.).*
  3. Buy a 30-day round-trip ticket, throw away the return part of the ticket, and purchase another ticket in Costa Rica when you leave.*
  4. Ask your Big Brother to purchase a bus ticket to Nicaragua or Panama (approximately $25 per person), and fax it to you.*

*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.

Documents You will Need to Apply for a Student Visa

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:

  1. All the documents you obtained for the provisional student visa, together with the apostille seal for each one. (Birth certificates, police records, marriage certificates [if applicable]).
  2. Your three most recent bank statements. These will be certified in Costa Rica by a public accountant (CPA).

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.



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