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How to Find Success as a Digital Entrepreneur in Costa Rica


Pursuing a new kind of life as a digital entrepreneur in Costa Rica is becoming increasingly popular. If you have the desire and ability to live in a different culture, and you go into the experience with open eyes and preparation, there’s no reason you can’t be happy and have a great experience. Local anecdotal evidence shows that families who expat together are open-minded, outgoing and adventurous, thanks in part to their experiences as working expats.

Remote working has definitely hit the mainstream. Around the world, more and more people are taking the opportunity to be ‘temporary locals’ by combining their jobs with longer-term travel. By staying a few months at a time, digital entrepreneurs are finding themselves falling in love with the lifestyle in Costa Rica and finding viable ways to stay.

When it comes to working in Costa Rica, expats who find success here tend to either invest in a business to make income locally, or they find work online as digital entrepreneurs and get paid in their country of origin. In the case of owning a local business, expats can legally direct the business themselves but they will need to hire Costa Ricans or permanent residents to run the daily operations as managers and employees.

Is it possible to work legally while living in Costa Rica?

One of the strongest options for working legally as a digital entrepreneur in Costa Rica is to buy into the local economy and embark on the path to becoming a permanent resident. This can be done as an investor, by purchasing assets of over $200,000 in value. Most investors do so by purchasing land, a house or business.

Another option is to become a rentista resident with $60,000 USD in your home bank. This figure is true for the U.S., Canada and most of Europe, but subject to local banking laws). Your bank will need to write a letter saying that you have this amount and agree to send $2500 per month to a bank in Costa Rica. There is no requirement that you spend this money, but it is probably close to what a comfortable lifestyle will cost annually for a small family. David, an e-commerce business owner from Oregon and living in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica says, “I think the amount you need to have in liquid savings for the ‘rentista‘ residency scheme is a good approximation of what it will cost to move and live here, at least for the first year when you are buying a lot of ‘firsts’.”

Neither of these temporary residence visas automatically grant you work privileges in Costa Rica. They do put you on the road to having them three years later, when you can apply for permanent residency without restrictions. Nevertheless, you will be legal to live in Costa Rica permanently–meaning that you can pursue work as a digital entrepreneur.

Tech solutions for digital entrepreneurs in Costa Rica

Todd, an online entrepreneur in the North Pacific, uses WhatsApp, FaceTime and Facebook to communicate with his clients around the world. Skype, Messenger, and Telegram are other good options.

Since modern communications apps all operate on WiFi, they can be used virtually for free in the Costa Ballena. Unless you are en route and using your mobile data, almost every business in the Southern Zone region has free WiFi for customers. Even while you are dining out or running personal errands, you can be at work on your mobile devices for free.

Internet speeds are improving every year. Just this past year, Costa Rican internet providers laid fiber optic cable in our Costa Ballena region. Many homes and businesses are already benefitting from 10-20mps download speeds.

Taxes for digital entrepreneurs in Costa Rica

It is certainly worth researching your accountability in terms of national insurance and tax payments for your home country whilst earning abroad. This usually depends on how your income is being earned, in which currency, and what bank it is paid into.

If you intend to stay put in the same country for a certain duration of time, then where you intend to go and what their visa requirements state about earning money will also have an impact on what will be required from you.

If you are working with foreign customers and your money goes to a bank account outside of Costa Rica, you will have no problems with Costa Rican tax law or the Ministry of Labor.

Legally, you can be paid anywhere, work anywhere, and still be taxed in your home country. The work and pay don’t have to be linked. You can come to work in Costa Rica while receiving monies in Australia or in America, and you don’t have to be paid in this country. If you’re getting paid offshore somewhere, your local tax institution will still want to know about how much you’re getting paid, even if none of your pay touches your home country’s bank, so long as your business is registered there.

If you have a freelancing business in Costa Rica, you can legally work independently if you register with the Ministry of Labor. Helena, a graphic designer from Texas living in Alajuela, says that “you can legally register as an independent worker, get a receipt book and pay taxes for your freelance work at the Ministerio de Hacienda.”

How to go about getting freelance work?

The easiest solution for those wanting to find work online is to sign up to a freelancing platform such as Upwork. There are also an abundance of opportunities for teaching English online via platforms such as VIPkid, Cambly or through apps such as Palfish. Each of these companies takes a commission on your earnings.

There are various free online job boards that you can search for independent remote work, such as Jobspresso and Remote. These sites will link you to jobs you can apply for of your own accord and not have to worry about paying for a sign-up fee or handing over portions of your pay in commission.

Another option that local expats pursue is to set up a professional portfolio to market your skills to businesses online. Obviously, the main concern here is that there is no guarantee of getting a response, and the effectiveness of this strategy can vary dramatically.

Popular jobs for digital entrepreneurs in Costa Rica

  • Web Or App Development
  • Blogging And Affiliate Marketing
  • Copywriting And Content Writing
  • Online Marketing
  • Online Teacher
  • E-commerce (including rental property management)
  • Virtual Assistant (VA)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Translator
  • Photographer

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