Is it difficult to start a business in Costa Rica?

How do you start a business in Costa Rica? Is it possible for a non-citizen to do so? These questions are commonly asked by those who would like to move to Costa Rica but need some additional income in order to make it work. Or, maybe you have the entrepreneurial spirit, and your idea of an enjoyable retirement is to watch your idea grow into a profitable enterprise. A motive for others is to give back to the community by starting a business that will provide quality jobs that support their neighbors.

Restaurant on the beach as a businessWhatever your circumstances, you’ll be glad to know that it is possible to legally start your own business in Costa Rica. And you don’t have to be a permanent resident of Costa Rica to do so. Even those visiting as tourists can start a business. However, you need to be aware of the requirements that the government imposes. Costa Rica welcomes foreign investment but, like most countries, it is protective of its labor force. In other words, the government wants you to start a business or invest capital in an existing business, especially if it creates jobs for Ticos. On the other hand, it doesn’t want foreigners to fill jobs that Costa Ricans can perform. So while you are allowed to own and manage a business, you may not be able to perform the work yourself. Those are the underlying principles for many of the rules regarding foreigners and commerce.

The key to a successful startup is finding the right people. In Costa Rica.  The first person you will need on your team is a knowledgeable lawyer. Your attorney will guide you through the process of legally registering your company. The most common business structure is the Sociedad Anónima, often referred to by its initials SA. It is popular because it protects the personal income and assets of its shareholders from liability. The other option is the Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada (SRL). It can be composed of just one member, so it’s even simpler than the SA which requires at least four persons to make up the board of directors (junta directiva). You may also need a permit, or license, depending on the nature of the business. Attorneys fees and registration is typically between $800 and $1200 depending on the Law firm.

After registering your business, you will need a competent accountant. Costa Rican tax laws and accounting practices are very different than in North America, so a local accountant is essential to ensure that you are in compliance. Costa Rican businesses are responsible for the following taxes: Social Security for employees (14.5% of salary), corporate income tax (10-30% depending on gross revenue), property tax (0.25% of the appraised value), and annual corporation fee (around $250). A qualified account will not only keep your books balanced but will also keep you on the right side of the law.

Starting a business in Costa RicaYou might think your profits will be substantial in Costa Rica because wages are lower than you would pay employees in the US, but Costa Rican employees have a lot of rights and benefits that may cut into your bottom line. It is very important to look into that before hiring employees. Your lawyer and accountant will be excellent resources.

Another important step for your startup is to open a bank account. Banco de Costa Rica, a state-owned bank, allows non-residents to open an account using their passport as identification. The minimum initial deposit is ¢50,000 colones, $500 dollars or €100 euros. Another bank requirement is a minimum monthly income of $1000. The bank may require documentation–bank statements or certified accounting reports–to verify the amount and source of income. Once your bank account is opened and funded, you’ll be able to do most transactions online from wherever you are.

Restaurant for sale in Costa RicaMany that have made the move have decided to become legal residents of Costa Rica. One of the ways to obtain residency is by means of an investment of $200,000 or more in a business or property. So starting your own business in Costa Rica can produce multiple benefits: income, supporting the economy of the community, and permanent residency status.

Costa Rica RealtorI know this because I have been through the whole process of starting a business in Costa Rica. Can it be trying? Of course, any startup is, but the rewards are unending, and what a great place to be.

With the onset of COVID-19, unfortunately there will be many small businesses that won’t make it through the crisis. It is a sad situation.  However, on the other hand it can be a great opportunity for the person that wants to move to Costa Rica and start a business. Take a look at some of the businesses for sale in our area.

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Work from Your Costa Rica Home

Can I work from home in Costa Rica? Well the answer is yes and no. I will explain it further on in this article. Now that more and more companies, due to the COVID-19 situation, are telling their employees to work from home, Costa Rica is a great location to do it from.
Laptop computerPersonally, I have clients that have purchased properties in Costa Rica, and they love it so much they decided to live here full time and made the move – but they continue to work for the same company back in North America via the internet. Internet service in Costa Rica is very good.  They have broadband service up to 100 megabytes.  Not fast enough?  Then there is a screaming fast fiber optic option with 500-megabytes of service.  The service is only available in select areas at this time but the footprint is growing quickly.
Tourist passport stamp from Costa RicaSo how do others successfully work from home in Costa Rica? Well, after they found the right property in paradise and moved here full time, these folks started the residency process. You cannot legally stay in Costa Rica past the 90-day stamp in your passport, hence, starting the process to become a legal resident is important.  For assistance with this contact me and I will help guide you to the right people to obtain your Costa Rican residency.
Now, because of COVID-19 the world is changing.  We all see it.  Social distancing, wearing masks, and the list goes on. Many companies started work from home programs a few years ago, as there is no real need for a worker to come in and sit in a cubical all day or behind a computer all day in an office environment when in reality the employee does not really need to be there. Companies that do value their employees are making it easier now by having more work from home.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) took a flash poll of its members worldwide, of which I am proud to be a member, to find out what members are seeing with their clients and local markets relating to real estate.
Costa Rica NAR memberFrom the National Association of Realtors:
On May 10th and 11th, NAR conducted a flash survey of members on the impact of the coronavirus on their market. 61% of members have donated to or volunteered with non-profits helping with COVID-19. 75% of members overall said that none of their past clients have asked them about mortgage forbearance. Half (49%) of members expect that, when state and local economies reopen, employers will continue to allow workers to work from home for the near future, or beyond reducing the need for office space. 
work from home in Costa RicaAs you just read above, “reducing the need for office space” basically means more people will be working from home. Why not work from your Costa Rican home? I do. I have a home office with everything – printer, laptop, etc.  Heck, it is where I am writing this blog from! There is no better place to be right now during this COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I made the move over 12 years ago to live here.
Would you like information on how you can work from your own Costa Rica home? Just drop me an email at JosephEmanuelli@remax.net

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Work from home in Costa Rica

High-Speed Internet, Costa Rica

High Speed Internet in Costa RicaIs high-speed Internet available in Costa Rica? It’s an important question because we live in a connected world. If we lose that connection, even in a beautiful place like Costa Rica, we feel isolated and uninformed. While it’s great to unplug and get away from it all once in a while – and Costa Rica is the place to do that – before long we feel the need to be in touch with our friends and family. We want to know what’s going on around us or back home. Moreover, many depend on a reliable high-speed Internet connection to make a living or accomplish other essential tasks.

Keyboard with Internet and Costa Rica flag buttonsSo, does Costa Rica have high-speed Internet? In a word, yes. The days of sluggish, spotty dial-up Internet are a thing of the past. In the early days, the state-owned ICE (Institute of Costarican Electricity) enjoyed a telecommunications monopoly. That all changed when the Central American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 2010. ICE’s monopoly was broken, and international telecommunications giants quickly established a foothold. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in fiber optics networks, towers, and other infrastructures. As a result, high speed Internet coverage reached more and more regions of Costa Rica. Today, a higher percentage (85.5%) of Costa Rica’s population has access to Internet than in any other country in Central America. That’s good news if you want to stay connected while visiting or living here.

Logo of Cable Tica, a high-speed Internet providerWant to know who are the Internet service providers in Costa Rica? The forerunner, ICE, is still in the telecommunications business, but now they market their cell phone and Internet service under the brand name Kolbi. ICE’s biggest competitors in the cell phone service market are Claro and Movistar. In addition to cell service, both offer wireless residential Internet packages. Cable television operators have also entered the Internet service provider market. They include Cabletica, Tigo, and Telecable, and all offer packages that include high speed Internet, cable television channels, and a fixed VoIP phone.Logo of Tigo, Costa Rica internet provider

 

 

Logo of Kolbi, Costa Rica internet provider

 

 

 

 

I can attest first hand to the quality if high-speed internet in Costa Rica. I need the internet for my business and well, posting blogs like this. My provider is Cable Tica. I purchased a package with 100 megabytes of download speed including over 180 channels of digital TV. This entire package is only $80 USD per month. The service provided is pretty good as well, placed the order and 2 days later I had 2 different tech’s at the house setting it all up.

What Internet speeds are available, and how much do they cost? As of this writing the top speeds offered and their corresponding monthly rates (for Internet only) are as follows:

Internet service provider Download speed Monthly fee
Cabletica 100 megabytes $43
Cabletica 200 megabytes $60
Kolbi 50 megabytes $49
Telecable 100 megabytes $45
Telecable 300 megabytes $125
Tigo 100 megabytes $60
Wireless
Claro 4G (14 megabytes) $49*

*Includes downloads of up to 150 Gigabytes per month

Logo of Claro, a high speed internet provider in Costa RicaClaro uses its network of cell phone towers in conjunction with a residential receiver to provide Internet in homes. Unlike the other Internet service providers, Claro is wireless. Although it has slower download speeds than the others, it may be the only option in areas beyond the reach of cable networks. Satellite Internet service is another wireless option, but expect monthly fees to be several times that of cabled Internet service providers. All Internet service providers routinely offer speed upgrades at no additional cost. As their technology advances, they try to stay competitive. Commercial Internet service, offering greater speeds at a greater cost, is available in some areas. Speeds, prices, and coverage are constantly changing, so check for the latest offers in your area when you are ready to sign up.

Internet Costa RicaIs the Internet reliable in Costa Rica? Blazing download speeds aren’t worth much if you constantly lose your connection. Fortunately, most users in Costa Rica report that their Internet is stable. Yes, just like everywhere else in the world, sometimes the internet goes down,  it happens. Some even say it is a better–higher speed and more reliable connection– than they had back home and I can agree totally with that. So, rest assured that you can stay connected on high-speed Internet as you enjoy the wonders of Costa Rica.

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Building a Home in Costa Rica

Home building in Costa RicaSounds like a far-fetched idea? The truth is, building a home in Costa Rica is not as hard as you may think. Actually, it is rewarding.  I know because I have built two in the Playa Hermosa area. It is a great feeling that once you are finished building your home, you can step back and say “See what I did”!
All the photos in this blog are of the last house I built in Costa Rica, it is almost time to move in.

Ok, let’s start with the process, shall we! First things first:
View from my property in Costa Rica

Step 1: Find the right property for you

You need to acquire the land that works best for you. Do you want the big ocean view that is expansive with the sun setting on over the water every day.? Maybe, your preference is a country-style property with lots of land around the house and area to put fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Some folks prefer to be close to their neighbors. Everybody has a different idea of the perfect location. This is where I can assist.  Check out some of the many different residential building lots in the Playa Hermosa area. See something you like, email me.  I will give you the information you are looking for.
Home is almost finished

Step 2: Choose a Builder

Now that you have purchased your lot or land to build a home, you need to choose a builder. We have many good builders and tradesmen here in Costa Rica. I can recommend at least six, most speak English. I have used both a Costa Rican builder and a foreigner that is a legal resident here that speaks perfect English.
Front elevation of my home in Playa HermosaStep 3: Design Your Home

Now comes the fun part, designing the house you want to build. I have seen homes in the area from very traditional Spanish colonial design to ultra-modern contemporary. It all depends on your preference. Designing your home can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months and, again, it depends on you.

Step 4: Finalize, or Localize your Plans

All the builders have architects and engineers on their staff that work with them directly and will coordinate the entire process for you. There is no need to go find one of each on your own unless of course you already have preferred plans from an architect from where you live; then the plans only need to be localized to local building codes.

Step 5: Get all your Building Permits

Once you have finally decided on the final design, the process of getting permits to build a home here in Costa Rica may seem daunting.  However, most builders will handle the whole process for you. Having said that I am still going to give you a list of what is required.

What you will need to get your building permits in Costa Rica

A) Copy of the Plano Catastro for legally registered land survey.
B) Proof you are the owner of the property, “certificacion literal” This is basically a form from the government saying you are the owner of the property.
C) Original “Carte de Aqua Disponible” a Water availability letter from the local supply of water.
D) Original blueprints signed off by the “Colegio de Ingenieros” or College of engineers showing that the planes and construction meet all the structural, electrical, plumbing and sanitary building codes. Your builder architect will take care of this part.
E) A signed letter from the electric provider that there is legal electricity at the property.
F) Proof from “Hacienda” this is the local tax authority that you are up to date on all your personal taxes in Costa Rica.
Driveway

Step 6: Get Approval from your local Municipality

Now that you and your builder have all your permits and paperwork in order, it is time to present everything to the local municipality department of engineering for their approval. This process can take around 2-4 weeks depending on how busy they are. KEY POINT: make sure you have everything in order and all the paperwork required by the municipality.  It is best to check with the builder first to make sure.

Step 7: Build Your New Home in Costa Rica

Now you received your building permits, Great Job you are on your way to building your new home in Costa Rica.

Now the real fun part begins. Even if you are not “on the ground” in Costa Rica when the building begins most, if not all of the builders, will send progress photos to you every week. If you happen to be here in Costa Rica while the home is under construction, even better – but it is not completely necessary.

One thing I have experienced after building a home here, as well as two others in the United States, is: if you have a budget in mind of what you can afford, always add at least 15%-20% on top of that. Now, you may be thinking yeah that’s right – builders like to add extras and hidden fees. Well, although that does happen from time to time, honestly that’s not really the issue.  What really happens is that when the building process starts there are always changes you want to be made.  That is where the extra percentage comes into play.

When you are thinking of building a home in Costa Rica, don’t be afraid of the idea.  It is actually pretty easy.  Feel free to contact me and I will be happy to point you in the right direction.

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