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Study in Costa Rica

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Looking forward to complete your higher studies in Costa Rica? Find some guidelines on related procedures in this article.

Nowadays, many young students worldwide do not hesitate to pack to fly abroad for their further studies. Costa Rica can offer what you are looking for if you wish to move to an exotic country to discover new lifestyles and culture along with studying. Obviously, there are some specific formalities to be filled in, but these should not be very complicated with appropriate planning. Remember that studying in a foreign country will be a real asset on your resume.

Conditions

If you have been accepted in a Costa Rican university, you must be prepared for the essential administrative formalities, even in the case of a temporary expatriation. In fact, you need a passport which is valid for at least 6 months following your departure from the country, as well as a student visa so that you can be considered as a legal student in the land of “Pura Vida”.

Visa

The student visa is to be requested at the nearest Costa Rican consulate or embassy to your place of residence in your home country, even if you are currently residing in another country. In case there is no Costa Rican diplomatic representative in your home country, you can apply directly in Costa Rica by making a bank transfer of US$ 200 at the Banco de Costa Rica. This transfer represents a guarantee which will allow you to travel to Costa Rica with a tourist visa which you can then exchange against a student visa.

In all cases, the following documents are to be produced to apply for the student visa:

  • your birth certificate (clearly displaying your parents' names)
  • an extract of your criminal record issued either in your home country or where you have lived for the last three years.

Both documents must be valid for three months, legalized by the consulate, and translated into Spanish in Costa Rica if it was issued in another language. Note that the consular process consists in authenticating the signature of the officer who has issued the document by the Costa Rican consul in the country where these are issued. Consular legalization ends in Costa Rica, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs authenticates the signature of the Costa Rican consul in the country of issuance of documents. Fees of US$40 apply and are to be paid to the Ministry.

On their arrival in Costa Rica, foreign students have to request for a specific visa status in writing. Procedures are to be undertaken at the Oficina de Asuntos Internacionales y Cooperación Externa (OAICE). In fact, this organization is responsible for procedures between the University of Costa Rica to the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería (DGME). The request must contain, namely, your full name, your nationality and date of birth, the type of passport you are holding, its number and expiry date, the estimated duration of your stay in Costa Rica, your exact address, phone number and e-mail address. The following documents are also required:

  • a certified copy of your passport by a public notary (must be translated into Spanish by a licensed professional, on the spot)
  • proof of submission of fingerprints to the Ministerio de Seguridad Públic police in San Jose (your passport and a passport-size photo are also required)
  • proof that you have deposited 375 colons on the account number 242480-0 of Banco de Costa Rica (fees related to obtaining a student visa)
  • proof that the you have registered in the foreigners register at the Embassy of Costa Rica in your home country
  • two recent passport-size photographs.

 Important:

The request letter has to be authenticated by a lawyer at your own expenses.

The Oficina de Asuntos Internacionales y Cooperación Externa (OAICE) will then forward the request to the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería (DGME), which should announce its decision within 45 days. If the responsive positive, you will have to produce the following documents to the OAICE:

  • your passport with a temporary visa
  • proof of the following payments:
  • US$ 20 deposited into the account 001-0080052-0 Banco de Costa Rica
  • US$ 25 transferred to the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for immigration purposes)
  • US$ 5 deposited into the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for the Social Fund for Migration)
  • US$ 30 transferred to the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for the issuance of the legal residence proof).

 Good to know:

You are required to apply for the student visa at the OAICE at least 22 days before your tourist visa's expiry date.

Fees applied may be subject to changes. You are advised to plan additional funds.

Your student status will be displayed on your passport via a sticker issued by the DGME.

You are required to inform the OAICE in case of any changes regarding the following: your place of residence in Costa Rica, phone number and e-mail address so that it can update its database.

Renewing the student visa

If you are already studying in Costa Rica, you can request a for visa renewal from OAICE by producing a written request with a signature that has been authenticated by a lawyer at your own expenses. This letter must include your full name, ID number, your study programs, the estimated additional duration of your stay in Costa Rica, the previous semester results slip, proof of enrollment in a course offered by the University of Costa Rica, your passport and, finally, proof of payment of the following charges:

  • US$ 25 transferred to the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for immigration purposes)
  • US$ 5 transferred to the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for the Social Fund for Migration)
  • US$ 30 transferred to the account 242480-0 of the Banco de Costa Rica (for the issuance of proof of legal residence)

The visa extension will be granted once the OAICE has received the agreement of the Dirección General de Migración Extranjería.

 Important:

To be eligible to a visa renewal with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, you must have passed at least 80% of your examinations during the previous semester. Moreover, the request has to be made at least 30 days before the current visa's expiry date.

Student accommodation

Foreign students in Costa Rica can choose among different types of accommodation, namely dormitories, university campuses, room or flat sharing and host families. They can also benefit from the Posada Universitaria which has been designed especially for foreigners students. Thus, you will leave room for low-income local students.

If you prefer to be more independent, you can as well opt for room or flat sharing. You can refer to your university's Oficina de Relaciones Internacionales for more information. Finally, living with a host family will allow you to mix with the local culture and lifestyle. Your university can also put you in touch with such a family.

 Useful links:

Expat.com Study in Costa Rica Forum 
University of Costa Rica UCR www.ucr.ac.cr
National University of Costa Rica UNA www.una.ac.cr
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería www.migracion.go.cr
Oficina de Asuntos Internacionales y Cooperación Externa www.oaice.ucr.ac.cr
4ICU – Directory of universities in Costa Rica www.4icu.org

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