Bringing a hand gun to Costa Rica

This is posted May 9, 2016.   I recently attempted to bring a hand gun with me to Costa Rica.   I have been living in the San Jose metro area for over a year.   I was back home for a month and decided I should bring a pistol with me to keep in my residence here in CR.    I had read one or more blogs over the past ten months about bringing a hand gun to CR.   I did not find anything online that indicated it was a big issue.   So I packed my pistol and ammo in the required hard plastic case, with a lock to which only I had the key.  ( this is for transport via airline in one's luggage ).   I declared the pistol to the airlines and off we went.   On arrival in San Jose, my bag was flagged for inspection when it went thru the x-ray machine. 

At that point,  I soon learned getting my gun thru customs was going to be more of an issue than I expected.  My gun case was tagged and placed in a box along w/ the ammo.   I was given a receipt and told to call a number on the back in a few days to get my gun back.  Well, if it were that simple I would not be writing this article.  :0)   

What I have now learned is that at some point in the recent past, laws were apparently changed regarding gun ownership and transport of such a gun into CR.   I spent several hours over at aduana or customs one day.   That got me absolutely no where.   I have now been directed to an agency within the Department of Security.   I am told this is a potential problem because while I am a resident , I am not yet a permanent resident.   Allegedly, only a permanent resident can now bring a gun into the country.   Does anyone WITH REAL KNOWLEDGE know who I must see, where I must go and what I must do to retrieve my pistol and ammo? 

muchas gracias..

Rules to import a gun

This is not a new law.
In part:

To register a weapon you will need:

1.   Application.   This is the formal written application addressed to the Department of Arms and Explosives requesting the registration of the weapon in either your personal name or in the name of a corporation.

The application must state the (i) Full legal name of the applicant, (ii) Indicate the Costa Rican identity card or in the case of a foreigner the permanent residency card number. (iii) Exact physical address of the applicant, (iv) Full legal description of the weapon that will be registered (type, caliber, manufacturer, model number, serial number) (v) Proof that the applicant has passed the weapons handling test (examen teórico práctico).

The application must be signed by the applicant.  If the applicant is not personally filing the application then the signature must be certified by a Costa Rican Attorney or Notary Public.

2.  Documentation Regarding Origin of the Weapon.

In this section you will have to indicate to the Department of Arms and Explosives how you acquired the weapon.  The options are:

(a) Bill of Sale (Carta de Venta).   This is applicable only if the weapon was already registered to somebody else and you are purchasing the weapon and thus requesting a transfer of ownership.   The Bill of Sale to be binding in Costa Rica must be issued be authenticated by a Costa Rican Notary Public.

(b)  Gun Shop Invoice.  If you purchase the weapon from an authorized and registered gun shop then the invoice they provide to you will be sufficient to Register the weapon.

(c)  Import Customs Declaration (Póliza de Desalmacenaje) .  If you have imported the weapon then you must provide proof that it went through the Costa Rican customs process by providing the Customs import declaration form.

(d)  Registration by Sworn Statement.   If you do not have any documents for your weapon you can still register it by rendering a Sworn Statement Under Oath (Declaración Jurada) before a Costa Rican Notary Public.  In that statement you must indicate how you obtained possession of the particular weapon along with the full description of the weapon.

3.   Identification Documents.  Photocopy of both sides of your Costa Rican identity card or permanent residency card.  You will have to present the original for verification or certified copies of the original certified by a Costa Rican Attorney or Notary Public.

4.  Present the Weapon to the Department of Arms and Explosives.   The registration process requires an inspection of the weapon (unloaded!) by the Department of Arms and Explosives.   If you purchase the gun from a Registered Gun Shop then they will often do this part of the process for you.

5.  Fingerprinting of Applicant.  The applicant must be fingerprinted by the Department of Arms and Explosives.  You will need to provide a passport size photograph for fingerprinting.  As you face the front of the office building where the Department of Arms and Explosives is located the line on the right is for fingerprinting “huellas”.

6.  Psychological Exam Certification.   You will need to hire a Psychologist or Psychiatrist to administer the competency exam that is required to use firearms.  The original and a copy of the certification must be provided.

If you are registering the weapon in the name of a corporation then the corporate officer must provide proof of the exam.   If the corporate office will not use the weapons then the application must indicate who will use the weapons and those individuals must provide proof of the exam.

7.   Certification of no Criminal Record from Police Archives.   The applicant will need a certification from the Costa Rican criminal archives indicating that the applicant does not have a criminal record.  You can get that certification in person at the department of the O.I.J. (Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciales) in San José or authorized somebody to get it for you.

Confused ?   That is the intent.  Although the law allows the possession and ownership of weapons the reality is that from a governmental policy standpoint it is discouraging gun ownership by increasing the bureaucratic hurdles for those that want to legally purchase and own weapons in Costa Rica.   You will more than likely need to hire somebody to guide you through the gun registration process.    To further complicate matters the Department of Firearms and explosives has required applicants to file their applications by way of the online platform known as ControlPas However, before you can use this system you will have to go to a local bank and register and pay for an “electronic signature” card (firma digital).  The bank will issue you the electronic signature card and the card reader which can then be used to access the ControlPas online registration system.

Can't help you with who to see but am aware of this law as a Temporary Resident.  I need another 2.5 years!

Additional information on another website today.

thank you kohlerias !

I am not an expert but a friend of mine recently got a gun and he told me the laws did change in some respects in the past couple years or so. Maybe that's not true but being that he's involved in processing to get a gun, I assume he knows what he's talking about when he tells me it did change some time in the recent past re non-residents or non-citizens owning guns.

I'm not recommending anyone break the law, certainly if you're not a citizen of Costa Rica, but a Tico friend told me the best way is to get a black market gun.
However if you shoot someone they'd better be IN your house and have a gun on you. Otherwise YOU will go to jail.

IMHO, if someone enters my property with a gun I should be able to shoot them right on the spot as soon as I see them. My property is posted "Entry Prohibited" so that should be enough to make it clear if someone comes on my property uninvited and in spite of my locked gate, they are an intruder and can be shot by me.

But unfortunately the laws of  Costa Rica don't allow you to shoot anyone unless it's in clear self defense (as I understand it; I'm not an attorney and do not play one on tv either).

If you live out in the boonies I think one should be allowed a gun, to deal with animals and armed robbers. But then what I think is of no consequence to the lawmakers of Costa Rica. I think you will have a very hard time getting your gun back.

To own a gun here in CR is too easy.  I own two, and I would like to sell one.  One has to take a course and pass the test!  If you should have an ilegal gun and you have to use it.  You can say that it was the gun, that he brought with him and you took it from him.  I have taken one gun away from one caco, thief, trying to rob my Pizzeria.  I did not kill him!  The La Nacion says that there are 140,000 young men, who study nothing but how and who to rob.  It happens to the Ticos as well as the Expats.  There are alot of poor people and alot of poor minded people! There are alot of good people as well! :)

But unfortunately the laws of  Costa Rica don't allow you to shoot anyone unless it's in clear self defense

I see little unfortunate about murder being illegal.

However, much as John Wayne is dead, his spirit is alive well, and attempting to take weapons through customs with declaring them.
I did a quick google to find out what was needed to import a weapon into that country, the information taking about two minutes to find.

I also found this.... … _rica.html

NOTE! If you are caught traveling with a weapon without the appropriate permits and registrations in Costa Rica, your weapon will be confiscated and you will be fined, arrested or deported.  They do not fool around with this stuff here.  If you are a non-resident, expect to get the boot!  If a resident, expect serious problems.

Fred :

I see little unfortunate about murder being illegal.

Okay I mispoke or wasn't clear.
Of course I am not advocating murder.
But if someone comes on my property at night when it's just me and my wife here with no one else around, and I see them outside getting ready to come in...
Am I supposed to wait until they actually come in and show me their gun before I shoot them?
To me, someone is in my yard at night with a gun, it should be self defense if I shoot them.

Not if they are shot in the back.  That is cut and dried.

If shot in the back, the law considers that they were in the process of leaving the premises.

"If you live out in the boonies I think one should be allowed a gun, to deal with animals and armed robbers. But then what I think is of no consequence to the lawmakers of Costa Rica. I think you will have a very hard time getting your gun back."

It is 100% illegal to shoot any animal in Costa Rica (non-human ).  I also agree with this law.  People on the other hand, no worries.

I already have my ccw permit with costa rica.  So all  of the above does not apply to me when bring in guns.  Just to turn it over to the Police to register and take a bullet sample , right?
Actually gun movement and possession is under the authority of the UN now.

Dave, you wrote that it's illegal to shoot any animal here. Is it illegal to shoot even poisonous snakes? If so, that's kinda nuts.

Is it okay to shoot them with a bow and arrow?
Is it okay to stab a terciopelo or cut its head off? LOL.

Anyway I am quite sure no cop or MINAE guy or whatever is going to come running if someone shoots a pizote killing their chickens or a terciopelo in any situation.

A puma (mountain lion) or jaguar, that's another story. You might get in trouble for killing one of those.

I'm just dubious that this law (not killing animals) is enforced much out in the back country... I know there are sometimes hunters looking to kill deer in my area, and though they do it at night or early morning, so as not to be seen trespassing and carrying guns, there's no real way anyone is going to catch them unless they're seen carrying their kill(s)... which they probably throw into their trunk or back of their truck, covered up.

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