Costa Rica Administration Offices

Contact information for the national and local administrative centers of Costa Rica, including where to go for residency papers, vehicle registration papers, driving licenses and more...

Costa Rica has seven provinces (provincias): Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José. Provinces are further divided into municipalities (municipalidades or cantons - cantones) and districts (distritos).

Immigration

Immigration services are provided by the Department of Immigration (Dirección de Migración y Extranjería de Costa Rica). Applications for residence permits (cédulas de residencias) are made at the Immigration Office.

  • Department of Immigration (in Spanish)
    At: La Uruca, San José; next to the Dirección General de Aviación Civil
    Tel: 2299 8026
    Tel: 900 1234 5678 for appointments
    Open: Monday to Friday from 08:00-16:00; closed the last Friday of the month. No entry without appointments after 12:00

Recently, it has become possible to renew residence permits at some Costa Rica Bank (Banco de Costa Rica) branches.

Civil Registry Offices

The Civil Registry (Registro Civil) records and issues certificates for births, marriages, and deaths. It also issues Costa Rican identity cards. The registry is part of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (the supreme electoral authority of Costa Rica). Services are available online.

Public Registry

The Public Registry (Registro Nacional) is the authority in charge of registering corporations (personas juridicas), real property (bienes inmuebles), vehicles and other movable property (bienes muebles), liens (security interests), and survey maps (catastros). The public can research each of these online.

  • Registro Nacional (in Spanish)
    At: Situated 500m to the east of the Iglesia Católica de Zapote, San José
    Tel: 2202 0800
  • To find a local office in Costa Rica: Click here

Motor Vehicles

All vehicles in Costa Rica must be registered in the Vehicle Section of the Public Registry. Here it is possible to carry out a vehicle title search to determine if a vehicle is free from any liens or encumbrances.

When a vehicle is purchased, a Notary Public should issue a bill of sale (Escritura de Traspaso), which is recorded in the National Registry. After the sale is recorded, the buyer should receive the original deed and the new Title (Certificado de Propiedad).

Driving licenses

Foreigners staying in Costa Rica for more than three months must obtain a Costa Rican driving license. Driving licenses are issued by the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (COSEVI).

The main licensing office in Costa Rica is at La Uruca in San José.

  • COSEVI
    At
    : La Uruca, San José
    Tel
    : 2257 7200 / 2257 7006 / 2257 7018
    Open: 08:00-11:00 for foreigners
  • For further information and contact details of other official licensing offices by region: Click here (in Spanish)
  • For further information, see the Guide on Exchanging a Driving License

Social Security

Residents of Costa Rica must register and pay for healthcare benefits at the Social Security Administration (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social - CAJA). It is also the office to go to in order to register employees.

Taxes

Once a Costa Rica corporation has been publicly registered, a tax identification number must be obtained from Costa Rica's Ministry of Finance (Tributación Directa) and an annual fee must be paid.

Ombudsman (La Defensoría de los Habitantes)

The Ombudsman's Office receives and investigates complaints about violations of human and civil rights. The Ombudsman can start legal procedures against the government and public or private institutions. The Ombudsman is appointed by, and reports to, the Assembly.

Health Ministry

The Costa Rica Health Department (Ministerio de Salud) issues health permits (Permiso Sanitario de Funcionamiento) for food and hygiene-related businesses including restaurants.