Getting a loan in Costa Rica is a matter of residency. More often than not, you will be required to be a resident before any bank in Costa Rica will extend a loan to you. This is especially true of home loans and mortgages, for which banks have strict requirements regarding residency. In addition, you must have valid proof of steady income, just as you would with any other loan. If you are planning on gaining residency, or are already a resident of Costa Rica, then it is entirely possible for you to get a loan.
Finding a Bank
It is a good idea to work with a local bank, whether you are planning to take out a loan or not. Having a local savings or checking account can help you to avoid fluctuations in currency between the colones and the money of your originating nation, and it can also help to facilitate transactions for local purchases, sales, and more. Choosing the right bank is the exact same process as it would be for any other part of the world; look for rates which are acceptable, banks which offer the right amount of interest, and those which can provide debit card services if necessary.
If you are new to the country, you will have to do research into which banks have the most branches in the municipality you’re living in. If possible, ask other expatriates in the area about banks which they prefer to use. Their experience in bank selection could help you to choose the best option right away, instead of going through a trial-and-error process.
Securing a Loan
Once you have found a bank and attained your residency status, you may be eligible for a loan with your bank of choice. The terms of the loan, including interest, may be dictated in either colones or USD. Consider the currency conversion rates that are currently available before choosing one or the other. A loan in colones may have an overall lower interest rate, or the opposite may be true. If in doubt, speak with a bank representative about any questions or concerns you may have as a foreign borrower. Banks in Costa Rica are experienced in handling loans and other financial matters with those who have decided to live in the country, and should be more than glad to provide you with information.
For smaller loans, or for vehicle financing, you may be able to work with a bank through a dealer instead. This could help you to be eligible for a car loan even if you are not a resident, although the requirements of steady income are likely to be the same.
Finally, remember that you may have tax obligations related to your loan, and possible tax deductions as well. Citizens of the United States are still obligated to file a form for foreign earned income, but deductions for foreign loans and taxes may be listed on the form. Double check with a tax form on foreign income to ensure your legal compliance. You can also speak with a tax lawyer in Costa Rica about possible tax obligations related to your loan.