Those who are planning a move to Costa Rica or who hope to do business in Costa Rica are often curious (and confused!) about the rules regarding importing products to Costa Rica from the United States or other countries. While there are a lot of regulations surrounding what can be imported or sent into Costa Rica and how those items must reach Costa Rica, the rules are actually fairly simple if you can unravel all of the jargon. Rest assured that, in most cases, if you want to get one of your possessions into Costa Rica you can do so, providing it is not an animal, a food, or a plant.
When a person is in Costa Rica, he or she can almost always receive items from a foreign company. Whether these items are being transported from company to company or from company to consumer doesn’t really matter in most cases; no representative is needed—the item can simply be sent from point A to point B. Even though that rule generally applies, foreign companies that plan to regularly do business with Costa Rican residents and/or companies are strongly encouraged to have a local representative or a local sales office in Costa Rica. Having this kind of representation will reduce the risk of unintentional wrongdoing, lawsuits, and disallowance of the right to do business in Costa Rica. Having representation also helps a company to create a positive relationship with the Costa Rican government, to better market its products, and to keep a record of all transactions involving Costa Rican residents and/or companies. Companies have many options for representation in Costa Rica, including official foreign representatives, local representation, and concessionaires.
One item that many people will try to take with them into Costa Rica is computer software. When people order foreign software from inside of Costa Rica, there is generally no problem; the software is simply shipped and arrives at the person’s door with no problem. The only “problem” or difficulty arises when a person attempts to physically take software with him from the United States or another country into Costa Rica. When this is the case, the person is required to bring certain items along with the software. These items include an invoice showing that the person purchased the software, an airway bill that shows the departure destination and the arrival destination, a customs declaration declaring the software, and a product value declaration. The customs declaration and the product value declaration can easily and correctly be completed by any Costa Rica customs broker, so don’t worry too much over these two items. Do make sure, however, that you have all the items on the list; doing so will make getting your software into the country a whole lot easier.
Many people who move to Costa Rica opt to simply have their friends and/or family overseas ship them their belongings. Obviously, this option is a lot easier than having to pack and check all of your belongings on the airplane when you make the journey from your original country to Costa Rica; in fact, for some items, shipping is the only option. While shipping items to Costa Rica is fairly simple, there are a few things you should know. For starters, you will need to make sure that you have a thorough and complete inventory of all of the items being shipped, and this inventory needs to be written in either English or Spanish (preferably both). On the shipping inventory sheet, make sure you write down the estimated value of the items, how many packages or cartons are being shipped, and, in the case of electrical items, the brand name, any serial numbers, the model, and the cost. Some of the items you are shipping will likely be subject to import taxes, so be prepared for the additional costs involved. The rules discussed thus far deal with used items, meaning items that already belong to you and that have belonged to you for some time; there are different rules in place for new items. With new items, you will always need your original receipt of purchase, and you can expect to pay more expensive duty fees than you would for used items. Also keep in mind that, when it comes to new appliances, you may not ship more than one type of each appliance, so, in other words, you can ship one toaster or microwave but not two. Items that cannot be shipped to Costa Rica under any circumstances include large quantities of alcohol—more than that deemed acceptable for personal consumption, fireworks or other explosives, used tires, pornography, drugs, and narcotics. As you can see, there are several rules surrounding what can and cannot be imported into Costa Rica and the importation process in general, but if you know and carefully follow the rules, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.