This process consists of the validation of a license issued abroad, for any person, and the issuance of a license of the same class in Costa Rica. All drivers (Costa Rican or foreign) may drive the same vehicles that authorize their foreign license for a term of up to three months (91 days), starting from their last entry into Costa Rica. During this period of 91 days, the process of validation and issuance is not permitted because the license is considered still valid as a tourist or temporary license during that three-month term. One day after that term has expired, the license in Costa Rica can then be obtained because the person is considered “license-less” at that point.
Requirements to obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license:
1. If you are a foreigner, meaning not a citizen of Costa Rica, you must prove legal residence/permanence in Costa Rica, under the current immigration legislation being residency card, refugee card or work permit and that needs to be valid, current and in good physical condition.
2. If you are a Costa Rican citizen, you must prove your nationality in Costa Rica, with your ID (cédula de identidad) which should be current, valid and in good physical condition.
3. The foreign driver's license to be presented must be current and in good physical condition.
4. In the case of a Foreigner with residency in Costa Rica or Costa Rican citizens, the applicant must have stayed within Costa Rica, at some point in their life, for a period of more than three months and one day or more time consecutively. This must be demonstrated with the applicant’s passport or certification of entries and exits of the country issued by the general direction of immigration and foreigners. (Ministerio de Inmigración y Extranjería de Costa Rica).
5. Costa Rican citizens or foreigners who have a driver's license from another country that is not of their nationality of origin or birth must legally prove their stay in the country where they obtained the driver's license (Residence, Certificate, Work Permit, Refugee Application or Social Security).
6. The applicant must bring a current medical report to obtain the license. Normally, the clinics or Doctors that offer the exam, are close to the offices that issue the license, therefore it can be done the same day, if need be.
7. In the event the applicant’s current driver's license is in a language other than Spanish or English, the applicant must also a bring an official translation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the event, a translator is not available for their language, the applicant’s embassy can do it.
8. The applicant must bring two copies of each document required (copying both sides), and the applicant’s home address and signature must appear on the driver’s license.
9. The cost to obtain the driver's license in Costa Rica is ¢ 4,000.00 colons and can only be paid once the process is completed and the institution has authorized it.
10. If there is doubt about the legitimacy of the current license or the applicant does not comply or qualify with the standards of the Driving License of the Country of Origin, then a certificate of the country of origin from the Transportation Ministry or embassy of that country may be required.
11. If there is a difference of surnames due to marriage, (different one currently than the one on your ID, passport or current License), you must present an original and two copies of the marriage certificate.
12. If applicants with a foreign license claim a license exceeding the type b1 or c2, a certification of experience with the foreign license may be required, to comply with the experience required for these licenses, provided that the foreign license indicates the date that the category was obtained and meets the required years of experience. If not, the applicant must provide a certificate of the issuance of the license and of the category in the country.
13. For users wishing to obtain the c2 type approval, they must first carry out the public transportation course.
14. For foreign and national minor drivers who possess a driver’s license from any other country, driving in Costa Rica is prohibited according to the International Conventions.
Article written by: Licda. MSc. Gabriela María Elizondo Alpízar
Uvita Law Firm. April, 2017.