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Right to drive for 180 days may finally be reality in Costa Rica

A final vote to change the law is expected in the first week of April 2024

par Yves Pepito Malette
5,K vues

In a very anticipated update for expatriates and tourists, Costa Rica is on the verge of finalizing legislative changes that will significantly enhance driving privileges for foreigners within this vibrant, tropical haven. This move, much anticipated by the international community, underscores the country’s warm welcome towards visitors and expatriates alike.

Last September ushered in a new chapter for visitors to Costa Rica, with the General Directorate of Migration announcing an important decree. Foreigners were granted the right to savor the country’s natural splendor and dynamic culture for up to 180 days on a single tourist visa, extending beyond the previous limit of 90 days.

However, the excitement was somewhat dampened by restrictions on driving privileges. Foreigners encountered confusion due to the unchanged rule that required them to navigate bureaucratic hurdles to maintain a legal driving status beyond the initial grace period. This challenge arose from the separate jurisdictions of the Transito (Department of Transport) and the Department of Immigration, leading to a disjointed policy landscape.

The tide is turning, however, with proposed amendments to the Transito Law promising to align driving privileges with the extended tourist visa duration.

The legislative body of Costa Rica has successfully passed the first reading of these amendments, with a final vote expected in the first week of April 2024. The proposed reform of Article 91 of Law No. 9078 aims to allow visitors the right to drive for the entirety of their 180-day visas.

«I believe this is positive news and will enhance my sense of belonging in Costa Rica. The bureaucratic hurdles can be disheartening at times, but as the saying goes, ‘patience is a virtue,’ which holds especially true in the land of ‘Pura Vida.'»

– Andrew Johnson, Jacó, Costa Rica

Notably, the revised law will also extend benefits to drivers with approved immigration status or pending applications, as well as to officials from diplomatic and international organizations, enabling them to obtain a Costa Rican.

New expatriates filing for legal residency will now be able to drive in the country until their residency is approved, and thereafter, they can apply for a Costa Rican driver’s license.

Although satisfied with the advancements in implementing these legal changes, some lawyers considered immigration experts caution that various factors may sometimes cause delays in the approval of laws and amendments. Nonetheless, they remain optimistic about the outcome of this development, which has been well received by expats and tourists in Costa Rica.


In Costa Rica, the process of passing laws involves several stages that ensure both the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Power participate in the legislative process. Proposed laws are first submitted to the Legislative Assembly, where it goes through the following stages:

Committee Stage: The proposal is assigned to one or more of the Legislative Assembly’s committees based on the topic. The committee examines the bill, possibly amends it, and reports back to the plenary of the Assembly.

Plenary Discussion: The full assembly discusses the bill. It may be approved, amended, or rejected. For a bill to pass, it must receive a majority vote.

Second Debate: If the bill passes the first debate, it must undergo a second debate. The second debate focuses on the version of the bill approved in the first debate. Amendments can still be made, but they require a higher level of consensus.

If the bill is approved again, it moves forward in the process by sending the bill to the President. Once signed by the President, the law is published in the official Gazette. The publication is the final step for a bill to become law, after which it is enforceable.

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