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The Requirements for Teaching English in Costa Rica
Learn what qualifications you need to teach English in Costa Rica including education, citizenship, visa, and age requirements.
Written By: Lynda Galea | Updated: November 3, 2021
Written By: Lynda Galea
Updated: November 3, 2021
Known for its stunning tropical beauty, world-class beaches, and the warm hospitality of its people, Costa Rica represents one of the hottest job markets for teaching English in Latin America. With it being a short and cheap flight away from the US, it's a popular location for many American TEFL-certified teachers.
If you are considering teaching English in Costa Rica, you will need to ensure you meet the following qualifications:
Requirements for Teaching English in Costa Rica:
- A TEFL certification;
- A bachelor's degree is not required (although it may be preferred by some employers);
- Native-English speakers from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa are preferred but not required. Non-natives will be expected to be fluent in English and speak at a native level;
- A valid passport
Let's expand on each of these Costa Rica ESL teaching requirements and qualifications below:
1. TEFL Certification
A TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification is required to teach English in Costa Rica. Getting TEFL certified will provide you with the relevant training and qualifications you need to get hired by a reputable school in Costa Rica and should leave you feeling confident in your abilities to provide ESL lessons to your students.
Which TEFL course is right for me?
Most job interviews in Costa Rica are conducted on the ground, in-person, therefore it is common for students to take our 4-Week In-Person TEFL Course in Heredia, Costa Rica. Taking this course means you are already in Costa Rica and can begin interviewing during your TEFL training, or immediately at course completion. Another popular option is our 170-Hour Online TEFL Course which you can take online from home. This course is part-time, which means you can still work and save some extra money in anticipation of your departure to Costa Rica, whenever that may be.
2. Language Requirements
If you are a qualified, non-native English speaker, you can be considered for ESL teaching jobs in Costa Rica. Non-natives will be expected to be fluent in English and speak at a native level. Although not required, native English speakers with citizenship from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa may still be preferred by some employers.
3. Degree Requirements
A bachelor's degree is not required to teach English in Costa Rica and your TEFL certification should be enough to successfully gain employment as an ESL teacher. Please note, while a bachelor's degree is not a requirement, some employers may still prefer that you have one.
4. Required Documents & Visas
Tourist visas are the most common for English teachers to work on in Costa Rica, however, they have to be renewed every 90 days. To renew a tourist visa in Costa Rica, you will need to leave the country before your tourist visa expires by visiting a neighboring country - this is known as "border hopping". Upon entry back into Costa Rica, your passport will be stamped with a new tourist visa. Working on a tourist visa in Costa Rica is different than most countries as it is technically legal to do so because teachers are allowed to “sell their professional services” without getting a work visa.
For Americans, Canadians, and most citizens of Western European nations, you can obtain your tourist visa upon arrival in Costa Rica.
Tax I.D. Number for Teaching English in Costa Rica
Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will need to get a tax I.D. number at the Tributación. The Tributación is a government office that oversees income taxes in Costa Rica. Each city in Costa Rica has a branch and it is important that you register here in order to receive a tax identification number. This enables you to work legally in Costa Rica, though you will still need to leave the country every 90 days to renew your tourist visa.
Teachers in Costa Rica only have to pay taxes if they make more than $8,000 per year so many do not end up having to pay taxes, but you still must be registered in order to work legally. It should be noted that many teachers and schools find creative ways to report just enough income to avoid paying taxes.
To receive your tax number:
- You do not need to wait until you have a job to register however, you do need to have a local address. You must visit and register at the Tributación in the same city as listed in your local address.
- Bring your passport, a copy of your passport, and your local address in order to register.
- Once you receive your tax number, take it to a print shop and have a book of receipts made. This is how you will log your hours. Each time you receive payment from your school, you will give them a receipt from this book.
Additional Reading: To learn more about the Costa Rica visa process, please read: What Type of Visa Do I Need to Teach English in Costa Rica?
5. Age Requirements
In some countries, a teacher's age can play a factor in the hiring process, but this is not the case for Costa Rica which makes it a great option for teachers 40+ (or even nearing retirement age) looking to teach English abroad. Tourist visas have no age restrictions enforced on them!
6. Prior Teaching Experience
While prior teaching experience can help you stand out on your resume, you do not need it to teach English in Costa Rica. Your TEFL certification training will provide you with the relevant qualifications you need to get hired by a school in Costa Rica.
Any reputable TEFL certification course should include a mandatory practicum component to help gain firsthand experience practice teaching with real non-native English speakers. This will prepare you for the classroom and leave you feeling confident in your ability to deliver well-structured ESL lessons to your students. This practice teaching can count as teaching experience and should be highlighted on your resume.
7. Physical Requirements
A health screening and/or drug test are not required to teach English in Costa Rica.
An accomplished traveler (she's visited 40 countries!), Lynda hails from Melbourne, Australia. Since she joined ITA in 2017, Lynda has become a primary expert on the field of teaching English online. Not only has she published numerous articles on the topic herself, but she has worked with International TEFL Academy alumni around the world to produce an entire library of information and content about teaching English online. Lynda also serves as a primary organizer of ITA's ground-breaking Teach Abroad Film Festival.
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