Expanding Driving Privileges for Foreigners: Key Changes in Costa Rica’s License Regulations

The Costa Rican Government is on the brink of enacting substantial updates to the Law governing foreign driver’s licenses. Bill of Law N. 23531 seeks to amend Article 91 of the Transit Law, addressing the validity and privileges of foreign driver’s licenses. Following its approval in the first debate, anticipation grows for its imminent approval in the second and final debate.

This legislation has garnered support from influential institutions like the Ministry of Tourism, arousing significant interest within the expat community. At Blue Zone Legal, we anticipate the adoption of these new rules by the first trimester of 2024, confident that they will significantly streamline the daily lives of expatriates and tourists in Costa Rica.

Article 91 has long posed challenges for the expat community, imposing a three-month limit on driving privileges based on foreign licenses, irrespective of the duration of their authorized stay. The proposed reform aims to revolutionize this, allowing foreigners to drive vehicles corresponding to their foreign license categories for the entire authorized period of their stay in Costa Rica. Additionally, the bill will officially recognize digital driver’s licenses if issued by the country-of-origin.

The project aims to eliminate the restrictive three-month limit and extend the validity of foreign driver’s licenses based on various categories of stay:

  • TOURISTS: Visitors from countries with up to a 90-day tourist visa can drive legally for their entire stay. Similarly, tourists from nations with the new 180-day tourist visa will enjoy driving privileges for the same duration, eliminating the need for a border run at the 90-day mark.
  • DIGITAL NOMADS & ESTANCIA VISA HOLDERS: These individuals, including digital nomads and other specific visa holders (such as business agents, press professionals, religious, and academic), will be entitled to a full year of driving legality without the need for license homologation.
  • TEMPORARY & PERMANENT RESIDENTS: While residents will still need to homologate their foreign driver’s license, the requirement for a minimum uninterrupted 90-day stay in Costa Rica will be eliminated.
  • APPLICANTS “IN TRAMITE”: Those awaiting resolution of their case file at DGME can continue using their foreign driver’s license until they receive the final resolution without leaving the country.

For inquiries about this reform, contact us at: info@bluezonelegal.com

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