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Map of Costa Rica

Customs Regulations

Entry and Documentation...

Import licenses are not required for most products, however, pharmaceuticals, drugs, cosmetics, chemical products (solvents and precursor chemicals) require an import permit from the Costa Rican Ministry of Health. Food products that are newtomarket require registration and phytosanitary and health certification. These permits must be obtained by the Costa Rican importer.Import permits from the Ministry of Health are valid for five years. Arms and munitions require a license from the Costa Rican Ministry of Security. Upon the presentation of an import license and the appropriate documentation, Costa Rican customs officials will classify the products, assess the relevant duties, and finalize the entry.

Documentation ... Costa Rican customs officials require no special documentation for entry of goods other than commercial invoices, bills of lading, and air waybills for shipments irrespective of cargo value. Mail shipments require postal documentation. Bulk agricultural products require phytosanitary certificates. Import permits from the Ministry of Health are provided after presentation of certificate of analysis (quantitative quality certificates) for chemicals (toxic substances, insecticides, pesticides and agricultural inputs). Cosmetics, dairy food products, and freesale certificates are also required, all of them authenticated by a Costa Rican consulate.

Tariff Classification

Tariff classification is based on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System generally referred to as the Harmonized System.


Import taxes are calculated as follows:

  • Ad valorem duties - levied on CIF value
  • Selective consumer tax - levied on CIF value and the import duties
  • Sales tax - Levied on the combined CIF value, import duties, and the selective consumer taxes



    Surcharge (Law 6966) - levied on CIF value only.

Tariff Ranges

As a member of the System of Central American Integration (formerly Central American Common Market - CACM comprised of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras) Costa Rica has a common external tariff schedule in which customs duties range from a maximum of 20% ad valorem with a minimum tariff of 5%, with certain exceptions including apparel.

Other Import Charges
Selective consumer taxes for a majority of imported products have been reduced or eliminated. However, certain products face a high consumption tax of 3040%. All imported products face a fixed tax of 1% (called the Emergency Tax), and a domestic sales tax of 10% (scheduled to go up to 15%). Some domestic products are exempt from the domestic sales tax.Tariffs on most bulk grains are low, at 1%. The tariff on milled rice is 55% and is 27% for rough rice.

Temporary Entry

Costa Rica is known as a "maquila" or offshore countryoffering the temporary duty-free of parts for assembly and subsequent re-export.Other kinds of temporary entries, such as samples for exhibitions or demonstrations, need a customs bond covering total import duties of the sample. This bond will be reimbursed to the importer after the goods have been reexported.

Free Trade Zones and Warehouses

Costa Rica operates two free trade zone areas in Limon (Atlantic coast) and Puntarenas (Pacific coast).


Labeling, Marking, and Packaging Requirements
There are no general requirements in Costa Rica for marking the origin of goods or for the labeling of general merchandise. However, special labeling requirements apply to shipments of food products, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, veterinary preparations, vaccines, poisonous substances, and mouthwashes.Costa Rican food labeling laws require that all imported food products have labeling in Spanish with the following specifications: product name, list of ingredients in quantitative order (nutritional, name and address of importer, expiration or best-if-used-by dates and weight).Phytosanitary (USDA/APHIS) or zoosanitary (USDA/FSIS) certificates are required for imports of bulk grain, fresh horticultural products, or fresh/frozen meats. Pharmaceutical samples for promotional purposes may be dispensed only to doctors, dentists, and veterinarians; these samples may not be sold and may only be distributed by accredited doctors. Packages of fertilizers must bear the authorization number of the Directorate General for Agriculture and Livestock and its "seal of guarantee", plus certain other information. Geographic names may be used on labels only when the products come from the place of origin indicated.Packages coming into Costa Rica may be marked with either stencil or brush. Weights need not be shown on packages, but each must bear a mark and be numbered. There are no other general requirements regarding how shipments must be marked. Common shipping practices should be followed. In general, all identifying marks, including the consignee's mark with port marks, should be inscribed plainly on the packages to facilitate arrival of the shipment.

Technical Standards

Costa Rica uses U.S. and European commercial and product standards.

Restricted or Prohibited Products

The Government of Costa Rica prohibits the importation of used tires without wheels. This is a sanitary regulation aimed at protecting the country from the yellow fever mosquito. Besides this prohibition, there are no other restrictions on the importation of products.

Export Controls

Costa Rican exports must be registered with the Central Bank, mainly for statistical purposes. Further, the Government maintains export controls on some products. Exports of livestock, wood and ornamental plants require a license from the Ministry of Agriculture. Metal scrap is subject to an export license from the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines. Coffee exports are regulated by the National Costa Rican Coffee Institute (INCAFE). Sugar exports are regulated by the sugar cane organization known as "Liga Agricola de la Carta de Azucar" (LAICA). Gold cannot be exported, and must be sold to the Central Bank at the market rate.


Tariff Preferences

Costa Rica has a free trade agreement with Mexico which eliminates tariffs over 10 years on products traded between the two countries.Costa Rica is also a member of the WTO and therefore agrees to assess the same duty on imports from any other WTO member nation. In addition, Costa Rica is a beneficiary of the CBI which allows duty-free access to the U.S. for most goods manufactured in the Caribbean Basin. The major products exempt from CBI benefits are textiles, apparel, watches and petroleum products. Costa Rica benefits from free trade with Central American common market countries. Costa Rica has begun negotiating a free trade agreement with Colombia and Venezuela.


Direccion General de Aduanas
Ave. 1 y 3 Calle 12 y 14
Edificio Centro 1
P.O. Box 5016
1000 San Jose
Phone: 233-6014
Fax: 233-6014

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