How to be a nurse in Costa Rica?


I've been searching for a thread on this, but I could only find the opposite. If I get my Associate's in Nursing here in the U.S. (Florida, to be exact), what would I have to do to become a nurse in Costa Rica? (Btw, I might wait to get my bachelor's)

I assume there's more to it than applying to a hospital.

suzanne4, RN

26,410 Posts

You will need to have your bachelor's degree to meet their requirements for immigration to work there. You have to go thru a licensing process as well as pass an exam in Spanish to prove your language skills.

Applying for a job should not be considered until you get licensed there.

You can contact their equivalent of the BON to find out the specifics of registration there and if even possible for you to do.


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Crymar09, I'm just curious, what motivates you to work in Costa Rica?

I'm also a nursing student, and I am also interested in possibly living in Costa Rica after I get my Bachelor's degree. Costa Rica appeals to me because it is the only country dedicated to peace. Costa Rica is also very environmentally-minded and is on the way to becoming the first carbon-neutral country. About 12% of the land is in national parks! They also have a good healthcare system.  

Anyway, I was kind of surprised to find another student nurse who is interested in Costa Rica!


I have my nursing degree recognized by the University of Costa Rica and did a 1 yr social service assignment in order to have an unconditional license to practice nursing in C.R. This happened in 1996, Sept. thru Sept. 1997. It is not a quick process, considering I began transactions for the degree recognition in Sept. of 1994. At the time when my degree was recognized, the country had just passed a new requirement for "new grads" of all health-related professionals to have them serve the one-year mandatory social service. I got a typical new grad salary for that year. I had already worked as a professional nurse with a BSN since June 1988. While I was there, I learned many interesting things. I'll share what I think is a VERY important detail. There are much more professionally prepared nurses than there are budgeted monies to pay for positions in their national health care system. There are a lot of nurses there who continue to work in positions they are overqualified for, waiting for someone to retire, die, or for more money to become available for a new position to be created.

I did not have to take any exams to show my Spanish proficiency. Currently, my license in C.R. is considered inactive, and as far as I am aware, at any point, if I should want to return and activate it, I could do so, paying the indicated fees, of course. Many would consider that I was "lucky" to have had the one-year service assignment that I received, and I certainly agree in a way. I could have even received a continuation in that position, but there are more details that I will go into only if someone is interested.

All that being said. I don't regret for one minute the 15 months I lived in C.R. I still consider it my second home. The process of getting there can be daunting, though, and not for anyone who is impatient.


2 Posts

I would like to know if I live here in Costa Rica and travel back and forth to the USA to work.

I have been here for four years and was under the impression that you had to have residency status in order to work legally in CR.

If not, can you give me some advice on how to obtain my license here?
I am an RN with almost 25yrs experienced ER/Trauma/ICU

You are correct, as far as I understand things. I lived and worked there from Sept. 1996-Sept. 1997. I did a one year social service that each "new grad" nurse and any other health care professional was required to do at that time. I had actually graduated from nursing school in 1988, but since my degree was recognized by the U.C.R. in May of 1996, I was considered a new grad. Anyway, I submitted to the yr. of social service and worked there and got paid, but when it came time for me to renew my "contract" with the county where I had been working, somehow, the subject of my not having a work permit came into play. I was planning to marry a C.R. man at the time, so we just moved up the date for our marriage to expedite my residency and, thus, the work permit. But the beaurocracy took so much time that the position needed filling before I could produce the work permit, and I lost my position. Regardless, what I understand is that there are many more graduated/professional nurses living in C.R. than what the system can pay for, so there are many overqualified people working in nurse aid positions waiting for a budgeted position to open up, so I can't imagine that a foreign nurse would be too welcome into the workplace by the peers. Good luck with whatever you pursue, though.



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Thank you so much for your speedy reply.

I agree with you; things are tough here for Ticos/as.

I do feel the same; foreign nurses are not really welcomed here. Understandably so.

Again, thank you

My husband's family is from Costa Rica, and we just got back from there. I am an NP. They do not seem to have an NP role there. The closest I heard was a sort of WHCNP-type role, but I don't think they could prescribe meds. Similar to the nurse situation, they also have an abundance of doctors there, so I don't know if they would ever develop an NP role as we have in the US.


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sherryann said:
Was just wondering, I live here in Costa Rica and travel back and forth to the USA to work.

I have been here for four years and was under the impression that you had to have residency status in order to work legally in CR.

If not can you give me some advice on how to obtain my license here.


I am an RN with almost 25yrs experience ER/Trauma/ICU

Hi Sherry Ann,

I am a Nurse Practitioner with dual board certification as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and an Adult Nurse Practitioner. I have been in nursing for 30 years, and my life partner and I are considering moving to Costa Rica within the next 2-3 years. I read that you live in Costa Rica and are traveling back and forth to the States for work. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about your experiences living in Costa Rica. Also, I am not quite ready to give up nursing yet and would be interested in any info you would be willing to share concerning working in the States while living in Costa Rica. Are you working with nurse travel agencies such as cross-country nursing, and what has your experience been with them? Any info you might have would be very much appreciated!

Thank you so much,


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