Costa Rica is a well known destination for teaching English abroad as it has a strong demand for TESOL qualified teachers, year-round warm weather, an exceptional ecosystem, and one of the friendliest welcomes in all of Central America. Its close proximity to the U.S. also means it attracts many American teachers who want to stay within a relatively short flight from home. One other important reason why Costa Rica remains so popular is that getting the right paperwork to work legally long-term is not a problem in most cases.
How do I get a job teaching English in Costa Rica?
If you dream of teaching English in beautiful Costa Rica there are a few steps you can follow that should lead you to success. The first and probably most important step is to complete a TESOL certification course. Most employers in Costa Rica and across much of the world expect their teachers to have completed some level of teacher training so they are ready to start work in the classroom immediately and are equipped with all the basic skills and knowledge required to help their students achieve their goals.
There are a large number of schools and language centers in Costa Rica that look to employ foreign ESL teachers and many of them do not advertise their vacant positions outside of the local area. To take advantage of these opportunities many people choose to complete their TESOL training within the country so they are ready on the ground to interview for jobs as soon as the course is complete. Alternatively, you can complete an online TESOL course at home and then fly in and interview for jobs advertised online or found in-person once you arrive.
Check out ITTT’s in-class TESOL course in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
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What do I do to get a teaching job in Costa Rica once I am TESOL qualified?
The next step after TESOL qualification is to start applying for the jobs that you like the look of. As mentioned, many employers in Costa Rica prefer to hire locally following an in-person interview so you will probably need to leave home before you have a job secured. However, there is no need to panic as this is common practice and the demand across the country is very high, so most people have no trouble finding a suitable position within a short time. One great way to get a head start on the competition when looking for teaching jobs is to take advantage of ITTT’s lifetime job support service which provides the following help to all graduates:
- Access to our database of potential employers
- Exclusive leads on unadvertised jobs
- Advice on constructing a high-quality CV or resume
- Advice on writing cover letters
- Assistance with planning trial lessons for job interviews
- Consultation on potential job contracts
Take a look at the following post for more information: How does the lifetime job support service work?
What visa will I need to work legally as an ESL teacher in Costa Rica?
Unlike most other common ESL teaching destinations, Costa Rica allows foreign teachers to work in the country on a standard tourist visa which can be obtained on arrival at the airport by many nationalities including Americans, Canadians, and most Western Europeans. The only major downside of this arrangement is that the visa is only good for 90 days at a time. However, to renew it you simply need to cross over the border into a neighboring country such as Panama or Nicaragua and then re-enter Costa Rica where a new 90-day stamp will be issued.
The only other bit of housekeeping required to teach legally in Costa Rica is to obtain a tax I.D. number, which can be done either before or after you have found a job. To get your tax number you need to visit a government tax office (Tributación), which can be found in every city. The starting point for actually paying tax is currently $8,000 per year, although many schools and individual teachers are very creative when it comes to reporting earnings to avoid going over the threshold. To get a tax number in Costa Rica you will need to:
- Visit the Tributación in the same city as your local address which you will also need to register with the tax authorities.
- Bring along your passport and copies of the main pages.
- Once you are given a tax number you will need to get a book of receipts from a local print shop. The book is used to record your hours and whenever you are paid you issue a receipt from the book to the employer.