company registration costa rica

How to Register a Company in Costa Rica in 10 Simple Steps

Despite its small size, Costa Rica is an attractive location for doing business. It’s known as one of the most developed and secure countries in Central America with a dynamic economy. We can show you how to register a company in Costa Rica in 10 steps. There are many reasons to expand in the country. Foreign investors who incorporate a company in Costa Rica’s economy might choose to operate in several thriving industries, including technology, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and renewable energy.

Sustainable and green innovation is one of the key reasons to register a company in Costa Rica. Successful examples of green tech include dosmil50, while the eco-tourism industry alone contributes almost USD$1.5 billion a year to the economy. Costa Rica is undoubtedly a world leader in this area.

As a result, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has surged in the past decade, reaching over $3 billion in 2023. It has solid Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Chile, Panama, and Mexico, and is a key member of the Central American Common Market (CACM) with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

If you’re considering doing business in Costa Rica, read on to understand how to register a company in Costa Rica in 10 steps.

Starting a Business in Costa Rica: 3 Types of Companies

Before starting a company in Costa Rica, it’s important that you understand the most common structures. The three most common legal entities in Costa Rica are:

  • Corporation/Joint Stock Companies (Sociedad Anónima – S.A).
  • Limited Liability Company (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada – S.R.L).
  • Branches of foreign companies.

Corporation/Joint Stock Companies (Sociedad Anónima – S.A)

An infographic titled "Costa Rica: Market Snapshot" shows Costa Rica's flag on the upper left and a map in the background. It provides details: population (5.1 million), GDP (USD $69 Billion), GDP per capita (USD $26,809), capital city (San José), major exports (medical instruments, bananas, tropical fruits). A must-see for anyone looking to register a
Register a company in Costa Rica: A snapshot of the country’s economy. LLC formation Costa Rica.

The S.A. is the most common legal entity structure in Costa Rica. Some of its key characteristics:

  • A public document must be drafted with the bylaws and signed by the Public Notary and company shareholders.
  • A minimum of (2) shareholders are required.
  • There is no established minimum capital.
  • A board must be appointed, consisting of three board members and a controlling agent.

The availability of the company name needs to be checked with the National Registry Database.

Limited Liability Company (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada – S.R.L)

The Limited Liability Company has the same requirements as the S.A., with the only exception being the administration; shareholders are required to appoint at least one General Manager. Shares are called quotas and there is no minimum required capital. However, the amount subscribed must be divisible by 100. It’s essential to verify the availability of the company name on the National Registry database.

Branches of Foreign Companies

Branches of foreign companies are incorporated with a public deed signed by the Public Notary and the power of attorney of the foreign company. Due to the complexities of drafting and signing all the agreements, this legal structure is not recommended for SMEs. It is also considered more expensive than other legal entities in Costa Rica.

What are The Minimum Requirements to Incorporate an LLC–SRL in Costa Rica?

The Minimum requirements to incorporate a Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada in Costa Rica – SRL are the following:

  • A name for the new legal entity to be formed.
  • A minimum of (2) shareholders, which can be either natural (i.e. persons) or legal persons (i.e. entities).
  • Appoint a resident director (and where this person is a foreign national, there is a need to also appoint a resident agent, who is a locally educated and certified lawyer).
  • Confirm business activities and corporate purpose.
  • A minimum capital of USD$400, needs to be transferred upon bank account opening.
  • Register a Fiscal Address which must be within the country and is used for official correspondence.

Important Tip(s):

Although the minimum capital is USD 400, we always recommend a minimum capital of USD$1,000, which should be commensurate with the planned business activities of the company.

The founding shareholders do not need to physically travel to the country as the establishment can be completed via a power of attorney signed via DocuSign.

Company Formation in Costa Rica: What Do You Need to Get Started?

To proceed with incorporating an SRL in Costa Rica, you will need to provide the following:

  • A name for your legal entity.
  • Shareholder (s) identification document.
  • Confirm the business activities, corporate purpose, and primary operations.
  • Minimum initial capital to be registered.

Important Tip: We always recommend having a preferred legal name and two alternatives in case the primary legal name is unavailable.

10 Simple Steps to Register/Form a Company in Costa Rica

Registering a company in Costa Rica is easy compared to many other countries. You can handle it remotely with the help of a Power of Attorney and an incorporation agent.

10 steps to form a company in Costa Rica
Ten steps on how to register a company in Costa Rica
  • Step 1 – Pay agency fees when forming your Costa Rican company.
  • Step 2 – Choose the company structure.
  • Step 3 – Search for homonyms of the company name.
  • Step 4 – Sign off on proper documentation.
  • Step 5 – Register an incorporation charter.
  • Step 6 – Open a corporate bank account in Costa Rica.
  • Step 7 – Register as a taxpayer in Costa Rica.
  • Step 8 – Apply for insurance.
  • Step 9 – Register with Costa Rican Social Security.
  • Step 10 – Receive your Costa Rica Company Kit.

1. Pay agency fees when forming your Costa Rican company

If you’re using a firm to help you with the incorporation process, the firm may ask for upfront payment on services to obtain the necessary due diligence documents.

2. Choose the company structure

You need to choose the right company structure for your company’s needs and activities. Following this, you’ll need a project plan draft detailing the timeline and tasks for each week of the incorporation process.

3. Check for homonyms of the company name

A firm will help check for homonyms of your proposed company name and file an application to reserve your company name with the Costa Rica Registrar of Companies.

4. Sign off on proper documentation

The agency will ask you to sign, notarize, and legalize documents from your country of residence. You’ll then return them to the agency for timely documentation registration in Costa Rica.

5. Register an incorporation charter

A company incorporation charter, also called an M&AA, is filed at the mercantile section of the public registry in Costa Rica. The firm can then legalize the company’s bookkeeping.

6. Open a corporate bank account in Costa Rica

Once you’ve successfully incorporated your company, the law firm will open a corporate bank account for the company and deposit the capital to start the business. Additionally, depending on the firm, they might pay incorporation fees to the bank on behalf of your company.

7. Register as a taxpayer in Costa Rica

The agency files a D-140 form to the government to register your company as a legal taxpayer in Costa Rica. The company may let you use their office address for tax purposes until you get an office address in the country for your company.

8. Apply for insurance

After your company hires staff in Costa Rica, the company will be registered for labor risk insurance with the National Insurance Institute.

9. Register with Costa Rican Social Security

Post-incorporation, the firm will register your company as an employer with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).

10. Receive your Costa Rica Company Kit

Ideally, your contracted firm will send you all of the documentation for your company that has been filed throughout the incorporation process.

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A bank account is necessary to register a company in Costa Rica

Common FAQs when forming a company in Costa Rica

Based on our experience, these are the typical questions and areas of uncertainty for our clients.

1. Can a foreigner own a business in Costa Rica?

Yes, a business can be 100% foreign-owned by either legal persons (legal entities) or natural persons (individuals)

2. What is the Costa Rica Company Tax ID (TIN)?

In Costa Rica, there is no specific Tax Identification Number provided by the Tax Authority. The identification used is either the Physical Identification Number of a natural person or the Corporate Identification Number provided by the Public Registry when the company is successfully registered.

3. How long does it take to register a company in Costa Rica?

Once all the required documentation is submitted in Costa Rica, reviewed, and presented to the National Registry, the process of registering a branch can typically be completed within 2 weeks.

4. What does an S.A. company name mean in Costa Rica?

The S.A. in a company name in Costa Rica refers to a Sociedad Anónima, which is similar to a Joint Stock Company. This legal framework establishes the company as a separate entity from its shareholders, with each shareholder possessing shares that represent their ownership stake. Importantly, the financial responsibility of shareholders is confined solely to the value of their shares, crafting a safeguarded boundary. The S.A. structure is famous in Costa Rica for its exceptional adaptability and flexibility, rendering it the favored option for a diverse range of business ventures.

5. What does the SRL company name mean in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, SRL stands for Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada, which is roughly similar to a Limited Liability Company in English. This legal entity operates independently from its shareholders, offering them limited liability. SRL companies are prevalent due to their simplified requirements, making them a popular choice for business structures.

6. What entity types offer Limited Liability in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, both S.A (Sociedad Anónima) and S.R.L (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada) are limited liability entity types.

Comparison of S.R.L. and S.A. Business Entities

ShareholdersA minimum of 2At least two shareholders, three board members, and a comptroller who is not part of the board.
AdministrationNo board of directors, only appointed administrators.A board with at least three members.
LiabilityShareholders are jointly liable for debts up to their contributions.Shareholders are jointly liable for debts up to their contributions.
Transfer of SharesRequire approval from other shareholders.Can be transferred through endorsement without approval.
Company SizeIdeal for smaller companies or those with shareholders outside Costa Rica.Better for larger companies.
Regulatory RequirementsFewer formalization requirements.More stringent regulatory requirements

Register your company in Costa Rica with the help of Biz Latin Hub

Forming a company in Costa Rica can be challenging. Using an incorporation firm to aid you in starting your business can save you time, stress, and money in the long run when you register a company in Costa Rica.

At Biz Latin Hub, our multilingual team of company formation has the expertise and experience to help you with any of your projects. We offer comprehensive legal, recruitment, and tax advisory services to support your business success in the Central American nation and the 15 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where we operate. 

Get in touch with us today for personalized advice and support.

Learn more about our team and expert authors.

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The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.
Legal Team Costa Rica
Legal Team Costa Rica

Legal Team Costa Rica is the Biz Latin Hub leading experts on doing business in Rica The Team writes on the news, doing business, law, and changing regulations. The team are experts in corporate law, Administrative law, Employment law, Immigration law and legal advisory services. Read more about them here. You can contact Legal Team Costa Rica via our "contact us page".

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