Costa Rica

Costa Rica has had political and economic stability for many years with a relatively high standard of living. This has made the country an attractive destination in Central America, that is to say, a basically destination country with the highest percentage of intra-regional immigrants. It has a population of 4,301,712 inhabitants, according to the 2011 Census.


The registered foreign population living in Costa Rica reached 385,899 people in 2011, which represents 8.97% of the total population of the country. The Nicaraguan population represents the largest population, if we speak in relative terms it represents 6.7% of the total population of the country.

Evolution of immigration in Costa Rica 2000 and 2011
(Total number of foreigners registered and living in Costa Rica)


 Country of originPopulation 2000 (1)Percentage of totalMasculinity index (per 100 women)Population 2011 (2)Percentage of totalMasculinity index (per 100 women)
5The Savior8,7142.9859,4242.482
 Other countries35,69412.09845,04711.792


Sources: Own elaboration with data from:
(1) Data from the 2000 National Population Census of Costa Rica, obtained from: CELADE-Population Division. Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), Investigation of International Migration in Latin America (IMILA) , [accessed February 18, 2009] 
(2) Source: X Census National Population 2011 of Costa Rica. In
The masculinity index is the comparison of men versus women in a given territory, expressed as a percentage. It is calculated using the formula: I {male} = (male / female) * 100. For Colombia for every 100 women we have 97 men in 2000.

If we compare the two periods indicated, it can be observed in the table that Colombian immigrants have surpassed those of El Salvador, the United States and Panama, as the second country of origin of migrants in Costa Rica. It should be noted that this population almost tripled. But in relative terms it only occupies 4.3% of the total immigrant population of the country. In the same way, for 2011, the flows of total immigrant women is 51.8%, surpassing that of men.

The results presented in the 2011 Census indicate that the growth rate of immigrants decreased significantly in relation to the previous intercensal period. Going from an annual average of 7.5% in the 1984 – 2000 period to 2.4% annually for the 2000 – 2011 period.

Making a comparison between the data of the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) and the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners (DGME), it is observed that the differences between the population with a legal stay and without a legal stay are very insignificant in absolute numbers.

Migrant population residing in the country by the INEC (years 2003 – 2011)

Sources: Table 2, Migration and Integration in Costa Rica: National Report 2011, DGME, Integrated Immigration System (SINEX) and X National Population Census 2011

Costa Rica, in addition to being an important destination for intraregional migration, is also a transit country for migrants, especially from the Andean region, the Southern Cone and to a lesser extent, the Caribbean. Although extracontinental migrants have a certain presence in unauthorized migration (mainly from India, China and Bangladesh), the figures on rejections and deportations show that the volume of this flow is minimal and, in fact, most of the migration without stay legal corresponds to intracontinental flows.


The Central Bank of Costa Rica estimates that at least 75% of Costa Ricans who have emigrated have moved to the United States, while the rest of them have settled in Canada and European countries.

Costa Ricans abroad
(People over 15 years old)

2000 (OECD) 12005 (2)2010 (2)
USA68,068 187,689
Others8,433 62,311

(2) Socioeconomic Aspects of Family Remittances in Costa Rica 2010. Economic Division, Central Bank of Costa Rica


One of the important elements for the construction of the balance of payments is the accounting of remittances from both inflows and outflows (formal and informal). Both the Costa Ricans who send money to their families, as well as the residents in Costa Rica who send to other countries. That is why the direct relationship between immigrants and remittance flows is evident. Nicaragua with the highest number of immigrants in Costa Rica, in 2010 represented 77% of total remittances sent, followed by Colombia (6%) and others (16%). Now the incoming remittance flows come mainly from the United States with 71%. (Central bank)

In 2010, the Central Bank counted the incoming remittances from relatives to Costa Rica at 526.5 million dollars, while the outflows of remittances reached a total of 238.9 million dollars.

Outflow of family remittances and capital transfers by country of destination
Data in dollar units – Annual 2010

Cash remittances (formal means)151,056,540 15,095,150 33,889,561 200,041,252
Cash remittances (informal means)20,598,619 0 3,351,715 23,950,334
In-kind remittances13,264,536 28,890 1,692,785 14,986,212

Entry of family remittances by sending country
Data in dollar units – Annual 2010

Cash remittances (formal means)288,710,727 124,756,542 413,467,269
Cash remittances (informal means)72,177,682 25,552,545 97,730,227
In-kind remittances11,351,431 3,977,934 15,329,365





In the 2012 Report on Trafficking in Persons, Costa Rica ranks at level 2 of the classification of the United States Department of State, that is, it is part of those countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards related to crimes human trafficking but go to considerable lengths to comply. 1

The victims of the crime of trafficking come from Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Russia and the Philippines. From Costa Rica, human trafficking extends to Mexico, the United States and Canada. The entrances are produced by the ports and tourist areas that, normally, are less guarded and in the border areas between Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. 2

1. Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012, Introductory Material , pp. 14-17; 21-22, 
2. Save the Children, Updated Report on Human Trafficking in Nicaragua 2010 , 1st ed., Managua, 2011, p. 28,