Bringing anything into the country involves paperwork – lots of it. Fortunately, plenty of companies in Costa Rica will take care of the annoying details and fees for you when shipping goods into the country.
There are few restrictions on what can be brought into Costa Rica, and restricted items can often be brought in with permission from the Public Health Ministry or other ministries, depending on what kind of products you’re trying to import.
Potentially dangerous goods such as fertilizer require special permission. Bringing in items such as food, medicines and cosmetics for commercial use requires approval from the Health Ministry, according to its Web site (www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr).
Permits can be obtained in person at the ministry offices. Some mail companies will retrieve the documents for a fee. Aerocasillas (208-4848, www.aerocasillas.com), for example, normally charges $5-10 to secure Health Ministry permits, said Johana Gabourel, marketing manager for Aerocasillas.
Anyone who regularly brings in large quantities of a specific restricted item may have to pay a higher registration fee with the Health Ministry, said Gabriela Apuy of Jet Box (253-5400, www.jetbox.com).
International goods brought into Costa Rica are subject to import duties and Customs handling charges. The specific rates for each item depend on its Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value, and the rates are set forth in the Customs duties list. Most mail couriers offer a list of Customs handling rates, which, according to the Aerocasillas Web site, begin at $2 for books and items worth up to $25, and rise to $50 for items worth $1,000 or more.
To find Costa Rican Customs online, go to www.hacienda.go.cr and click on the link “Dirección General de Aduanas,” found on the far right column of the page.
According to Gabourel, a change in regulations made last year allows residents to bring up to $500 worth of goods into the country tax-free once every six months, though the limit includes the item’s cost, the shipping charges according to Customs and any insurance on the item.
The documents for the tax exemption are available from the Customs office at both the country’s international airports, JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport in Alajuela, northwest of San José, and DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
Some mail companies, including Aerocasillas, guide their customers through the process, which requires: an exemption alert form with information about the package and the supplier, to be submitted at least 24 hours before the package arrives; an original identification card or passport and three signed copies; a power of attorney form; and a commercial invoice.
For Costa Rican residents who frequently ship goods into the country, companies such as Aerocasillas and Jet Box, as well as Aeromarine (442-7200, www.aeromarine.net), Air Mail Costa Rica (239-5775, www.airmailcr.com), Mail Boxes Etc. (291-4761, www.mbecr.com) and Star Box (289-9393) rent post office boxes with Miami addresses (see separate story).