Reform to the Traffic Law: Driving Legally in Costa Rica: Foreign Driver’s Licenses and Their Homologation

On May 7, 2024, a reform to the Article 91 of Law 9078, of the Land Traffic and Road Safety Law of October 4, 2012, came into effect. This legal amendment has significant implications in the migratory sphere for foreign individuals entering Costa Rica, whether as tourists or with the intention of establishing themselves temporarily or permanently in the country.

The reform focuses on the article regulating the homologation of foreign driver’s licenses, specifically in the process of “Homologation of licenses issued abroad.” Previously, Costa Rican legislation authorized individuals to drive with a foreign license for a maximum of three months after entering the country. It also allowed the homologation of these foreign permits to a Costa Rican driver’s license once the individual obtained an approved migratory status and their respective Migratory Identity Document for Foreigners (DIMEX). For these purposes, there were a series of requirements, such as having spent a minimum period of three months and one day since their last entry to Costa Rica, prior to the appointment for homologation at COSEVI (Road Safety Council).

However, the reform introduces the following significant modifications:

  1. Individuals entering Costa Rica as tourists or temporarily, who possess a foreign driver’s license, may use this license for the same period authorized by the migratory authorities for the migratory condition with which they entered.
    For example, if a tourist is granted a stay period of up to 180 days, they can use their foreign permit for the entire period, instead of being limited to the previous three months. They also no longer need to perform what was previously known as a “visa run” which involved leaving Costa Rica to renew the passport stamp to continue driving with a foreign permit until being able to obtain the license homologation.
  2. On the other hand, individuals with a foreign driver’s license who have an approved migratory status, or those who have applied for a migratory condition, as well as foreign diplomatic and consular officials and officials of accredited international organizations in the country, may homologate their foreign permit to a Costa Rican driver’s license without needing a minimum period of stay in the country. This means they can initiate the homologation process from the moment of submitting the application, if desired.
    The requirements for homologating a foreign driver’s license include: i) the license to be homologated must be valid, ii) complying with the provisions of the law for the class and type of license to be homologated, except for the obligation to attend the basic road safety education course and take the practical driving test, and iii) proving legal migratory status in the country or being in process according to current migratory legislation.

If you have any questions or need advice on the process of homologating a foreign driver’s license according to the new legislation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Prepared by: Lexincorp Costa Rica

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