Before 2022, Costa Ricans traveling to the European Union don’t require a visa. At the end of 2022, that changes, and the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) comes into effect.

The process of visiting the European Union is still relatively straightforward for Costa Rican citizens, but there are a few requirements that you need to be aware of.

The ETIAS Visa Waiver Program

ETIAS is a travel authorization program that gives successful applicants access to countries in the Schengen Zone for no more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

It allows Schengen countries to operate under combined border control laws and means that someone who has been granted access to one country in the Schengen Area can freely visit all of them, providing their stay doesn’t exceed 90 days.

You will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver if you are a citizen of Costa Rica and plan to visit the Schengen Zone.

What are the Requirements for Costa Rican Citizens?

Costa Ricans applying for an ETIAS visa waiver must have a valid passport that has at least 3 months remaining. They will also be asked to pay a small fee using a credit or debit card and their details will be checked against international security databases before they are allowed to travel to Europe.

If you enter your passport details correctly during the ETIAS application process and are honest every step of the way, you shouldn’t have any issues. However, you may be refused access if you have any serious crimes on your record, including violent offenses and those related to drug smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism.

The ETIAS application was designed to weed out serious offenders and provide protection for all Schengen member countries. It won’t refuse access for minor offenses and this is generally not something that you need to worry about.

Who Will Need an ETIAS?

All Costa Rican citizens must apply for ETIAS authorization before traveling to the Schengen area. Residents from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more than 50 other countries also need a visa waiver before they travel.

What’s the Difference Between the Schengen Zone and the European Union?

Europe has a few different unions, and these can get complicated for outsiders.

There are a few key things to remember:

  • All countries in the continent of Europe are not members of the European Union (EU).
  • EU member states are not automatically members of the Schengen Area.
  • The Schengen Area includes 22 of the 27 EU member states and while most of the remaining ones are expected to join at some point, that’s not true for all of them.
  • Four countries outside of the EU (but within continental Europe) are members of the Schengen Area.

Take the United Kingdom and Ireland as an example. The UK, which includes Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland, is no longer part of the EU and is also not a member of the Schengen Zone. It is part of Europe, but the ETIAS does not apply.

Ireland, which is connected by a land border to Northern Ireland, is part of the EU but it’s not part of the Schengen Area.

Croatia is another great example. It is an EU member and has met the requirements to join the Schengen Agreement, but it has not yet signed. That is expected to change by 2024 but until it does, the requirements for Costa Rican citizens visiting Croatia will be different from the requirements for visiting other EU countries.

Can Costa Ricans Travel to Spain?

Costa Rican citizens need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver before traveling to Spain.

Spain is a massively popular travel destination for Costa Ricans. They speak the same language and while their cultures and histories are different, they are more related than those in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other popular destinations in Europe.

The nature of the ETIAS means that approved Costa Ricans are free to travel over the Spanish border and into nearby countries, including Portugal and France.