Free Trade Zones Lang & Asociados

Documents, information and procedures required in order to apply as a Free Trade Zone Company in Costa Rica

In order for a company to apply as a beneficiary of the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) regime, there are some requirements and procedures that need to happen/be met previously or at the same time than the Free Trade Zone application is being prepared and discussed at Procomer (government entity in charge of the Free Trade Zone Regime in Costa Rica), no matter if such company is a a manufacturing, trading or service company:

(i) Incorporate or have an already incorporated and registered Costa Rican Company: Incorporating a Costa Rican corporation must be the first step to comply with this requirement, since the name and the corporate I.D. number of the company will be necessary in order to file the FTZ application, as well as the environmental feasibility application, among others. It is also ideal for you to have in place for such company a sufficient power of attorney for an individual who is located in Costa Rica or travels to the country often, so needed documents and administrative procedures can be executed promptly and efficiently. If applying as a manufacturing or service operation, it is also very important for the applicant to be a new company, not operating nor registered as a tax payer with the Costa Rican Tax Authorities;

(ii) Having separate facilities affected by the FTZ regime: The facilities and all their areas need to be subject to and/or be authorized either inside a Free Trade Zone Park or directly as such a Park, with Procomer. Such facilities must be clearly separate and independent from other facilities used by other companies not under the free trade zone regime;

(iii) Environmental feasibility application (SETENA): This is not required for all cases; we will need to evaluate the specific scenario in order to determine applicability. In order to be able to apply for the FTZ regime, this environmental application has to be previously filed before SETENA (this is the Costa Rican Environmental Entity in charge of this kind of applications and environmental permits);

(iv) Drafting, preparation and filing of the FTZ application: The application process for the FTZ Regime will require commitments on minimum expenditures in capital assets, minimum employment levels, indicating specific operation dates, as well as other legal documentation such as specific affidavits and certificates of powers of attorney for the applicant, among others. The application form will also require descriptions on all of the productive processes in which the company will engage;

(v) Additional information and requirements that are needed in order for the company to file the application as a manufacturing and services company: Some additional documentation and information would be required if the application is for manufacturing and services company, such as specific affidavits, operational certifications (if applicable) and a letter explaining and justifying the specific strategic sector in which the operation is classified (if applicable);

(vi) Additional documentation/procedures related with the FTZ application: Further to the above indicated, other documents and procedures directly related with the FTZ application will need to be produced and/or take place. The application must be signed by a representative of the company with enough powers of attorney to do so, and holding a valid and current digital signature, which can only be obtained by a Costa Rican legal resident or citizen. The company’s legal representative will also have to sign a sworn declaration, as required by the Costa Rican Customs Authority, and additional documentation (i.e. clarification letters) on specific matters regarding the application may be required by Procomer during the process;

(vii) Registration with CCSS, zoning permit, health permit, and municipal operation permit: These procedures and permits are not required in order to file and obtain the FTZ status. However, in order for the applicant to obtain the tokens required in order to import –without paying customs duties- as a beneficiary of the FTZ Regime, at the time the FTZ approval is authorized and granted to the company, the company must be already registered as an employer with the Costa Rican Social Security Agency (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which is also denominated “CCSS”).

Additionally, in order to operate in Costa Rica, the company must file and obtain: (i) the zoning permit (“uso de suelo”) from the Municipality where the facilities are located (this is a pre-requirement for the health permit); (ii) the health permit (“permiso de salud”) from the local office of the Ministry of Health (this is a pre-requirement for the operation permit); (iii) the operation permit from the Municipality where the facilities are located (“permiso municipal de operación” or “patente”), which is the final permit, and is required in order to legally operate a business in Costa Rica, including FTZ companies.

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