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Can a Felon Travel to Costa Rica?

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After release from prison and completing their terms of probation, felons are of course allowed to travel freely throughout the U.S.  This is not the case when wanting to travel to another country.

This blog post will cover whether felons are allowed to travel to Costa Rica.

  • Restrictions on Foreign Travel
  • Why Costa Rica?
  • Entering Costa Rica
  • Encouraging Felons to Travel to Costa Rica


Restrictions on Foreign Travel

Traveling outside the U.S. another country after a felony conviction is an interesting question.  There is no set standard for restrictions on felons wanting to visit a foreign country.  It depends on the country they want to visit.

For example, when wanting to travel to Canada, the Canadian laws state that anyone with a criminal conviction of any type, felony or misdemeanor, cannot travel freely across the border.

To attempt to do so will result in being turned back at the border.

Canada is heavily invested in protecting its citizens from anyone considered to be an undesirable, namely anyone with a criminal record.

Canada’s laws often come with severe penalties for its citizens in in terms of a prison sentence.  This has led them to be very strict with those, especially felons from other countries, particularly the U.S.

This doesn’t mean that all countries are as restrictive as Canada.  Each country is different in their restrictions placed on felons desiring to enter their country.

Another previous blog post addressed the issue of whether felons could obtain a passport, allowing them to travel outside the U.S.

Felons are able to get a passport with certain exceptions.

Those convicted of a drug related felony who crossed the U.S. border in committing the crime, are subject to federal arrest, or are restricted from leaving the country as part of their sentence or probation cannot obtain a passport.

Felons who have an outstanding warrant, are considered a flight risk, or are viewed as a danger to themselves or others in any country to which they may be traveling also cannot get a passport.

For those felons who already have a passport but who fall under these guidelines, they can have their passport revoked or restricted.

Any felon who applies for and receives a passport with any of these restrictions but who lies about them on the application, can also lose their passport.

Other than that felons may legally leave the U.S.

Guidelines for entering another country are the subject of the visa required by each foreign country.

Why Costa Rica?

Why would felons want to visit Costa Rica?  Well, for the same reasons anyone wants to travel there.  Felons may have served time in prison, but they have the same interests as any other U.S. citizen.

Traveling to Costa Rica is no exception.

Costa Rica is a popular destination for tourists from the U.S. for a number of reasons.

Cost Rica is a land with beautiful beaches and is famous for its surfing.  It has lush vegetation, fascinating wildlife, and delicious food.  Costa Rica has been described by some as the happiest country on earth.  It is so peaceful that their government abolished their army in 1949.

Entering Costa Rica

Costa Rica has several requirements all U.S. citizens, regardless of whether they are felons or not, must meet in order to gain entry.

First, the law in Costa Rica states that they must have at least six valid months remaining on their passport when entering the country.

For those entering the country by airplane, they must present their passport upon landing in the country.  Felons will have to demonstrate that they have a return ticket to depart from the country at the end of the trip.  They must also be prepared to pay an exit fee, about $29.

Tourists entering the country by sea must show their passport upon arriving at their port.

For those arriving by car, they are required to show their passport and all vehicle registration information upon entering.

Those U.S. citizens who stay in the country less than 90 days need to have only a passport.  No visa is required.

Any stay by a U.S. citizen of more than 90 days will require a visa, which must be obtained prior to departing form the U.S.

If you’re in a hurry to get your visa or want someone to walk you through the process, I recommend you use this website to help.

Felons would do best if they plan their stay in the country to be limited to less than 90 days in order to not have to be subjected to having their criminal record checked.

For felons especially, their conduct while in Costa Rica is critical.  Of course they will want to stay out of legal difficulties.

This is particularly important for felons because the legal system in Costa Rica is different from that in the U.S.

Events resulting in arrest will land any tourist in jail where it is extremely difficult to post bond.  Those arrested may be required to remain in jail for months before a formal complaint is even filed.

Some say that in Costa Rica, accused are not innocent until proven guilty.

This would obviously result in significant problems for felons who may find it extremely difficult to gain their release.  For those felons ending up in jail, good legal counsel will be necessary.

It is best to strictly obey all laws and be able to leave the country as planned.

Encouraging Felons to Travel to Costa Rica

Families of felons who visit Costa Rica can be helpful to those felons by encouraging them to travel outside the country for a sense of peace and relaxation.

Once the decision has been made to travel to Costa Rica, be supportive of their making the trip.

It is important to remind them that as a traveler to a foreign country, just being there as an American will bring them under more scrutiny.  For this reason and others, they must obey the laws and not draw the attention of the legal authorities to themselves.

Remind them of their commitment to live an honest life and how legal difficulties while in Costa Rica will only defeat these efforts and may result in returning to prison.

Approximately 69% of those released from prison return within the first two years.  Don’t be one of those statistics.

So what do you think about this blog post about how a felon can travel to Costa Rica?  Have you or someone you know been through this experience?  What was that like and were they successful?   Please tell us in the comments below.


5 thoughts on “Can a Felon Travel to Costa Rica?”

  1. How would they know if you are a felon in the first place do they note it on your passport? or is it if you were to get into trouble they would then do a background check?

  2. As long as the sentence was served and older than 10 years, and didn’t involve human trafficking or sex crimes on children, no they wont

  3. So in all honesty felons can get in trouble if Costa Rica finds out about there criminal pass, so in reality it’s illegal to enter Costa Rica with a criminal record .

    • Not true. First of all they will not check if you are not applying for a Visa. You can stay up to 90 days without a visa if you are a US passport holder. Second of all if your felony is over 10 years old they will overlook it.
      If you are trying to move to Costa Rica it’s best to have your criminal record expunged before applying for residency.


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