At an elevation of 3,800 feet, San José, Costa Rica, is hot, but for many, the job opportunities, the ambience, and the after-work climate are even hotter. Peter Harrison, CEO of GlobalLogic, a product development company, describes San José as an outdoor paradise that has everything California has times 10.
What's hot: San José's IT needs are fairly diversified, with banking and financial software particular strengths of local firms. However, there is also a plethora of multinationals in town that includes Intel, Microsoft, and Motorola, and those companies have a variety of openings. For example, a quick check of current jobs available from Intel in San José includes a communications assistant, a U.S. payroll specialist, U.S. payroll coordinator, IT support specialist, and an IT manager.
U.S. and multinational tech companies: As noted, a wide range of U.S. and multinational firms have offices in San José, typically for their local operations.
Red tape: Costa Rica discourages foreigners from taking local jobs, and proving you are not replacing a local can be daunting. According to Costa Rica's Tico Times, however, the only jobs that are not difficult to fill by foreigners are English-speaking tour guides and -- you guessed it -- computer science positions.
Foreigners job seeking in Costa Rica need one of two things. They must get a work permit issued by their employer, or they must apply for residency, preferably through a lawyer. But Harrison says the government makes it fairly easy for those who want to relocate. "In Costa Rica, they give you a visa at the border."
Another more creative way to live and work in Costa Rica is to form your own corporation. Starting your own business in Costa Rica has fewer restrictions than working for an employer. According to Gabriel Rozman, executive vice president for emerging markets at Tata Consultancy Services, creating your own company and contracting your services out to other employers is a good way to relocate to Costa Rica -- and many other Latin countries, for that matter.
Language: Costa Rica has a long, established reputation for doing good IT work, and the locals have excellent English skills relative to other Latin American countries.
Still, although many people speak English, especially in cosmopolitan San José, you will need a solid working knowledge of Spanish if you are setting your sights on an upper management position. If you're hired by a U.S.-based company at a lower level, not knowing Spanish won't be an impediment -- but as always, speaking the local language helps.
Financials: Salaries are lower than in the United States; Harrison says a $100,000 position in the United States will translate into about $65,000 in Costa Rica -- but, Harrison notes, it will have three times the buying power. Upper management positions typically start at $2,000 a month, which lets you afford a house or condo, a car, maid service, and a gardener.