More information about Costa Rica is available on the Costa Rica Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
U.S.-COSTA RICA RELATIONS
The United States established diplomatic relations with Costa Rica in 1851, following Costa Rica’s independence from Spain and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states. A strong democracy of more than five million people with deep ties to the United States, Costa Rica is an important, committed partner on key U.S. priorities in the region, including security, prosperity and governance, democracy and human rights, addressing root causes of migration, migration management, and climate change.
Costa Rica has an attractive trade and investment climate, is one of the strongest and most reliable voices in Latin America on human rights and rule of law and has been a key partner in the fight against transnational crime and drug trafficking. The country has a strong tradition of independent journalism, ranking first in Latin America and 8th of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
The United States and Costa Rica work together closely to address the increasing challenges presented by drug trafficking and irregular migration. In 2021, Costa Rica was a top transit country for drugs entering the United States, with narcotics trafficking increasing during the global COVID-19 pandemic and related corruption concerns posing a serious challenge. Costa Rica has welcomed migrants and refugees, mostly from Venezuela and Nicaragua, and is also experiencing extracontinental migration as a transit country.
Costa Rica is a major destination for U.S. retirees and tourists. It is estimated that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 120,000 private U.S. citizens, including many retirees, resided in the country; and more than 1.3 million U.S. citizens visited Costa Rica annually. During 2021, 64 percent of Costa Rica’s foreign visitors were from the United States. As of July 2022, Costa Rica has recorded more than 8,000 deaths due to Covid-19. Costa Rica has one of the highest vaccination rates in the region, with 80.6 percent of the eligible population receiving at least two vaccine doses as of June 2022.
The United States has donated over 1.5 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to Costa Rica and provided more than $6.3 million in COVID-19 assistance, including health assistance and humanitarian assistance to support refugees, vulnerable migrants, and host communities.
In July 2022, Peace Corps volunteers returned to Costa Rica for the first time since the evacuation of all volunteers in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
The United States and Costa Rica continue to collaborate to combat the trafficking of Costa Rican antiquities into the United States and to broaden our bilateral engagement on cultural heritage issues under a Cultural Property Agreement signed in January 2021.
U.S. Migration Policy Towards Costa Rica and the Region
Costa Rica was the first Latin American country to sign a migration arrangement committing to work with the United States and other countries to collectively manage migration in the region. Additionally, during the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, the Government of Costa Rica publicly endorsed the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection which commits states to protecting the safety and dignity of all migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons, regardless of their migratory status and acknowledges that addressing irregular migration requires a regional approach. The U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration and the U.S. Collaborative Migration Management strategy are the principal frameworks guiding U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in Costa Rica and across Central America. These strategies support Costa Rica in addressing the challenges it faces as both a destination and transit country for migrants.
The Root Causes Strategy focuses on a coordinated, place-based approach to improve the underlying causes that push Central Americans, including many of Costa Rica’s neighbors, to migrate. This strategy lays out a framework to use the policy, resources, and diplomacy of the United States and to leverage the expertise and resources of a broad group of public and private stakeholders to build hope for citizens in the region that the life they desire can be found at home. The strategy is organized under five pillars:
- Pillar I: Addressing economic insecurity and inequality;
- Pillar II: Combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance, and advancing the rule of law;
- Pillar III: Promoting respect for human rights, labor rights, and a free press;
- Pillar IV: Countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and
- Pillar V: Combating sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence.
The Collaborative Migration Management Strategy (CMMS) works together with the Root Causes Strategy and is the first U.S. whole-of-government effort focused on reducing irregular migration to the U.S. border by promoting safe, orderly, and humane migration, improving access to protection for those fleeing persecution and torture, and strengthening migration cooperation and responsibility-sharing throughout North and Central America. The CMMS aims to enhance international protection and in-country protection, promote temporary labor programs within the region, strengthen lawful pathways for those who choose to migrate or are forcibly displaced from their homes in North and Central America, foster humane border management practices, and reduce irregular migration.
The CMMS includes eight distinct lines of action to strengthen collaborative migration management across North and Central America, including Costa Rica:
- Stabilize populations with acute needs;
- Expand access to international protection;
- Expand access to protection in countries of origin;
- Expand third-country labor migration programs with worker protections;
- Assist and reintegrate returned persons;
- Foster secure and humane management of borders;
- Strengthen regional public messaging on migration; and
- Expand access to lawful pathways for protection and opportunity in the United States.
The United States is working closely with the international community to assist countries, like Costa Rica, that are destination and transit countries for migrants. Since FY 2018, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has provided nearly $42 million in humanitarian assistance to organizations working on migration issues in Costa Rica.
U.S. Assistance to Costa Rica
Beyond migration, U.S. assistance to Costa Rica helps counter drug trafficking and transnational crime, supports economic development, improves governance, and contributes to security in Central America. Since FY 2018, the United States has allocated over $281 million in bilateral, regional, and humanitarian assistance for Costa Rica. A safe, prosperous Costa Rica contributes to regional stability and leads directly to a safer, prosperous United States.
The United States works hand-in-hand with a wide range of Costa Rican government agencies and non-governmental organizations to help secure Costa Rica’s borders, professionalize its police, strengthen its judicial sector, improve its corrections system, and empower at-risk youth and other vulnerable populations.
U.S. embassy programs promote entrepreneurship, economic inclusion, women’s empowerment, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) works closely with Costa Rican security partners to build capacity and assist disadvantaged communities. Through cooperation and assistance from INL and other law enforcement agencies, Costa Rica is confronting its drug trafficking problem, intercepting and confiscating record levels of illicit drugs in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, Costa Rica seized 71 metric tons of drugs, continuing the trend of significantly higher seizure rates in the past two years. Since FY 2018, the United States has allocated over $175 million in bilateral and regional foreign assistance to strengthen and modernize Costa Rica’s security forces, improve local security throughout the country, reduce the influence of corruption, and enhance the justice sector’s ability to investigate and prosecute transnational criminals. This assistance includes equipment donations, training, citizen security programs, and technical assistance that enhance Costa Rica’s capacity to confront the growing threat of organized crime and narcotrafficking.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States and Costa Rica are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and further regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency.
The United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner, accounting for 38 percent of Costa Rica’s imports and 42 percent of its exports. Total (two-way) trade in goods between the United States and Costa Rica was $13.9 billion in 2021, and the United States had a goods trade surplus of $808 million. The United States also represents the largest source of tourism and foreign direct investment to Costa Rica. According to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. foreign direct investment in Costa Rica was $2.0 billion in 2020, a slight 1.3% decrease from 2019. U.S. exports to Costa Rica include petroleum products, electrical machinery, optical and medical instruments, machinery, and plastics. U.S. imports from Costa Rica include medical devices, pineapples, bananas, and coffee.
The Embassy supports education, English language, and entrepreneurship programs in Costa Rica like The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), Young Leaders in the Americas Initiative (YLAI), and English language programming which support inclusive economic and workforce development, in support of mutual prosperity goals.
Costa Rica is historically the top destination within the Western Hemisphere for Gilman Scholars— outstanding U.S. undergraduate students with high financial need— to study and intern abroad. Exchange programs sending Costa Rican students and scholars to the United States include: Fulbright Scholar, Fulbright Student, Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI), Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship.
The Embassy supports three American Spaces as well as EducationUSA advising in Costa Rica to support outreach to Costa Rican publics and promotion of U.S. higher education opportunities for Costa Rican students.
Costa Rica’s Membership in International Organizations
Costa Rica and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and World Trade Organization. In May 2021, the United States and other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) welcomed Costa Rica as the OECD’s 38th member state, the result of a multiyear effort by Costa Rica to align its economic policies with OECD recommendations.
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Costa Rica maintains an embassy in the United States at 2114 S Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (tel. 202-480-2200).
More information about Costa Rica is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Costa Rica Page
History of U.S. Relations With Costa Rica
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Human Rights Report: Costa Rica 2020
Investment Climate Statements: Costa Rica