Summary of the Permitting Process

The current infrastructure for administering the natural resources of Costa Rica is based on 10 geographically defined conservation areas within a single umbrella, SiNAC (Sistema Nacional Areas Conservación). The table lists national parks and biological reserves within each conservation area as well as contact addresses and phone numbers. Territory administered by each area also includes other wildlife refuges, forest reserves, indigenous reserves, etc. that are not included in the table. SINAC is one of several units within MINAE (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía).

The Costa Rican permitting process for carrying out field research changes frequently. We do our best to keep up with these changes. For this reason, you should consult these pages frequently to keep aware of updates. Disclaimer: This information is provided to help you tread through the red tape, but we cannot guarantee that an applicant will be successful in obtaining a research permit.

The instructions below are paraphrased for the non Spanish speaker from the official document, Cláusulas Especiales. The original contains current instructions for both research permits and exportation permits. Procedures for obtaining export permits are described elsewhere.

The following steps have been successful in the past:
1. Request from the dean of your college a letter (Carta de la Institución) written in Spanish stating that you are a graduate student from that institution, participating in my field research course at The University of Texas at Austin. (This sample letter, signed by the Dean of the College, is a request by a professor to take students on the list from his department, with him. Modify the letter as needed to fit your situation.)
2. Send this letter to the nearest Costa Rican consulate* along with a cover letter requesting that the dean's letter be certified and authenticated (allow about one month). Phone the consulate and ask if you need to include a fee for this service or if you will pay separately at the office when you pick up your permit in San José. If you do have to include a fee, ask in what form the payment needs to be made (money order, check, etc). Include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. You will receive the letter of authorization from the Costa Rican Consulate (Solicitud Certificada) authenticating both your signatures and that of your institution.
3. Prepare a brief (1-2 page) project description (Proyecto de Investigación) in Spanish.
4. Complete the three page form (Ventanilla única). Copy and paste this form to your word processor or print and fill it out by hand. It can not be submitted electronically.
5. Include a photocopy of your passport with your application.
6. Send all of the above (copy of passport, letter from your institution, solicitud certificada, project description, and Ventanilla única) and two more passport size photos to Ventanilla única office** (their equivalent of our Parks and Wildlife Department) early enough to arrive at least one month before arriving in Costa Rica (allow 3-4 weeks for mail in transit).
7. Make several copies of the complete set of documents to take with you in case the mailed set does not arrive or is misplaced. Go to the Ventanilla única office*** to pick up your permit as soon as possible after your arrival in Costa Rica. Be prepared to spend several extra days in San José if your documents did not arrive early enough or if they have not yet been processed.

*Costa Rican Consulate
3000 Wilcrest, Suite 112
Houston, TX 77042
713-266-0484
266-1527 FAX
**Javier Guevarra
Sr. Encargado
Ventanilla única de Investigaciones
Vida Silvestre
Apdo. 11384 - 1000
San José, Costa Rica
phone/FAX 011-(506) 253-5605 (Javier)
011-(506) 234-0973 (Jannette)
***The Ventanilla única office
is located at Avenida 8/10, Calle 25 bis, (an old house behind a large church)
one block east of the MINAE main office.
The former Servicio Parques Nacional,
of which Vida Silvestre was a part,
is now SiNAC, but the former names
are still used locally.

To expedite the process, you should also send copies of the project proposal and 3-page Ventanilla única to

Encargado de Investigaciones
ACOSA
Parque Nacional Corcovado
Puerto Jimenez
Peninsula de Osa
Zona Sur
Costa Rica

Thanks to Rodolfo Quiros for providing addresses, phone numbers, and extensive editorial comments.
Permits: Cláusulas Especiales | Proyecto de Investigación | Carta de la Institución | Ventanilla única | Export Permits | Addresses/Phones |

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18 May 00
Lecture Hall at UT Austin
For further information, contact: lgilbert@mail.utexas.edu