Welcome to the page that explains the process of obtaining research permits in Costa Rica. It is a legal requirement that everyone capturing, handling, transporting, observing, teaching in the field, or working with plants, animals, or microorganisms in Costa Rica registers to obtain a ‘research and collecting permit’ from the Costa Rican MINAET office (similar to Fisheries and Wildlife Service in the USA). These permits are valid for 6 months for foreigners and 1 year for Costa Ricans, and can be renewed for the duration of the study. To depart with samples, you must obtain an export permit before leaving the country. To be clear, an approval letter from an OTS station is not sufficient permission to conduct research in Costa Rica.
How to get permits
Step 1. Contact the research site to obtain a letter of support from them. If your research site is an OTS station, please contact the following people at the associated station for the letter. This letter can normally be sent in a few days, but the approval process may require more time if your project includes activities such as destructive sampling, major installations, or collecting vertebrates:
- Palo Verde: Mahmood Sasa (permits.pv @ ots.ac.cr)
- Las Cruces: Zak Zahawi (permits.lc @ ots.ac.cr)
- La Selva: Ronald Vargas (permits.ls @ ots.ac.cr) with the following form
Step 2. Once you have received a site support letter, then send the following form and the items outlined below to Francisco Campos (permits @ ots.ac.cr), who is the Head of General Services at the “CRO” office of OTS in San Jose, Costa Rica. As one of many services he provides from his position in OTS, Francisco will receive all of your electronic and mailed items and then work with the required Costa Rican governmental offices of SINAC, MINAET, CONAGEBIO, CITES, etc. to obtain your permits. Please be sure that all of the required items are sent to Francisco at least 4-6 weeks before you need the permit to allow for processing, correspondence with government offices, and delivery by OTS transport to the research site (except in the case of export permits which should be sent at least 5 business days prior). Please arrange the details of permit delivery with Francisco Campos. Please note that prices listed are for foreigners, and prices for Costa Ricans are explained at the bottom of this page.
OTS cannot provide translation services (for the permit proposals, progress reports, and MINAET forms which must be presented in Spanish). If you have no options at your current location for completing the translation such as Spanish speaking friends or research contacts, please refer to a professional translation service.
Most items can be emailed in electronic format to Francisco. Mailed items (photos, checks, scientific passports, etc.) can be sent most easily via FedEx, UPS, etc. to the following address:
ORGANIZACIÓN PARA ESTUDIOS TROPICALES
Francisco Campos Rivera
Ciudad de la Investigación UCR
Del Super Muñoz y Nanne (San Pedro)
300 mts. Norte y 25 mts. Oeste
Entrada adjunta a LANAMME (Laboratorio Nacional
de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales de la UCR).
400 mts. Norte del portón de acceso, edificio de ladrillo rojo.
San José, Costa Rica
Please note that OTS reserves the right to refuse this service or withdraw at any time for projects that it feels will undermine its relationship with the Costa Rican authorities or the scientific community. Timely submission of documents and burden of proof are the responsibility of the applicant, and OTS will not accept responsibility for delays caused by late application or incomplete documentation.
If you have additional concerns, please feel free to email Francisco or call him directly at (506) 2524-0607, ext. 1310. You also have the option after this point to email Minor Porras (minor.porras @ ots.ac.cr), who is the Operations Coordinator at CRO and oversees permit processing.
Individual and Assistant Research and Collecting Permits
1. Curriculum Vitae - 3 page maximum (English or Spanish ok)
2. Project proposal - A brief (1-6 page) summary of proposed research. Explain the nature and purpose of the project, the collecting details (taxa, numbers, locations, etc.), the people and institutions involved, the intended use and final placement of collected specimens, and a description of techniques to be used for capture, preservation, and study of organisms. Sections should include Title, Introduction, Objectives, and Methods. It is extremely important to include a chronogram (time schedule). (Spanish!)
3. Photos – Passport-sized photos. Only 1 needed for research permit, 2 needed for collecting permit. (Must be original prints, no electronic photos.)
4. Copy of your passport - First pages including personal data and photo
5. Letter of endorsement – Official letter of endorsement from your institution which should be printed on the institution’s letterhead and bear the institution’s seal. If you are conducting your research project with an OTS education program such at REU or NAPIRE, please feel free to request a letter of endorsement from the program in lieu of a letter from your institution. (English or Spanish ok)
6. Property authorization – Written letter signed by the land owner(s) when collecting from private property. (See top of webpage)
7. Payment - A check payable to “Organización para Estudios Tropicales, Inc.” ($75 from member institutions/$100 from non-member institutions), information for your credit card on the following form or a note to include the fee on your bill at an OTS station.
8. Form for MINAET – (Fill out in Spanish)
To include an assistant: also include two passport-sized photos of the assistant (original prints), a copy or scan of their photo and info page of their passport, and additional $35 payment.
Individual Permit Renewal
Renewals should be obtained every 6 months for foreigners and every 1 year for Costa Ricans. There is no restriction on how many times it can be renewed across the duration of the project. Please allow 4-6 weeks after the arrival of all of your submitted materials for processing of the permit renewal.
1. Progress Report - 1 page description of the progress, results, specimens collected, presentations/papers, and future plans of a permit that has already been approved. Be sure to outline the new use of any specimens and explain what was not used in the time that has past. Please take this report seriously so as to maintain the credibility of OTS and its researchers with MINAET. Include a copy of any publications that have arisen from the work since the last renewal. (Spanish!)
2. Copy of the Original Proposal
3. Newly completed MINAET form – (Fill out in Spanish)
4. Your blue “scientific passport” book - Should contain the approval for original proposal
5. If adding a site, new property authorization – Written letter signed by the land owner(s) when collecting from private property. (See top of webpage)
6. Document updates – May include a new institution support letter if you have changed institutions, or an updated CV if there are many new items.
7. Payment - A check payable to “Organización para Estudios Tropicales, Inc.” ($50 from member institutions/$75 from non-member institutions), information for your credit card on the following form, or a note to include the fee on your bill at an OTS station.
If you would like to include an assistant on your renewal permit - also include two passport-sized photos (original prints) of the assistant if the assistant is new to your project and was not involved in the original proposal, a copy or scan of their photo and info page of their passport, and additional $35 payment.
Course Research and Collecting Permits
The process for these permits is the same and uses the same forms as the process for the individual research and collecting permits explained above. Course permits cover all of the participants of a course, but the course coordinator assumes responsibility for all actions of the students and participants. These permits are only valid for projects that are observational and non-destructive.
Send the following information to Francisco at least 5 business days before you will export the samples, and confirm with him that all of the information was received:
- Departure date from Costa Rica
- Your full name, home address, home phone number
- Name, address, and phone of the institution where the collections will be kept
- Arrival location (flight number and route description, city, state, country)
- Common name and scientific name of specimens to export
- Total number of specimens to export
- Payment ($55 by check to “Organización para Estudios Tropicales, Inc.”, information for your credit card on the following form or a note to include the fee on your bill at an OTS station.)
Once your export permit has been issued, it is valid for a single use within 30 days. Delivery of the export permit should be arranged with Francisco Campos (to an OTS station, to the San Jose area, or with an extra charge to another site).
If the specimens will be shipped by OTS (as opposed to taken with you or shipped by you), you will be charged for packing, shipping, weighing, transport, and other incurred expenses plus a 22% service fee. In this case, please also send us the following information:
- Export permit
- Number and net weight of specimens to be exported
- Total gross weight of each box/bag/bottle to be exported
- Number of boxes/bags/bottles to export
- Exact date you wish you export
- FedEx or shipping account number for your home university
Phytosanitary Permits for Exporting Live or Green Specimens
In the case of exporting live or green specimens, you will need to physically bring the specimens to the OTS office in San Jose for accompanied transport to government quarantine inspection. You must do this at least 2 days before you will export the samples. For better processing of this type of export, please contact us directly to explain the details of your needs and arrange a time to travel to the inspection. Please bring your passport, research and collecting permit, import permit documents, export information (see “export permits” above), and payment ($55) with you. Once you have this export permit following the inspection, it is valid for a one-time use within 30 days.
Regulations for Projects with Genetics or Molecular Biology
Projects which will include molecular work must be further approved by CONAGEBIO in Costa Rica. For further details on this extended process, please email francisco.campos @ ots.ac.cr. Francisco will be able to assist you in determining the additional cost, length of time required to obtain the permit, extra documentation required, etc. that is specific to your project. You may also find more information here: http://www.conagebio.go.cr
Prices for Permit Processing for Costa Ricans
Costa Rican or permanent resident researchers affiliated with OTS member institutions can use the OTS permit service to obtain their permits at a reduced cost of $20 for individual/course research and collecting permits, $20 for assistants, $20 for permit renewals, and $55 for export permits and $55 for phytosanitary permits.