Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: CIQ and Agriculture

PT 4 M minute read
Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: CIQ and Agriculture

This is a post by author Delmark Muir. Delmark is managing director for Universal Aviation Costa Rica, which has aircraft ground-handling facilities in San Jose and Liberia. Delmark is an expert on business aircraft operations in Costa Rica and can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Costa Rica and continues from our last article: "Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Airport Operations."

While the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) process in Costa Rica is relatively easy for business aviation, crew members and passengers, passport validity, visa requirements, and vaccinations are considerations to be mindful of.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. CIQ clearance

Upon arrival passengers will be escorted by the ground handler to a separate CIQ/agriculture clearance line in the main commercial terminal. This is the process for all airports of entry in Costa Rica. This is the same clearance lane used by crew members, minors, and diplomatic personnel. Luggage is brought in to be X-rayed and on occasion may be hand-screened at the discretion of customs. Clearance time is typically 10-15 minutes, depending on the numbers of passengers, crew members, and bags. There may be occasional clearance delays, however, if you’re clearing at the same time as a large number of commercial crews, minors, or commercial passengers needing assistance. Crew members clear inbound CIQ after the aircraft has been shut down. For departure, crew members usually clear two hours prior to the estimated time of departure. No fees are associated with CIQ clearance in Costa Rica.

2. Passport requirements

Valid passports are required for all passengers and crew members. However, rules on length of remaining passport validity vary depending on nationality. When you arrive from certain countries, including the U.S., it’s usually sufficient to have passport validity to cover your length of stay in Costa Rica. Other nationalities, including Colombian and Nicaraguan, usually require a minimum six months’ remaining validity on passports. It’s best to confirm this with your ground handler well in advance of travel.

3. Visa considerations

Depending upon nationality, a visa may be required to enter Costa Rica. Note that visas are not processed upon arrival under any circumstances. Crew members may be permitted to enter the country with valid U.S. visas – even though your passengers may require Costa Rican visas. But it’s best to confirm requirements with your ground handler in advance. Be aware that visa requirements can change frequently depending on the government in power, local customs mandates, and the current director of the Civil Aviation Authority – so be sure to "know before you go."

4. Arrival cards

Arrival cards are needed for all passengers/crew members. If the required information is provided in advance, the ground handler will have arrival cards completed and ready upon your arrival.

5. Onboard CIQ clearance

Depending on your passengers and their VIP status, CIQ clearance is possible with advance notice. This requires pre-approval from CIQ, airport authorities, and local police with a recommended minimum of five business days’ lead time. Air ambulance flights, with a patient onboard, are cleared on the aircraft, and ground ambulances will be permitted to pick up/drop off airside. For diplomatic flights, local government authorities take over the clearance process and arrange special parking and CIQ clearance.

6. Agricultural regulations

In general no fresh or unpackaged foods may be brought into Costa Rica. However, there are exceptions, so it’s important to check in advance. It may be possible to store onboard catering at the airport with advance arrangement. If passengers need to bring in special foods or dietary items, approval may be obtained upon presentation of appropriate paperwork in advance.

7. Vaccinations

If you’re arriving from an area considered endemic for yellow fever – including Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela – vaccination certificates are required for all crew members/passengers. If you don’t have those certificates, CIQ authorities will not allow you into the country. There are, however, exceptions for tech stops. If you’ve made an international tech stop at one of the above noted countries, and no one has embarked/disembarked, yellow fever vaccination is not required. For more information on vaccination requirements, see the "Fly2SanJose" website.

8. Pet importation

Pet dogs and cats are permitted entry to Costa Rica so long as they’re accompanied with appropriate health certificates and documentation. In addition you must provide documentation showing where you purchased the animal. Note that if the animal does not have appropriate paperwork, it will be put down upon arrival.

9. Gun considerations

Costa Rica does not allow hunting within the country. If you wish to bring in guns, there’s an onerous process with which you must comply, which involves advance notification to several different governing authorities. Generally speaking, we recommend you avoid this if possible. But there are no issues with having guns/ammunition onboard during international tech stops. However, if your aircraft remains overnight with guns onboard, you’ll need to pre-advise local authorities. Airport authorities will post a security guard at your aircraft, and there will be an additional charge for this service.

10. Alcohol restrictions

Each passenger is permitted to import up to five liters of alcohol. Anything more than this requires proper notification and payment of applicable customs duties. Otherwise, any excess will be confiscated. If you’re bringing in quantities of alcohol above duty-free limits, it’s best to coordinate this with your ground handler and have a customs broker involved.

11. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.


Additional caution and pre-planning is suggested whenever operating to Costa Rica with pets, guns/ammunition, and/or large quantities of alcohol. Special requests, including bringing private vehicles airside and/or onboard CIQ clearance, should always be confirmed well in advance.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at

Later, we’ll discuss permits, prior permissions required, and airport slots for Costa Rica and their impact on your trip.