State banks like the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) and Banco Nacional (BN) compete with exchange houses and financial institutions like Western Union and ‘informals’ for the remittances business in Costa Rica.

According to data published by the Banco Central (Central Bank), as part of the quarterly balance of payments (which records Costa Rica’s transactions with the rest of the world), the country’s total remittance income in the first quarter reached US$127 million, which US$99 million comes from the United States and US$28 million from other countries.

The remittances from the United States is 6.7% higher than that received in the first quarter of 2016.

This is the highest growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2013. However, if you see the trend in the medium-term amounts (since the fourth quarter of 2012), there is a slight downward trend.

In the case of remittances sent from Costa Rica, the Central Bank reported a total of US$84 million in the first quarter of the year, of which US$66 million went to Nicaragua, US$9 million to Colombia and the rest to other countries.

Remittances sent to Nicaragua in the first quarter of 2017 were 10% higher than those recorded in the same period in 2016.

Nicaraguans are the single largest block of expatriates in Costa Rica.

According to data provided by the immigtration service (Dirección de Migración), in the first quarter of 2017, the net result of Nicaraguan arrivals (entries minus outflows) was 34,864 an increase of 2% over the first quarter of the previous year.

In the 2011 Census by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, there were 156,000 Nicaraguan workers reported in Costa Rica. Of these, most were in agriculture, domestic employment, retail trade, construction, food and beverage service, food processing and research and security activities.

Updating the numbers to 2017 and when adding the immediate and extended families of the reported workers, the number of Nicarguans in the country, legal and illegal, could well be in the hundreds of thousands.

Remittances (remesas in Spanish) are the money sent by foreigners in Costa Rica to their home country (or country of origin), which are difficult to measure because they are not always made by formal means, that is through banks (state and private) and registered financial institutions, ie exchange houses, Western Union, etc.