Skip to main content

Law on Associations (amended in 2000)

This document has been provided by the
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL).

ICNL is the leading source for information on th e legal environment for civil society and public
participation. Since 1992, ICNL has served as a resource to civil society leaders, government
officials, and the donor community in over 90 countries.

Visit ICNL’s Online Library at
http://www.icnl.org/knowledge/library/index.php
for further resources and research from countries all over the world.

Disclaimers Content. The information provided herein is for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be
construed to constitute legal advice. The information contai ned herein may not be applicable in all situations and may not, after the date of
its presentation, even reflect the most current authority. Noth ing contained herein should be relied or acted upon without the benefit of legal
advice based upon the particular facts and circumstances pres ented, and nothing herein should be construed otherwise.
Translations. Translations by ICNL of any materials into other languages are intended solely as a convenience. Translation accuracy is not
guaranteed nor implied. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of a translation, please refer to the original language official version of
the document. Any discrepancies or differences created in the tr anslation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or
enforcement purposes.
Warranty and Limitation of Liability. Although ICNL uses reasonable efforts to include ac curate and up-to-date information herein, ICNL
makes no warranties or representations of any kind as to its a ccuracy, currency or completeness. You agree that access to and u se of this
document and the content thereof is at your own risk. ICNL discl aims all warranties of any kind, express or implied. Neither ICNL nor any
party involved in creating, producing or delivering this document shall be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of access to, use of
or inability to use this document, or any e rrors or omissions in the content thereof.

Sanction: August 8, 1939
In Action: August 8, 1939
Affected by: — Law No 4583, May 4, 1970
— Law No 5116, November 20, 1972
— Law No 6020, January 3, 1977
— Law No 6739, April 28, 1982
— Law No 7935, October 25, 1999
— Law No 8007, July 4, 2000
Last Revision: July 4, 2000

No 218
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF COSTA RICA

DECREES:

THE LAW OF ASSOCIATIONS

CHAPTER I
Fundamental Provisions

Article 1. – The right of association can be ex ercised freely in accordance with the
provisions of this law. Therefore, within th is text are subordinated the associations for
scientific, artistic, sporting, beneficial, entertainment and all other bidders which do not
have as their only and exclusive goal profit or gain. Under this law will also be submitted
societies, unions and associations of mu tual aid, of securities and patronage.

Article 2. – The associations not subject to the pr evious Article which intend to achieve a
solely commercial or a solely civil goal wi ll be governed by commercial or civil laws,
according to their intent.

Article 3. – Under the authority of this law, no po litical associations of any kind will be
admitted, including those pursuing an end which is physically or legally impossible under
the terms listed in Article 631 of the Civil Code.

(Thus reformed by Law No 4583, Article 1, May 4, 1970)

Article 4. – The administrative control of the as sociations corresponds to the Executive
Power, which is responsible for the author ization for the following: the creation of
national associations and the in corporation of foreign ones; supervising or investigating
the activities of the fore-mentioned associa tions and of dissolving those which pursue
illicit ends or damage public order and the mo ral, all in concurrence with the terms set by
this law.

Article 5. – All associations must be establishe d through a basic ordainment that guides
its activities, here forth named “Statutes.”

For an association’s activities to be legal, it must be registered in the Registry of
Associations, which is managed by the Ministry of the Interior and is part of the National
Registry.

The Legal Entity of the association and that of it represen tatives is acquired through its
registration.

The Registration will consist of all the original documents of the Statutes, its reforms and
the entities of its directive branches, of each association, as well as the indexes, books
and files that may be deemed necessary. These processes may be interchanged with other
more efficient systems for improved servic e and greater security of registration.

A fiscal stamp of the value of 100 colones should be attached to each original document
for the registration of an association.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 6. – This law does not appl y to political parties.

(Thus reformed by Law No 4583, Article 1, May 4, 1970)

CHAPTER II
Organization

Article 7. – The Statutes of all a ssociations should include:

a. – The name of the entity;
b. – Address;
c. – Its goals and the means thr ough which it will achieve them;
d. – Methods of affiliation and disaffiliation of its associates and their rights and
duties;
e. – The association’s resources and the branch which establishes member and
periodic fees, if applicable;
f. – The association’s branches, procedures for their establishment, how to convoke
and complete them, resolving methods, of publishing and acting, competencies
and end of term, when applicable;
g. – Branch or person that represents the entity and extent of power;
h. – When able to fund subsidiaries, establishment methods;
i. – Conditions and methods of dissolving
j. – Statute reform procedures.

Article 8. – The name of the association will be the exclusive property of the same. If
the goal of one association is the support of an institution with a different name than the
association’s, both shall have the same legal privilege.

No one association can adopt an identical name to one already registered or so similar
that the two can be easily confused.

It is prohibited to use the name “society,” “firm” or “company” when enunciating the
name of the association, or a ny other term which implies that it has different purposes
than the ones listed in this law.

Article 9. – In the Statutes it is pe rmitted to establish restrict ions on associates for the
fulfillment of functions in the association, voting rights and separation of members, but
the association cannot vary or expand these re strictions, nor suppress the statutory rights
of members without previously modifying its basic ordainment.

The associate who separates from the entity loses his associati on rights, excepting any
retained deposits and personal credit qua ntities he may have against this entity.

Article 10. – The following are essential br anches of the association:

1. The directive organism whose name is established in the Statutes and will be
composed of a minimum of five members and must include a President, a Secretary and a
Treasurer, all of legally mature age.

2. A Supervisor of legally mature age.

3. An Assembly or General Board.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 11. – While the association has not register ed, the resolutions, pacts or the social
documents will have no legal effect on the in jury of third parties. The founding members
will not respond in the name of the association to third parties for the circumstances that
may arise due to injury.

Once the association is registered, it will respond for the executed actions of its branches
through exercising the functions it has and th e responsibility of its members will be
limited only to contribution or contributions which each has made to the association,
excepting what may result from actions of fau lt or fraud solely and personally done by
the member.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 12. – Subsidiaries may acquire distinct le gal entities from the main association,
when the statutes of the latter permit it: in th is case the statutes of the subsidiary must
express clearly the relationship and responsibil ities that exist between the two entities,
especially in the case of the dissolution or terminati on of the main association.

Article 13. – The association is terminated:

a. – When the number of eligible members is inferior to the necessary for the formation
of the directive branch.

b. – If it was dissolved by the authority due to proof of an extreme noted in Article 27.

c. – Once the temporary or transient purpose for which it was founded is accomplished,
or due to the legal or material im possibility of accomplishing it. And,

d. – Due to deprivation of its legal capaci ty, as consequence of a declaration of
insolvency or competition; varying in its final purpose; a change in the nature of its legal
entity or for not renewing the directive branch in the next year at the agreed term change
date in the statutes.

Article 14. – Should the association dissolve, its hol dings will be distributed according to
its statutes. If no specific regulations exis t, the holdings will be distributed to each
associate proportionately according to his contri bution. If so, or if it was statutorily so
established, the naming of one to three liquidators will be requested from the Civil Judge
corresponding to the residence of the association. The liquidators will be jointly owed an
honorary not to exceed 5% of the ne t product of the liquidated holdings.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 15. – The associations can admit underage associates, but not under sixteen years
old, and without the option of being elected to any post.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 16. – Associations which reside out of country can act in Costa Rica in the
following cases:

1. When establishing a subsidiary with its own Legal Entity that falls under the
prescriptions of the present law.

2. If its Statutes are incorporated in the Re gistry of Associations and in the constitution
of an empowered generalissimo, fulfilling all other requirements ordered by the civil laws
of all legal entities wh ich act in the country.

In both cases the Articles 226 and 233 of the Commercial Code will be applied as it may
fit.

Associations residing out of country and acti ng in contrary to this Article’s provisions
will be deemed illicit and its acts in Costa Rica will be voided absolutely.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 17. – Associates will be considered as such if they comply to the act of
constitution of the association. Those adm itted after this time must comply with the
Statutes, and must be registered in a special book named “Members of the Such
Association.” In the book will be included, by the order of admission, the names of those
who enter to form a part of the association, with indication in each case of the agreement
of admission. The cancellations of inscrip tions will be made in accordance to the
Statutes and through the met hod indicated in the same, de noting in the agreement of
admission a note indicating that the associate has lost his rights.

Operations will be made through chronologica lly numbered agreements and must be
signed by the Secretary.

CHAPTER III
Constitution

Article 18. – All associations will be constitute d by no less than ten persons of mature
age, by drawing up public documents or through an act of official notice of the inaugural
session or sessions. In both cases, the documen t must include the approved statutes and
the naming of the directive, and, in the latt er case, the document must be signed by this
directive, its signatures authenticated by a lawyer or by the political authority of the
place.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 19. – To proceed with the in scription, the respective doc ument must be presented
with two common copies or photocopies to th e Governor of the province, corresponding
to the residence of the associ ation. In smaller districts or cantons, the documentation may
be presented to the local political authority, so that it may be sent on to the Governor.

This office will start a file for the association with one of the copies and will send the
other to the Ministry of the Inte rior as the original document.

The Ministry will examine the documentation to establish if it fulfills the requirements of
the law and any other relevant provisions. If it finds it defective or lacking it will
communicate this to the President of the Directive, indicating the errors, through the
political authority of the residence of the a ssociation. If the errors or omissions are
corrected, or if there are none, the Ministry will send an advertisement for publication in
the Diario Oficial, noting the constitution of the association, its na me, purpose, residence
and legal representation and summoning any inte rested party to object to the inscription
in progress, for fifteen able days from the date of its publication.

Once this period ends without opposition or rejected files, the registration may proceed.
The reason for registering will be noted in the original document and the same will be
done in the respective copy and photocopy whic h will be returned to the interested.

If the registration is denied, due to opposition or for any other motive, this will be
published in “La Gaceta,” it will be final and the administrative route exhausted.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 20. – Partial or total statute reforms must pass through the same procedures that
the previous article indicates and will not take any effect on third parties while they are
not registered in the “Registry of Associations.”

The dissolution of any association must also be registered in the cited Registry and be
published in the Diario Oficial.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

CHAPTER IV
Operations

Article 21. – The administrative and financial te nure of the associations will last one
year. In the first fifteen days of each tenure, the assembly will have an ordinary assembly
to hear the reports of the President, the Supervisor and the Treasurer, regarding steps
taken during the previous tenure.

(Thus reformed by Law No 4583, Article 1, May 4, 1970)

Article 22. – In addition to the book indicated in Article 17, and with no negative bearing
on any other registers and books it considers co nvenient to have, the association must
have a book of minutes for the General Assembly and the Directive, in the care of the
Secretary, and accounting books in the care of the Treasurer. These books must by
authorized by the Governor of the province of residence.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

TACITLY REPEALED by Articles 7 and 8 of the Organic Law of the Ministry of Justice,
No 6739, April 28, 1982. For this, see Judgment of the PGR No C-032-97.

Article 23. – The associations can have their own locale or open one for their reunions or
for accomplishing their goals. Even so, the auth orities can order the closing of the locale
if illicit acts, disorders, or crimes against the moral or good customs are committed.

Meetings, conferences and all ki nds of manifestations of a political partisan nature are
prohibited, as well as facilitating the place for these acts.

(Thus reformed by Law No 4583, Article 1, May 4, 1970)

Article 24. – The President will be the juridical a nd extra juridical representative of the
association and will have the power of an empowered generalissimo, excepting if the
Statutes restrict these faculties, in which cas e he will have what powers he is granted.
The Treasurer will oversee the funds of th e association, subject to the guaranties
determined by the Statutes, and the Superv isor will oversee that the association’s
branches strictly observe the requirements of the law and of the Statutes.

(Thus reformed by Law No 4583, Article 1, May 4, 1970)

Article 25. – The associations which establish the mu tual fund in favor of the associates
must formalize quarterly accounts of incomes and expenditures and communicate them to
the associates. They must cover the admi nistration of funds with a fidelity policy.

Article 26. – The associations can acquire all types of goods, can hold contracts of any
nature and have any licit ope rations, if leading to the realization of their goals.

Donations, subsidies, transfers of goods and properties or other economic contributions
from the State or its institutions must be supervised by the General Comptroller of the
Republic and properly liquidated by the beneficiated association before the comptroller
entity, according to the established ends and the principles of good administration.

If not presented the corresponding liquidations within the month after the closing of the
fiscal year, the comptroller entity will officially inform the appropriate active
administration and, at the same time, the associ ation that the latter will be forbidden to
receive any funds from the State or its in stitutions, until the required information is
received.

(Thus reformed by Law No 8007, July 4, 2000)

Article 27. – The judicial authority will be the only one able to declare the dissolution of
the associations constituted according to this law before their natural expiration term, and
when it is requested by two thirds or more of the associates, or when circumstances
indicated in paragraphs a), c) and d) of Article 13 occur. Once declared, the dissolution
will proceed in the manner indicated in Articl e 14. The Tribunal will communicate this
to the Registry of Asso ciations for the record.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 28. – The Executive Power is responsible for decreeing the dissolution of the
association in the cases determined by Artic le 34. Once the dissolution is decreed, the
Judge will proceed in the manner indi cated in the previous article.

Article 29. – To credit the legal representation of the association, after its constitution,
the Directive’s nomination will be registered through protocol in the respective minutes
or through an accurate copy of this act on offi cial paper, signed by the President and the
Secretary of the association and authenticated by a lawyer or the political authority of the

place. For registration, an official stamp for the value of twenty colones must be
attached.

The certification of the agreement will accredit th e entity of the representative in all legal
aspects.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

CHAPTER V
Special Types of Association

Article 30. – Associations may form through the union of two or more associations with
legal entities. In the previous cases, the new entity will acquire an independent legal
entity from the entities forming it.

This type of association w ill be distinguished by the terms “federation,” “league” or
“union,” which must be integrated in its name and cannot be used by the simple
associations.

The federated associations can, in turn, constitute under the same conditions a new form
of association which will forcibly take the name “confederation,” term which is reserved
exclusively for these types of entities.

Article 31. – The formalities for the constitution of these federations and confederations
will be the same as the ones determined in th is associations law. The statutes of the
abovementioned will determine the relati onship between the forming entities.

Article 32. – Simple, federated or confederated associations whose development or
activities are particularly useful to the intere sts of the State and fulfill a social necessity
may be declared publicly useful when they re quest this of the Ministry of Justice and
Grace and if it deems it convenient. To achieve this benefit, the associations must be
registered for a minimum of three years a nd operate legally for the benefit of the
community.

The associations recognized as publicly useful may enjoy the exemptions and
administrative and economic concessions that the Executive Power may grant them so
that they may accomplish their goals. The Ministry of Justice and Grace can revoke this
benefit at any time if the reasons for which it was granted disappear. This Ministry will
supervise the publicly us eful associations and will requ ire annual reports from them.

This article thus reformed by numer al 67 of Law No 7935, October 25, 1999)

[NOTE: article 2, paragraph e), of th e Regulatory Law of Exonerations, No 7293,
March 31, 1992, concedes privileges only to f oundations without profitable ends which
are dedicated to the attention to minors under so cial risk or dedicated to the recollection
or treatment of garbage, to the conservation of natural resources, the environment in

general, environmental hygiene and public health. All exonerations not predicted in this
paragraph are to be tacitly repe aled conforming to article 1 of Law No 7293 ibidem).

CHAPTER VI
Sanctions

Article 33. – The following will be penalized two to thirty days fine:

1. – Those who maintain an association secretly or hidden, even when its goals are legal.

2. – The Secretary or Treasurer of an associ ation who does not maintain the books sealed,
keeps them outdated by more than six months or refuses to present them at the request of
a competent authority.

The following will be fined with thirty to sixty days:

1. – Those who fall in the offenses listed in the previous numerals repeatedly.

2. – Members of the Directive who permit the destination of association funds or act
towards different goals than those listed in the statutes as the entity’s, or that permit that
acts prohibited by Article 23 take place in the locale.

(Thus reformed by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 33 bis. – According to the seriousness of th e abuse, the justice tribunals can
declare the Directives of an association of social well-being, who committed offenses
damaging their organization, ineligible to creat e new organizations of similar nature for
up to ten years.

This article thus added to by num eral 68 of Law No 7935, October 25, 1999.

Article 34. – Associations will be considered il licit and, consequently declared as
dissolute, when:

1. – Its leaders have been repeatedly perceived by the Government to fall into the case of
numeral 2) of the previous article, wi thout the required actions being taken.

2. – They appear to be dedicated to activities sanctioned by repressive laws or contrary to
the moral or good customs or acted subversively.

3. – It appears that the association was form ed to conceal distinct goals than the ones
defined in the statutes.

Article 35. – The members of the directive branch of all associations are obligated to
require the functionaries of the entity to fulfill the duties and requirements specified in
this present law. They are considered co-a uthors if it is not clear in the minute books

that, during session, they requested fulfillment of the aforementioned obligations of the
directives, and, if not obeyed then, did not denounce the inappropriate acts of those
functionaries to the assembly. If the direc tive branch did not recognize the complaints,
the member will be exempt of responsibility if he informs the Governor about it.

The functionaries of the association who suffer a conviction for one of the crimes or
faults mentioned herein will be expelled from the entity from the moment the crime is
punished.

Article 36. – All associations can transform into another entity if the requirements to
found another demanded by the law are fulfilled, registering reforms to the statutes if
public notice is necessary or with an accurate copy of the reform if this not necessary, but
always signed by the Directive. Signatures must be authenticated by a lawyer or the
political authority of the place. The provisi ons of Article 225 of the Commercial Code
will apply in all cases and in all that may be appropriate.

(Thus added on to by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

Article 37. – Once this law is in force, no associ ations will register in the Public
Registry.

(Thus added on to by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

TRANSIENT: The entities dedicated exclusively to religious activities registered in the
Public Registry as societies may transform themselves into associations by fulfilling the
steps required by this law.

The goods that they have registered in their name in the Public Registry of Property will
be transferred to the new associ ation in the same act of constitution, at the request of their
legal representation. To have all the benefits of this article, the interested parties must
first show the nature of their activities through ad perpet uam information procedure,
raised under a competent judicial authority, with intervention from the General Attorney
of the Republic.

The judge will rule over the transformation procedure. Once authorized, the notary
before whom the decree will be granted must give faith to this circumstance.

(Thus added on to by Law No 5116, Article 1, November 20, 1972)

UNIQUE TRANSIENT: The associations already register ed in the Public Registry must
register again in the Registry of Associati ons by certifying their respective record and its
modifications or by constituting again within two years after the date this law was
approved. If, for whatever reason, this period has expired or the registration is invalid,
they may register again with the referred cert ification, if the political authority of their
residence informs that the asso ciations are functioning. Before registration, the Ministry
may require that modifications to the statutes be made so that they can adhere to the law.

Once the two year period has expired, the registered associations that have not
reregistered will no longer be valid, with the exception that they have already started the
process of reregistration during the mentioned period, with no negative bearing on a
constituting again according to this law. Once the association has solicited a new
registration, it will be valid unde r all legal terms. The reregistration will pay an official
stamp of fifty colones. Asso ciations with pending registra tions in the Public Registry
may be pulled from the Public Registry when this law is approved, without giving back
the documents, for the registration in the Registry of Associations, or they may be passed
to it by the Public Registry for the same purpose, canceling the previous record for
presentation. In these cases, if the registra tion rights have already been paid in the equal
or greater value of one hundred colones, pa yment of the official stamp mentioned in
Article 5 will not be necessary. If the paymen t was lesser than that sum, payment with an
official stamp must be made to complete the hundred colones.

(Thus supplemented by Law No 6020, Article 1, January 3, 1977)

(*) NOTE : The “unique transient” was supplemen ted by Law No 6020 of January 3,
1977. In that law, the mention of this transient and its supplement was omitted.

-->