Editorial – I am sure most expats coming to Costa Rica have looked into the rules and regulations that they need to follow in order to not get deported form the country or get in trouble from immigration, but it seems lately there is confusion on what exactly the rules are.
Many of us that make the run to either the Nicaragua or Panamanian border over the past months have run into various circumstances that usually cause us some anger because of the inconvenience. Heading down to Panama we have been told that we need to show proof of having $500 as well as a ticket back to our country of origin.
When heading up to Nicaragua and coming back into the country they seem to decide how many days they are going to give you on your tourist VISA by your appearance or if they are having a bad day. Many times expats have been given only 30 days requiring them to make the run across the border again only a month later.
For those of us that have been in Costa Rica awhile we no better than to argue or start to fight with the immigration officers. Nothing good happens from raising your voice or trying to tell them that they are wrong and that “you know the rules” or that “you are going to report them”. A woman did that going into Panama and it got her banned from going into Panama again.
Although you may be just getting the short end of the stick because you are on the wrong end of someone’s bad day, arguing with these immigration officers almost never ends with a positive result.
Because of these inconveniences many expats have started the process of obtaining their Costa Rican residency. The biggest reason it is kind of a pain in the ass the take that trek across the border every normally 90 days.
When going through the process of getting your residency there is a check list that you have to do in full in order for you to become en “Tramite”. This means that you have completed all the requirements and all you are waiting on is for a response back from immigration on approval or denial. It can take over a year in some cases to get your response.
During this waiting period you have to carry around your “En Tramite” paperwork to show to anyone that asks that you are legal to be in the country. Supposedly while you are waiting for the response from immigration you are no longer required to leave every 90 days to renew your tourist Visa. That is the law but it does not seem to matter to immigration at least at the airport.
A friend of mine recently took a flight back to the USA for the holidays to see her family. She had gone through the entire checklist to become “in process” (en tramite) for her residency. Her lawyer told her that all she needed to do when entering or exiting the country was show them the paperwork and she would pass right through.
After getting back to Costa Rica the only thing she wanted to do was get back home and relax. She approached immigration in Costa Rica and handed her “en tramite” papers to the Costa Rican behind the desk. He had obviously was not happy about being up s early that morning and told my friend that he would give her 30 days on her Visa. She immediately asked for the supervisor. She tried to explain that her lawyer and the immigration website had stated that with this paperwork she could come and go as she needed and did not require a tourist visa stamp.
The response to this by the supervisor? “Your lawyer is lying. If he wants to give you a one day Visa he can do that. If he wants to give you a 30 day Visa he can do that. ” then as if acting like he was doing her a favor he agreed to give her a 90 day stamp. Exhausted from the trip she took her bags and left to finally travel back to Jaco.
Although we might want to follow the rules set by Costa Rica immigration there seems to be frustration around every corner.
The only rule I think that needs to be followed when going through these situations is don’t fight with the immigration officers. They have a great deal of power in these altercations and you will come out a loser if you try to battle them. Get your stamps ans then deal with what you need to do with your lawyers.