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Immigration Issues In Costa Rica

Costa Rica's immigration system is in a state of flux. Finding out the provisions are important to be legal and safe in the country.

Immigration Issues In Costa Rica

Bobby Castro is the online editor at Gringos, where he has published a number of articles about Costa Rica news for expats and many other topics.

When a foreigner overstays the stipulated visa period in Costa Rica, there are two effects that come to force. First would be the imposition of fines and blacklisting the visa holder from further applications of visas to the country.

Typically, foreigners from Europe and North America are granted a ninety (90) day visa while others are granted only thirty (30) day visas. After the expiry of such grant of stay, the visa requires that the individual leave the country and reapply for another visa. Failure to do so would mean extended stay becomes illegal and subjects the individual to severe sanctions and deportation.

According to the immigration law made effective last March 1, 2010, overstaying tourists are fined US$100 for each month they remain in the country illegally. Furthermore, these overstaying tourists must remain out of the country up to three times the period of their overstay before being allowed to return. This means that a tourist overstaying for a period of three (3) months must remain outside Costa Rica for a period of nine (9) months before being allowed to return to the country.

The determination of overstaying foreigners can be made through verification of their passport and the government’s database to determine point of entry and if the person is blacklisted from re-entry. This provision though is still yet to be enforced formally including the payment of fines and penalties for the overstay period.

Renewing tourist visas though still remains an issue in the country. In some instances, payment of the visa renewal fee and subsequent trips to the Direccion General de Migracion y Extranjera still did not result in renewal of the tourist visa. There have been reported instances of foreigners complying with the existing immigration rules being given the run around by tourism officials.

The law provides that visas can be extended administratively provided such visas have a validity of less than ninety (90) days. This though has been subject to wide interpretation in the absence of proper guidelines and regulations as to the process regarding administrative grants of extensions for visas already issued.

Another prickly issue is the grant of Costa Rican citizenship. According to current law, foreigners seeking to obtain Costa Rican nationality through residency must renounce their current citizenship. This is an issue as many foreign countries recognize dual citizenship and renunciation may not be in order for them despite their desire to obtain Costa Rican citizenship. This matter has already been brought to court to question the constitutionality of this immigration provision.

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