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Immigration Gets Two New Bosses

May 19th, 2006

Immigration department got two new bosses yesterday. Mario Zamora Cordero (36) is the new Director and Xinia María Sossa Siles (32) is the sub-Director. Both are lawyers.

Immigration here has been a serious problem for many years. There are three main issues.

The first is the overwhelming amount of corruption within the organization. One example is the number of persons working/living here illegally who somehow manage to obtain renewals of their tourism visas without ever leaving the country. This is because there are people who can provide the stamp in a passport and even the corresponding computer entry for just a few bucks more. A couple of immigration workers were arrested in February for allegedly falsifying entry and exit information.

The second is the astonishingly poor services for everyone but especially for Costa Ricans needing passports and other services. The lines for obtaining a passport start at midnight just to get a possibility of being served! Minister de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, Fernando Berrocal (Codero’s boss) said that the passport service will be separated from the other agency functions such as the handling of foreigners. This could be good news as this group handles all residency applications for foreigners wishing to live here legally. Currently, multiple appointments are required to process a residency application, and the whole process take months!

The third was (and I HOPE I can use the past tense here) the horribly xenophobic policies and attitudes promulgated and encouraged by the former Pacheco administration. These policies hurt Costa Rica, stifled development, and generally made life miserable for foreigners living here and for those seeking to do so. My guess is that the new Arias administration operating under a far more worldly and enlightened leader, will not encourage nor permit this type of thing… but of course we must wait and see.

Mr. Zamora has worked with the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the nation’s citizen watcdog, and is a on the Comisión Costarricense de Derecho Internacional Humanitario (humaqn rrights commission). In fact he earned a diploma in international human rights.

Ms. Sossa worked in the Department de Pensionados in the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo from 1995 to 1998 when that group was responsible for many of the Costa Rica residency applications from foreigners. That may be good news as that system actually worked.

It was also made clear during the announcements that there was certainly going to be zero tolerance for foreigners living and working here for extended periods while on tourist visas and the perpetual tourists who leave the country every 90 days to renew their visas. Also targeted will be foreigners with questionable immigration status who are involved in suspected criminal activity.