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Renewing Residency

July 4th, 2008

It is a bit hard to believe, but in all the years I have lived here, I have never had to make “the trip” to immigration (migración) to renew my residency. I have always been “legal” but the rarely used form of residency I began with was a true pain in the butt. Migración ran me in circles for several years, never approving my residency, but thankfully, never denying it either. Every time I thought they would approve it, they came up some new requirement that was never even in the law.

North Americans and others always have a real problem understanding “how things work” in Costa Rica. In the USA, for example, laws are more or less clearly defined. The “rules” are clear. If you go to renew a drivers license, you know what has to be done, and you are confident that all the clerks and others who assist you will follow these rules. Nobody does things on-the-fly.

This is NOT the case in Costa Rica, and most assuredly it is not the case when dealing with migración.

While there is certainly law underlying the activities in most government offices, you can and often will be completely and totally at the mercy of the person assisting you. That means the actions of these people can be influenced by everything from “the word” passed down from above to whether they had a fight with their spouse the night before. In some cases, they simply do not have any idea what is the law nor the correct process.

In some past administrations, there was a distinct policy of xenophobia. This affected you whether dealing with immigration or simply going to the CAJA. The administration encouraged this and this was evident to all of us who lived through it. It flowed right from the casa amarilla (Costa Rica equivalent of the White House) to all levels, and it was often not fun to have to have to interact with any government office.

Things changed under the current Arias administration, and it is generally better now. Immigration certainly seems better from many reports, but still, you must understand that every time you interact with an immigration official, he can pretty much do as he pleases, and you have little recourse, or none. A good example of this is at entry points in Costa Rica. More and more perpetual tourists (those who flaunt the law and never get residency preferring to leave the country every 90 days to “renew” their visas) are being turned back at the borders or having the immigration agent refuse to stamp their passports upon re-entry. Some are simply told to go back and refused admittance. The problem is that this seems to be entirely at the whim of the official.

Anyway… back on topic… my permanent residency expired in July 2007. Because of some glitches in immigration, everyone got a free year, so my new expiration (vencimiento) was moved to July 2008, and I must now renew my cedula.

The process seems simple enough, but when dealing with any government office, there is always that feeling in the pit of your stomach. The process begins with a phone call made by me to immigration. Seems simple but may not be. To reach the immigration appointment person, you must dial a 900 number. Yes, kids, a 900 number here is used as in the USA. YOU pay for the call (5 colones per minute), and you better not mis-dial or you’ll get some porn business at $10.00 per minute! Further, the use of a 900 number is blocked on many phones in Costa Rica, especially if you do not own the phone number. That means it is possible you will need to go elsewhere to make the call.

As my regular readers know, I urge the learning of Spanish, and after today’s call, I especially urge it before you have to renew your residency. The process went smoothly. I dialed the number. A polite young man named Alejandro took me though the process and I now have an appointment in September. I need to make a deposit to the bank account of immigration in the amount of $58.00. Their bank is Banco de Costa Rica.

As there is little more to do at this point but wait until September, you will just have to wait for the update!

Pura Vida!

4 Responses to “Renewing Residency”

  1. Costa-Rica » We Have Moved... on July 6, 2008 1:57 am

    […] Renewing ResidencyIt is a bit hard to believe, but in all the years I have lived here, I have never had to make “the trip” to immigration (migración) to renew my residency. I have always been “legal” but the rarely used form of residency I began with was … […]

  2. Richard Noel on July 8, 2008 8:32 am

    Maybe I finally figured it out that the key to have access to the newsletter, was to check the proper button re “I subscribe to the etc., etc. ” I’ll try not to be the dumb gringo in the future. Good Luck – Keep up the good work. Dick Noel

  3. Tim on July 8, 2008 9:38 am

    Don’t feel dumb 🙂 I lot of people, especially those raised in the pre-Internet era do not know how easy it is to use either the subscription (email) or RSS as they are just not comfortable with all the toys. Tim

  4. Karen on December 14, 2008 7:46 pm

    How do you go about getting a cedula?