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Much Ado About Nothing – Proposed Immigration Law

January 11th, 2009

nopanicI have received a fair amount of email regarding the proposed immigration laws and asking my thoughts.  I understand the panic as several online sources have made this out to be a done deal.  A disaster!  One such article promised the law would be passed before the Christmas Holiday.  All I can say is that Chicken Little would have been proud. Panic does sell though…  as we all know.

First… let’s look at what this is all about.

The two most popular forms of residency are Pensionado and Rentista. I am NOT going to cover the variations… just using generalities. For more info, Read This.

Pensionados must currently show a guaranteed for-life (not always easy!)  source of income of at least US $600.00 per month.  This is pretty easy to do if people  use their Social Security payments as the guaranteed source (or perhaps a military pension), but not always easy if funds are coming from the private sector.

Rentistas need to deposit $60,000 (equal to $1,000 per month for 60 months) in a Costa Rica bank to assure they have adequate funds on which to live. After 3 years, they can switch to Permanent Residency and no more deposits are required.

Both plans are fair, in fact far more fair than in just about any country in the world.

The proposed plans (you see the bold and italics?) would change this to $2,000 per month for Pensionados and $5,000 per month for Rentistas.

These of course, are the biggies.  $2,000 per month from Social Security would be difficult if not impossible unless one waited to perhaps age 74 to file and had paid in the max each year for many years. The vast majority of applicants would be thus eliminated.

The $5,000 per month for Rentistas would eliminate a huge number of applicants, leaving only a non-stop stream of real estate developers able to afford Costa Rica Rentista Residency… though with no one else coming, I guess they’d just have to sell their products to each other!

There are some other changes like… increasing the time to convert to Permanent residency to five years…  requiring all residents to join and pay to the CAJA – Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (”CCSS”) Costa Rica’s socialized medical care and retirement, which I think would be an excellent idea… and fining anyone who gives either Pensionados or Rentistas jobs as neither class are permitted to work legally.

One online source put the panic into a lot of folks by warning that it appears this law would be retroactive and affect all Rentistas and Pensionados at renewal… a truly stupid statement designed only to cause panic as Sala IV (the constitutional court) has never permitted that sort of thing.  Again, panic sells!

While I think many would agree that the current immigration law needs to be reviewed and changed, this is far away from actually happening.  By far away, I think six months to two years is about right.   I think it is getting a lot more difficult to live here on $600.00 per month, though not impossible I suppose.  At the other end, it does not take $5,000 per month to live here.

Readers of the ARCR Forums and other user groups have been given the email addresses of the various legislators to whom they can write their thoughts and opinions. In fact, there are even simple emails in Spanish!  I would urge you to do this if you wish to make your thoughts known.

Finally, and this is part of our culture, everyone seems to think that these proposed laws are aimed at US citizens.  This is pure silliness, of course.  It affects anyone from any country who wishes to live here legally.  If it were to be passed “as is”, it would cause far more damage than the good it would do. I think the chances of it passing are about nil.  The negative effects, like the immediate increase in perpetual tourism (or just illegal residency) would be an huge issue.  It further would send a message to the world that I am fairly sure Costa Rica does not want to send.

My advice?

Calm down… send emails if you wish but make them sound intelligent and well thought out.  As you can’t vote regardless of residency, using an agressive or threatening tone is not only stupid, it makes you sound like… well…  a Gringo… NOT a good thing in general.  Use logic! Don’t rant. Remember… Gringos are not nearly as important to the Costa Rican economy as many think we are.

Finally… If possible, begin your residency process now because if changes are made in the future, and there will be some changes for sure, , they almost assuredly will not affect current residents or applicants in process.

Happy New Year