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January 14th, 2009
Costa Rica has had a problem for some time with foreigners coming to Costa Rica, marrying a Costa Rica citizen, and promptly applying for Permanent Residency.
This is a very desirable status as Permanent Residency grants the person all rights and privileges of a citizen save the right to vote. The biggie is the right to work here legally!
Of course many people come here legitimately, meet the love of their life, and marry them! Others, however, arrange marriages through lawyers and often have never even met the person they marry. Marriages could be performed by power of attorney. This causes (rightfully) some consternation at Migración (immigration)! Disallowed from applying for Permanent Residency were those living in a common law relationship (Unión de hecho).
Well, life for the enforcers at Migración has recently become a bit harder as Sala IV, the Costa Rica constitutional court, has ruled that common law marriages in Costa Rica are valid and the foreigner in that relationship does have the right to apply for Permanent Residency. Prior to this action, Article 69 of the Ley de Migración y Extranjería (immigration law) stated that a common law relationship had no legal status for purposes of residency. Immigration officials are worried, probably with cause, that this will further exacerbate the problems facing them.
This cause of action was actually started by an advocate of immigration rights who works closely with Nicaraguans who, for I suppose some cultural reason, prefer common law relationships to marriage.
For a Nicaraguan, having the legal right to work here is critical. Costa Rica has a serious bias against Nicaraguans, often blaming them for increases in crime and just about anything else that affects their lives negatively. Every year at Christmas, there are huge lines of Nicaraguans waiting for entrance at the frontier as they return from holiday. It is certainly true that some are trying to enter illegally, but others seem to be hassled for no reason. I know the process for legalizing our housekeeper was arduous, expensive and needlessly complex.
Anyway, back on topic, those living with their common law spouse can now apply for and be granted Permanent residency (though all other requirements must be met). Note this does not apply to common law couples coming here seeking residency from other countries. If they are not married, each must apply separately, a far more costly option. They key is the common law relationship must be with a Costa Rica citizen.
Just as an aside, for a foreigner to live in a common law relationship with (especially) a Costa Rica woman is fraught with danger. Before undertaking such a thing, a lawyer should be consulted.Filed under Costa Rica, Expatriate Life, Immigration & Residency, Immigration Law, Life in Costa Rica, Living in Costa Rica, Moving to Costa Rica | Comments (10)