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March 14th, 2013
I have been putting off writing this post for a couple of months now hoping that I could write the complete story. Alas, I can only cover part of it, but the info is important, so I will either add to this post later or post anew.
In the past, any person from another country could easily obtain a Costa Rica drivers license. The process was basically just to go to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes MOPT office (closest San Jose office is in Uruca) with your current drivers license. your current passport, and some money. You would stop at one of the doctor’s offices located nearby the MOPT and get a short physical called a Dictamen Médico. You would then walk to the MOPT, go in, get in line and maybe two hours later… you had your license! No test. Nothing. Easy!
Not any more.
The new rules now restrict anyone seeking a Costa Rica drivers license to be a citizen of Costa Rica or to those foreigners who possess legal residency in Costa Rica. This means you must now show your current cedula de residencia (your national ID card valid for any form of residency i.e pensionado, rentista, permanent, etc) issued when you received your legal residency. No cedula? No license.
If you would like to know more about this topic… read on!
You may not be “in process” to get a license. You must have the actual cedula.
While you can drive in Costa Rica using your current drivers license from your home country, some people are not aware that your license is only valid so long as your visa for Costa Rica is valid. Once your visa expires, not only are you here illegally, but you have no valid drivers license and cannot drive here nor can you purchase insurance.
I have been waiting on this post to find out about the critical issue regarding renewals of drivers licenses issued to those non-residents before the rules changed… but sadly, this seems to be up in the air. I have heard of people being permitted to renew, and I have heard stories of renewal requests being denied. It seems MOPT has not issued guidelines, always one of the less pleasant aspects of living here.
Clearly, if you are one of those perpetual tourists living here illegally, the new rules are going to be painful. Your old license from your “home” country may have expired, or even if it has not, it has legally expired here if you have overstayed your visa.
IMPORTANT! For you tourists (and that included those of you living here illegally i.e. perpetual tourists), the new law requires that the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (COSEVI), aka Los Transitos, report unpaid traffic fines of any foreigner driving in Costa Rica to immigration, the folks who control the frontiers/airports of this country.
The immigration service (migracion) is then obligated to deny exit to any foreigner who has any outstanding (unpaid) traffic fines.
I wish that I could post the whole story including the renewal stuff, but as of now, not possible. Once I can verify how the MOPT is going to handle renewals, I will add to this post and/or post something new on this topic.
Until then, those who may need to renew and are not legal in Costa Rica, I might suggest that this would be a good time to seek some form of residency.
Filed under Costa Rica, Costa Rica Tourism, Drivers License Costa Rica, Driving in Costa Rica, Expatriate Life, Perpetual Tourism | Comments (7)