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Residency Possible via Common Law Relationship

January 14th, 2009

immigration_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.

10 Responses to “Residency Possible via Common Law Relationship”

  1. Connie on January 15, 2009 5:50 pm

    Can my Costa Rican son-in-law sponsor my husband and myself for permanent residency?

  2. waynei on January 20, 2009 3:44 pm

    I suspect the penchant for common law vs legal marriage is the Catholic church. In my church the mexicans use common law as the latin church is not obliging in giving annulments as churches in US or Canada. These mexicans are living here but they know what their church say in mexico. Most 1st marriages are catholic thereafter they don’t bother to get a blessing unless they’ve been americanized. common law is as good as legal because neither are blessed by the church. So, one might hypothisize that the Nic’s immigrating to CR have already had a strike one on them.
    Hey I’m a proud Catholic, hoping to attend church daily when i take up CR residency. But..judge people by how the act OUTSIDE of the church.

  3. miguel on January 20, 2009 6:06 pm

    Quoting you…”for a foreigner to live in a common law relationship with (especially) a Costa Rica woman is fraught with danger”…My curiosity has now got the best of me…thoroughly understanding that you are not an attorney, would it be possible to list some of the disadvantages…with out opening a can of worms? If not we’ll understand.

  4. Tim on January 22, 2009 6:52 am

    Well basically, there are new laws here that “protect” women, but just like the USA, they went waaaay too far.

    There are a number of cases where men were actually REMOVED from the own homes… unable to access even their clothing. In the cases (2) that I know of, it was extremely unlikely there was physical or mental abuse. The couples just had a fight… one about her kids, and she went to the police and they guys were ejected, not to return. In one case, the guy lost his home, though he was appealing last I heard.

    Moral? Be careful real with live-ins. Make sure she sleeps in her own home nearly every night until you are 110% sure that she is the one.

  5. miguel on January 26, 2009 7:04 pm

    Muy interesante…claro que si…they certainly have taken that to far!

  6. al on June 9, 2009 9:37 pm

    May I say that this sounds very male oriented….I guess it is the same for a woman residing with a tico man? thanks for addressing both sexes here on your blogs.

  7. Maria Vindas on May 9, 2010 2:01 pm

    I marry Costa Rican in United States and he return to back to his sick mother – she can not hear and a getting senile. I decide to move to Costa Rica to help take of his mom while he goes to work. And filing for permanent residency and live in Costa Rica. My problems is my birth certificate I am Cuban born but been in living in The United States for over 50 years as a resident and citizens. I am political exile from Cuba

    I do not know who has jurisdiction to authenticate my birth certificate.

    Can anyone help me. No one has a straight answer

    Thank you
    Maria Vindas

  8. peter trombetta on June 22, 2010 12:28 pm

    I am married to a Costa Rican woman for over a year. I would like to know step by step procedure on how to do this. What I need to do and what documents I need and were to go to apply. Help. Pete.

  9. linda on October 23, 2011 8:23 pm

    My brother died without a will. He had a common law wife in Costa Rica and a 14 year old daughter. The daughter is not from the common law wife. He also has a 24 year old daughter in U.S, who will inherit his property?

  10. Tim on October 25, 2011 4:00 pm

    You need an attorney.