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Perpetual Tourists – Good Time to Get Legal or Get Gone

October 1st, 2013

pp.jpgPerpetual Tourists (PTs) are those folks who come to Costa Rica to live but have no intention of applying for legal residency.  They are under the mistaken impression that they can just leave Costa Rica every 90 days to “renew” their visa.  Some have done this for years and so will argue that it is OK.  However… This has never been legal, but sadly, it has never been made strictly illegal. Immigration has had many opportunities to remedy or clarify this problem, but instead it has skirted the issue time and again. Therefore, what we have now is a most unpleasant and even dangerous situation.  We have the immigration officials at airports and at the international frontiers  who pretty much seem to be acting on their own seemingly having received no guidance from their supervisors.  I know of nothing worse than bureaucrats acting on their own.

Interested in this topic?  Read on…

Costa Rica clearly does not approve of perpetual tourism as if they did, they would legalize it! Rather, they, in cooperation with other countries, are making things very hard for these scofflaws. How?

1. More and more I am getting reports of PTs heading to Nicaragua or Panamá and when returning to CR, are getting their visas stamped with 10 days, or 14 days but no longer for another 90 days. Kind of a bad hair day for them. Those border runs can get costly. Also, if the PT is using a driver’s license issued from say the USA, that license is invalid (it expires) when the VISA has expired. Not good.

2. Panamá officials  are now enforcing the requirement for a return ticket for those traveling overland into Panamá. While Panamá has for years required the forward travel requirement for those arriving by air, this is a new thing at the borders for folks arriving by car or bus. They too now may need to show proof of onward travel.

3. When returning to Costa Rica, PTs are now being asking for proof they have a return ticket to their home country (often the USA) which of course they do not have. Oh oh. Some have now had to purchase  pricey airline tickets to show as proof.

4. Costa Rica is now enforcing a traffic law that requires a residency cédula to issue a Costa Rica driver’s license.  For now, driver’s licenses can supposedly be renewed, but I have a few reports of renewal being denied if one cannot show proof of legal residency and I have heard rumors that this may be the next change. Without a valid driver’s license, one cannot get insurance.

5. Tourists arriving in Costa Rica were for years pretty much automatically given 90 days on their VISA (entry stamp) at the San Jose airport.  No more. Every week I see 10 day, 14 days and 30 days, but less and less 90 days.  For legitimate tourists, this is no big deal at all, but for a PT can be a real issue.

Other stuff is surely coming and it is probably a good time for the PTs here to get legal.  Costa Rica has perhaps some of the easiest paths to legal residency of any country in the world. Pensionado residency requires only an income from Social Security or equivalent of $1,000 per month, and frankly that is nowadays about the minimum needed to live here. Rentista requires $60,00 to be deposited here, but that gets paid back at the rate of $2,500 per month for the two year term. Pretty much, CR seems to be saying come and live here but don’t mooch of the system.  Not unreasonable IMHO.