Welcome (or not) to the United States. Photo U.S. Customs and Border Protection from Zdnet.com

Q COSTA RICA – Although the news of ‘denials’ and ‘deportations’ of Costa Ricans from the United States went viral on the social networks following the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his signing of the ‘travel ban’, authorities in Costa Rica, however, in fact say the U.S. had been turning away Costa Ricans on a regular basis, on average almost one a day for the past year.

According to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry) statistics, a total of 352 Costa Ricans were deported or denied access to the United States between January 2016 and January 2017.

The Foreign Ministry explained that “for some reason they were rejected in their attempt to enter the U.S. and that each country has the right to choose who enters and who does not”.

Many believe that obtaining a visa to travel to another country is akin to an automatic entry. The Foreign Ministry reminds that, and was backed up by a statement by the U.S. Embassy in San Jose a couple of weeks ago, a visa is not a guarantee of entry (to the U.S. or any other country).

A visa, if you will,  can be best described as a request for permission to enter a country.

The final determination whether a visitor (with visa or no visa), is up to the official at the immigration post, whose job is to make the final determination if a person is allowed to enter or not.

Many countries require a visa to gain entry.

Americans and Canadians, for example, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica, only a passport. However, Costa Ricans require a visa to visit those and many other countries.

Visas are designed to allow people access into other countries. Unlike a passport, a visa specifies certain reasons why that person will be staying in the country, ie, tourism, work or attending school. It also specifies a certain time frame.

The true reason behind visas and passports are to protect the people living in their native countries from foreigners who may be terrorists or illegal immigrants. They have been in use for decades, and have proven to be an effective way to help keep unwanted visitors out.

In each instance, a visa is subject to entry permission by an immigration official at the time of actual entry and can be revoked at any time.

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