With just 124,609 of her citizens residing abroad, Costa Rica has the lowest rate of emigration in Central America and one of the lowest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is in sharp contrast to the overall Latin American immigration phenomenon around the world, which counts with 25 million people and makes up 13 percent of the global diaspora.

The statistics above were discussed as part of the Second Summit on Migration of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Spanish acronym: CELAC), which was hosted by Costa Rica. Representatives from across the Americas met in San Jose to discuss matters pertaining to the issue of immigration. The CELAC nations hope to develop a common framework in immigration matters, which often create problems such as brain drain, displacement, uncollected revenue, etc.

The main theme of the summit had a purpose of putting a human voice to patterns of migration and to always reflect and act taking into consideration the human motivation for abandoning one’s native country in search of opportunity abroad.

Gioconda Ubeda, Vice Chancellor of the Republic of Costa Rica, remarked that:

“Immigration has grown exponentially in the last three decades, and it has taken on a survival role. No one fully emigrates unless they have an option to stay in his or her country, which is why the integral focus of this phenomenon is the intrinsic link between migration, development and human rights.”

The CELAC nations agreed that highly-developed countries where Caribbean and Latin American people flock to have certain obligations with regard to the civil and human rights of the immigrants they receive. Although Costa Rica is not a developed country, she has 333,193 foreigners duly registered as legal residents, of which 251,429 are from Nicaragua. There are 15,454 Colombians registered, as well as 11,427 citizens of Panama.

Most Ticos living abroad choose the United States as their home away from home, specifically in western New Jersey and the Trenton state capital area. Quite a few of them come from Perez Zeledon in the southern region of the San Jose province, and many of them are undocumented immigrants. Some Costa Rican families in New Jersey have children born in the U.S. who also enjoy Tico citizenship.

A smaller concentration of Ticos can be found in Southern California, and these are mostly wealthier families who have business or academic ties to the U.S. This is in sharp contrast to the Costa Rican community in New Jersey, who are mostly from working-class backgrounds. Many end up coming back to Costa Rica or spending half of their time in the U.S. to avoid losing immigration benefits. Some Ticos end up joining the U.S. military and going to war before becoming pacifists; others have been killed in action. One famous Tico went to the U.S. and was later inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and other Ticos unfortunately end up in prison for drug trafficking. Altogether there are almost 82,000 Costa Ricans in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of State estimates that 50,000 of their citizens are duly registered and residing in Costa Rica. The number of foreign residents from Canada has been estimated at about 15,000. This does not include perpetual tourists, who are counted as part of the one million foreign visitors who arrive in Costa Rica each year. Most perpetual tourists in Costa Rica are from the U.S., and in many cases it may not be accurate to label them as perpetual since only a few of them make their extended stay truly permanent.

Sources: La Prensa Libre and Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Article by Costa Rica Star

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.