The departures level at the San Jose (SJO) international airport. Photo for illustrative purposes

Q COSTA RICA – Starting in August, travelers arriving or leaving Costa Rica by way of the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) international airport will not longer require to fill out the paper form known as TIE (Trámite de Ingreso y Egreso).

The director of immigration, Gisela Yockchen, explained that the first phase of the project is the pilot plan that the Dirección General de Migración will apply between August 15 and 30 at the San Jose terminal (SJO), and then to be added to the other points of entry.

The director added that this is part of a series of changes focused on streamlining immigration procedures and improving national security.

“We have taken great care of the automation process (…),” Yockchen said.

The director explained that to eliminate paper forms, adjustments had to be made to electronic systems in order to make the reading of travel documents more agile, in addition to training personnel.

Automatic Processing
In addition to eliminating the paper forms, in the coming year, the immigration service intends to install either kiosks or automated doors in which national or foreign travelers who visit the country frequently will be able to go through the immigration process (of entering the country) in an automated way.

The director added that the project includes the development of a new control system using biometrics.

For his part, the Minister of Tourism, Mauricio Ventura explained that by automating the entry of national travelers, more staff can be allocated to the checkpoints, which will also mean speedier attention to foreigners.

Both Ventura and Yockchen assured that the main challenge to the initiative will be the creation of a database with fingerprints and photographs (for facial recognition) of the users of the system, that would be crossed checked with the passport information.

According to data from the immigration service, in 2016, at the San Jose airport, they served 4.3 million travelers (in and out). The estimate for this year is 4.6 million. At the Daniel Oduber airport  in Liberia, 1.2 million travelers were processed. Of all the processes, more than 1 million was of Costa Ricans.

For the time being
On dealing with the increased volume of airport passengers – increased traffic because of the coming of more airlines and more Costa Ricans traveling – the dealys at the Juan Santamaria has meant line of up to an hour or more, especially in the peak times.

For this, the director of immigration said that as of two weeks ago they added a new shift between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, the peak period, with 20 (immigration) counters open at all times.

The director said that there have been no long lines in the past two weeks.

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