Dozens, at the airport, found out they were banned from leaving the country, by error.
Dozens, at the airport, found out they were banned from leaving the country, by error.

(QCOSTARICA) Anyone can find themselves not being able to leave the country … by error. Dozens have found themselves in this ordeal caused by a mistake in the Sistema de Obligados Alimentarios y Penal (SOAP) – family support system.

The SOAP is tied in to the immigration service – Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – to stop people from leaving the country while owing on child support and/or alimony payments.

But a simple error such as in typing the name of a person can mean you could be stopped from travelling abroad (leaving the country) until the matter is cleared up.

This happened to Patricia Carrera, who last week was unable to travel to New York to celebrate her anniversary. Patricia does not have any children and had no relation with the woman who filed the complaint, yet her name appeared in the system. She was able to travel abroad only after filing, in person, a correction with the court, in this case in San Carlos.

Miguel Abarca, now 47, was banned from leaving the country for being a minor. An error in the system permitted the ban to continue since he was 13 years of age.

In another case, Miguel Abarca, now 47 years of age, was told by the immigration police that he could not leave the country for being underage. Yep, a minor. Obviously he wasn’t, it was visible there was an error. But that did not mean the he could travel.

In Abarca’s case, the impedimento de salida was placed by his father back in 1981, when he was 13. The man explains that his father, who died two years after placing the ban, while his parents were going through a nasty divorce and wanted to ensure his child was not taken from Costa Rica.

“At first they thought it was a joke. I had to explain it all and they behaved super nice and could not believe what they saw in the documents. The ban was from 1981 and it was obvious that it no longer applied,” said Abarca who added that American Airlines helped him manage the twists and turns so to he could later travel.

Abarca went through his ordeal last October, but after seeing the Carrera story he decided to contact with his.

An “Impedimento de Salida” (travel ban) can also occur in cases where a parent or guardian wants to stop a minor child from leaving the country without their permission. Or in criminal cases, the courts can order a travel ban and informing the immigration service.

The immigration service is emphatic that a travel ban can only be resolved at the courts personally, their role is only one of enforcement of a court order. The DGME officers will only inform the person to which court they should be directed to normalize their legal status and obtain exit permits or request to update the information contained in the SOAP.

With notes from


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