Of the more than half million people who are legal residents in Costa Rica, 67% come from Nicaragua. This according to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service.
According to the DGME, Nicaraguans top the legal residents list with 349,827, followed by Colombians at 28,015. Following is the number of Americans (U.S. citizens) residents in Costa Rica, 26,780, followed by El Salvador, 12,516 and 10,323 from China.
Within the residents category are persons registered as permanent, temporary or special category residents (such as work permits).
“This reflects a successful process as people are registering and participating in the Migration formality,” said Daguer Hernández, deputy director of the DGME.
Hernandez also assured that this benefits the migrant in many ways, such as access to social security and the labor market due to their legal status in the country.
According to immigration officials, the rise in the number of Nicaraguans residing legally in Costa Rica is due to the socio-political crisis in the neighboring country.
Two dictatorships in Nicaragua over the last 40 plus years, such as that of Anastacio Somoza and Daniel Ortega, have provoked the political conditions for an exodus to Costa Rica.
In the first six months of the socio-political crisis that began mid-April 2018, more than 30,000 Nicaraguans fled to Costa Rica, seeking refugee status. The number is now estimated at more than 40,000.
For the most part, the majority of Nicaraguans in Costa Rica live in ‘undocumented’ or illegal condition, though the recent policies by the DGME have led many Nicaraguans in response to the crisis north of the border, has led many Nicaraguans living illegally in the country to establish their residency in Costa Rica.
The number of 349,827 of Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica legally is proportionally very small compared to the number who are not legalized to the stay in the country.
Some estimate that in Costa Rica, more than 700,000 Nicaraguans reside legally or illegally. That is not counting the number of migrant workers that come and go during the year, placing the estimate closer to one million.
In the case of Colombian residents in Costa Rica, it was the conditions of the internal strike that lasted for decades and the deterioration of their economy that led them to settle in Costa Rica.
However, the flow of Colombians has decreased sharply in recent years as political conditions in Colombia stabilized and the economy of the South American country improved substantially.