By now, according to the reports of the Canatur and the immigration service, all the tourists who had been visiting Costa Rica prior to March 19 have left the country. However, that is not entirely accurate.
There is one group of visitors, the “perpetual tourist”, who for all intense and purposes live, some even work, and call Costa Rica home, yet their migratory status is one of tourist, with a maximum stay* of up to 90 days, such as North Americans and Europeans.
While some perpetual tourists who stay beyond their tourist vista and become “irregular”, as the immigration service describes it, others leave the country for some time, visiting friends, family or their other home, perhaps even their country of origin, there is another group who leave Costa Rica and come right back to start fresh.
The make a “visa run” on a regular basis, either by way of crossing into Nicaragua or Panama, maybe stay a day or two, even though it is not required, and then return to Costa Rica.
The closing of the border on March 18 has put a damper on the “visa run”, given that they are not permitted to return; only Costa Rican nationals and foreign (legal) residents are allowed entry during the national emergency.
So, for perpetual tourists who entered Costa Rica after December 17, 2019, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service – has extended all tourist visa to May 17, 2020.
For visitors still in the country and who entered Costa Rica before December 17, 2019, they may be subject to sanctions, which is a penalty of US$100 for every month (or part thereof) of their overstay of the tourist visa.
The sanction, unless it is extended, again, as it has been for the previous few years, is to go into effect on April 21, 2020.
I believe this year the date will not be pushed back (extended). The fine applied at the time the person leaves the country, read this carefully, retroactive all the way back to March 1, 2010.
For example, the tourist with an entry stamp of December 16, 2019, leaving in April would have to pay US$100, in May it would US$200 and so on.
If the visitor is unwilling (refuses) or cannot pay, their return is barred for 3 times the overstay: thus not paying the US$100 (one month) will mean 3 months barred, six months for the US$200 (two months) and so on.
Those in the following situation, unless there are any changes to the above to which we will update this page, you can find out at http://126.96.36.199/multas/default.aspx (in Spanish) an estimate of what you owe and make the payment prior to leaving.
The fine can be paid at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) bank in person, as well online.
To penalty will not apply to:
- People with disabilities
- Transborder workers, ie flight crews
- Permanent residents, even If their DIMEX is expired
- Those in the process of change of status
- Those have been denied the residency process but at the time of departure has not been notified or have been notified but have filed an appeal
Under normal circumstances, I would say, if you are perpetual tourists, don’t get caught with your proverbials hanging, leave the country – a visa run, visit friends in another country, catch on family, etc.
But, we are not in normal times. Leaving the country during the national emergency, for now until April 12, you will not be allowed to return until we are all done with the coronavirus.
In addition, you may find that your destination as either closed its borders to you, such as Panama and Colombia and others have self-isolation and quarantine orders, such as Canada, that you will have to abide by.
Not an easy time, as the coronavirus affects us all, in some way or another, hopefully not trough infection, illness or worse.
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay home (in Costa Rica), it will all soon be over and we can back to normal, a new normal for sure.
The information contained here is not meant to be legal advice, rather for information purposes only. Consult a lawyer or residency consultant, or visit the DGME website.
* At the time of entry, the immigration officer at the point of entry decides the maximum stay in the country and includes in the passport entry stamp, which can be as little as a few days and not the maximum allowed depending on the country of origin.