(QCOSTARICA) The Government on Tuesday published a decree to streamline the legal registration of foreigners with roots in the country, in a new effort to increase the number of hands available to harvest the agricultural crops on the horizon, including coffee and sugar cane.
Said benefit would apply to those who prove that they have entered and remained in the national territory between January 15, 2016, and January 15, 2020, as reported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG).
The decree, issued by the MAG and the Ministry of the Interior, establishes a procedure to access the “exception regime for the migratory regularization of workers in the agricultural, agro-exporter or agro-industrial sectors”.
This provision creates the Special Category for Temporary Workers in the Agricultural, Livestock, or Agroindustrial Sector – Trabajadores Temporales del Sector Agropecuario, Agroexportador o Agroindustrial (Cettsa).
The qualifying foreigner will acquire the right to remain in the country for a period of one year, starting from the date of the resolution of their application.
The measure is issued within the framework of the impact of the COVID-19 and in the face of the private sector’s concern about the possible lack of labor to harvest crops of coffee, sugar cane, melon, watermelon, orange, roots, tubers, and pineapple.
The president of the National Chamber of Agriculture and Agro-industry (CNAA), Juan Rafael Lizano, stated that it is not the ideal scenario, but it is a temporary advance and an aid in the search for solutions to the problem.
“A door opens, because before or with the established requirements now nothing could be done. Now it is possible to regulate many of the (foreigners) who are here, because it serves the certification of a lawyer, the payment of a water or electricity bill or having a bank account open, to demonstrate roots in Costa Rica,” Lizano pointed out.
The harvesting season for agricultural crops begins in August, with the early maturation of coffee in low-lying areas, such as the Brus and Pérez Zeledón preserve.
Towards the end of November, the harvest for melon, watermelon, sugar cane, and orange crops come together, which, together with permanent activities such as pineapple, generate a great need for labor.
In the case of coffee, for example, over 60% of the labor in the harvesting of the grain are foreign migrants.
Meanwhile, in the orange harvest, foreigners represent 70% of the workers and in the case of sugar cane they represent 90%.
Faced with the closure of border restrictions not permitting the entry of foreigners, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, agricultural groups predict that there will be a shortage of labor and that even production may be lost.
The biggest problem would arise between the end of November and February when various harvests come together.
The lawyer specializing in labor law, Mery Quirós, recalled that in order to apply the new immigration benefit, it is necessary to demonstrate roots, have entered the country between the indicated dates and that the person works or will work (either because they have an employment contract, have an offer to work or are self-employed), and who have no criminal record in their country of origin or in Costa Rica.
Those interested in registering in the country through this mechanism must fill out a form at with the immigration service. They can do it on their own as independent workers or through a company interested in hiring them.