This just in from Outlier Legal Services, the lastest on residencies and tourist status in Costa Rica during the national emergency due to the coronavirus covid-19.
Outlier reports that Costa Rica’s immigration service, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) issued Monday evening (March 16) which, in summary, states:
- The DGME WILL NOT receive Residency applications going forward and until May 17, 2020. This includes all categories. Basically, Residency applications are suspended until May 17, 2020.
- Consequently, documents that will expire within this period will be deemed valid (meaning their validity will be automatically extended) until July 17, 2020.
- Exigencies will not be raised by the DGME until July 17, 2020.
- The DGME will continue analyzing applications during this time. Hopefully, it will give them time to catch up on delayed work.
- Approvals and rejections will continue to be issued and notified solely via fax or email only.
- The exclusive attorney window used by many professionals to follow up on applications will remain closed until May 17, 2020.
- DIMEX requests: Will work solely through Banco de Costa Rica and Correos de Costa Rica by APPOINTMENT ONLY. Residencies based on marriage to a Costa Rican national can and will only be renewed at Immigration. Therefore, these will be suspended and may be processed between May 17 and July 17, 2020. If any of the other categories cannot be renewed through Banco de Costa Rica or Correos de Costa Rica, applicants will have until July 17, 2020, to process their renewals.
- Entry visas for Restricted Nationalities are suspended until May 17, 2020.
- Tourists (non-Residents) who entered the country after December 17, 2019, may legally remain in Costa Rica until May 17, 2020.
- Minor’s exit permit requests and issuance of Costa Rican passports will continue to work, as normal.
But there are still some unanswered questions, the first being what happens to people in the country today, given the closing of land borders (effective today), who have no legal status in the country, ie their temporary/tourist visa has expired or will expire before the reopening of borders and do not have the financial resources for a flight out or flights are not available?
On April 21, 2020, the fine for overstaying a visa takes effect. The fine also applies to temporary residents whose DIMEX has expired. A permanent resident with an expired DIMEX will not be fined.
The fine is US$100 per each month (or part thereof) of the overstay. Very important here, the DGME website says “the sum of the fine is retroactive from March 1, 2010”.
If the fine is not paid, exit from the country is not denied. However, getting back in the future may be another matter. From the DGME, “If the person cannot or does not want to pay the fine, at the time of their departure, the Immigration officer will impose an entry impediment for triple the time the person remained in the country illegally”. Click here to query fines.
The next question, is what of foreign nationals who have received residency approvals but have not yet gotten their DIMEX card? Are they now considered a legal resident and can enter the country as such during the lockdown?
Though the immigration official at the entry may not be familiar with the residency approval and thus delay entry, will the airline give you a seat without providing proof of residency – the DIMEX card?
And lastly, with respect to driving in the country, will the Policia de Transito (traffic police), who operate under the authority of the Ministry of Transport (MOPT) and the COSEVI that issues drivers licenses, deem you as “legal” to drive while the tourist visa or DIMEX has expired and renewal or leaving the country is difficult during the national emergency?
Tourists are allowed to drive in the country using their foreign driver’s license as long as their tourist visa (entry stamp) is valid. It is one item the car rental companies will check (should check) when handing over the keys.
Though Immigration is granting tourists “legal” status until May 17, 2020, will the traffic police/transport authorities recognize such?
We do not have the answer yet. We will post here any and all updates to these questions and others that may come up when we have them.
In the meantime, stay safe. Stay healthy.
The information on this page is not meant to be legal advice, it is provided for information purposes only.