Banks plan to tighten cash transfers for foreigners

Kathya Rodríguez displays an example of the cédula-like card some foreigners will need. A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

Government oversight will tighten for foreigners looking to participate in Costa Rica’s banking system when a form of identification is extended and becomes a requirement next year for certain electronic transactions.

The identification is called DIMEX, Documento de Identificación Migratorio para Extranjeros, and foreigners will be required to present their personal identification beginning in January while making money transfers. The card will also link the person to the country’s electronic immigration network which tracks the movements and status of foreigners. That network is run by Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. The DIMEX system is the same one that currently issues cédulas for permanent residents, rentistas and pensionados, among others.

The identification card primarily will be used to track transactions through the Sistema Nacional de Pagos Electrónicos, known as SINPE. Currently, there are about 350,000 documented foreigners living in the country, the majority being Nicaraguans.

The implementation of the new regulations is a cooperative effort between Costa Rican immigration officials and the nation’s banking establishments. Kathya Rodríguez, the director general of Migración y Extranjería, said permanent residents, temporary workers, students, refugees, the stateless, among others, will be subjected to the new guidelines, but it should not have an effect on tourists. There also is a regulation to issue numbers for persons who do not fall into these categories based on the identification in their passports.

Ms. Rodríguez said the change in standards is aimed at monitoring and targeting illegal activity such as money-laundering, especially that associated with arms and drug trafficking,

In theory, the new procedure will allow immigration officials to track suspicious banking transactions by foreigners. Ms. Rodríguez said the identification card will reduce identity theft.

Currently some foreigners use their passports to make certain money transactions in banks. Ms. Rodríguez said that puts them at risk for possible identity theft, perhaps resulting in large losses of money from their bank accounts.

With their new identification card, the bank teller will be able access the cardholders information in the immigration database and verify if the person standing at the bank is the rightful account user, she said.

Like the current cédulas, the identification card will contain basic personal data, a photo and electronic data as well. Annabelle Ortega, executive director of the Cámara de Bancos e Instituciones Financieras de Costa Rica, said a high prevalence of fraud and identity theft exists among foreigners, whether as the victims or perpetrators. She said the new measures were mandated by the Banco Central, and all banks must comply.

The program to establish such a system of identification began with then-immigration director Mario Zamora Cordero in 2007. He is now the security minster. A person who will need the new identification would be able to obtain it at an immigration office.

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