Tico gets his U.S. visa canceled in embassy spat

A vice consul at the U.S. Embassy stamped the cancelled notation on the face of Óscar Mora's U.S. visa.

A Costa Rican seeking a passport for his American-born daughter lost his own U.S. visa when a Pavas embassy diplomat stamped it “canceled” as the climax to a disagreement.

The man, a Guanacaste businessman, said that losing the visa will be an economic hardship because he makes frequent visits to the United States to purchase items for resale here.

The man, Óscar Mora Morales, 50, said a vice consul acted arbitrarily in canceling his business visa. He said the argument stemmed from what he described as intrusive questions asked by a Costa Rican interviewer.

The U.S. Embassy declined to comment immediately on the case. At first, a press aide cited the U.S. Privacy Act as an excuse, but a reporter faxed Mora’s privacy release form to her. Thursday night an email from the aide promised comments today.

Mora said he visited the U.S. Embassy Jan. 12 to obtain a U.S. passport for his daughter, Melissa Mora Esquivel, 13. The daughter is a U. S. citizen who was born in Florida while the family was legally visiting the country. Oscar Mora said the entire family, including his wife and other son, Jeffrey Mora Esquivel, 15, who is also a U.S. citizen by birth, were planning a trip to Miami in February. The daughter needed the passport to travel.

A.M. Costa Rica staff The Mora family ready to return to Guanacaste.

Until his visit with his daughter to the embassy last week, Mora possessed a 10-year business and tourism visa to visit the United States. His visa was not to expire until 2015. He claims a vice consul abruptly cancelled the visa by stamping over it in his passport. The reason, he said, was that he became upset with a worker at the embassy who asked a multitude of questions surrounding the status of his daughter’s citizenship and his legality. The vice consul said the daughter would get her U.S. passport but that he would not have a visa, he said.

One of the most frustrating questions, he said, was when the embassy worker sought proof that he had paid the hospital bill for the birth of his daughter in Miami 13 years ago. He said the hospital doesn’t even exist anymore, but when he couldn’t provide documentation he said he thought that his daughter was in danger of not receiving a passport. He became upset and questioned the motives of the worker. At that point the staff member, a Costa Rican woman, went to speak with a vice consul. Vice consuls usually are younger diplomats, although senior embassy officials sometimes fill in when needed.

Mora said he did not know the name of the vice consul but that the woman promptly cancelled his visa and then accused him of staying illegally in the States. But he denies that allegation and said no evidence was provided to him that would prove he had overstayed any visa in the States. He said the vice consul acted in retaliation for him being argumentative.

He said he brought his Costa Rican passport to the embassy only because two forms of identification are required of the parents of a minor seeking a U.S. passport.

Mora visited the embassy again Thursday, and said his daughter received her passport, but his visa remains canceled. Mora is an established Guanacaste businessman.

Mora said he travels to the United States eight times a year, if not more, and has possessed two, 10-year visas in his lifetime. He is the owner of a tour agency in Costa Rica as well as a computer resale company and travels to the United States to buy electronics. He said he had already made the hotel reservations, purchased the airline tickets and $10,000 of electronics, which is now waiting for him to pick up in Miami during for the family’s planned trip in February.

He said also the trip was going to have sentimental value because, although his daughter is 13 years old and a United States citizen, she has only been in the United States once in her life: the three months following her birth.

He said it has been her dream to go there.

Robin Haase is the recent arrival as consul general at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas. The former consul general, Paul Birdsall, gained a reputation for community outreach and customer service.

The consular section that issues visas to Costa Ricans and handles passport and other requests from U.S. citizens has had several high-profile public relations disasters. Perhaps the most notable was when workers denied a visa to a Costa Rican mother whose U.S. citizen son had just died as a soldier in Iraq. The woman got the cold shoulder when embassy personnel said they could not find the name of the dead soldier on a data base. They made her come back the following day after paying a $100 appointment fee to attend her son’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Other embassy workers were so shocked at the treatment that they took up a collection.

Since that event in 2004, conditions have improved. Costa Ricans no longer have to wait outside in the wind and rain when seeking a visa to the United States. Now there is a roofed area inside the embassy where they can wait. And an appointment system has greatly reduced waiting time.

Embassy officials have bragged that 85 percent of the Costa Rican applicants obtain U.S. visas.

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