The immigration department confirmed Monday that a new set of regulations is close to being approved and published. This would be the second set of regulations that cover the finer points of the March 2010 immigration law.
When the first set of rules became public last October, many expats and their legal and residency advisers were surprised that there was little mention of topics of interest to foreigners. About the only mention of foreigners related to human trafficking.
Now the second set of rules is expected to address some crucial topics.
Chief among many expats is the issue of perpetual tourist. These are foreigners who live and sometimes work in Costa Rica on a tourism visa. Many U.S. and Canadian citizens leave the country and return every 90 days to renew the visa. Some have reported problems at reentry. In some cases, the immigration agency awards a visa much shorter than 90 days.
The biggest fear of some foreigners is that the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería will pass rules that limit the number of times a year a foreigner can visit Costa Rica as a tourist.
Before the last set of rules became public, Mario Zamora Cordero, then the director of immigration, gave an extensive interview in which he outlined in detail restrictions on tourists. For example, he said that tourists would have to leave Costa Rica to a different country each time to renew a visa.
Later Zamora said that he was incorrect in outlining these major changes to immigration procedures. His response left the impression that the restrictions had been discussed but for some reason were not being promulgated as part of the regulations at that time. He is now minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, a post that includes responsibility for the immigration agency.
During his time at immigration Zamora also issued a memo that allowed foreigners seeking residency as inversionista to count their personal home as the required investment. Until then an inversionista or investor had to put money in some profit-making, commercial venture.
Some in the residency field have said that Zamora did that, in part, to boost the country’s sagging real estate values. Because of the memo, some expats obtained inversionista status by purchasing a home valued by the local municipality at $200,000 or more.
Residency experts fear that the new rules or reglamentos will reverse this benefit. Some are pushing through applications for inversionista status because of their fears.
Javier Zavaleta of Residency in Costa Rica follows developments in the immigration agency closely. In an email message he noted that by issuing regulations, the agency would be canceling Zamora’s memo.
“The problem is that once the new reglamento is printed in La Gaceta, the official newspaper of the government of Costa Rica, all internal memos and rulings still in effect are automatically voided and are no longer valid,” he said.
Zavaleta noted what he said were consistent rumors in the agency that rules for inversionista will be tightened.
Although a spokesperson at immigration Monday said that the new rules had not been signed, Zavaleta said that he has been told that approval is complete and all that is lacking is publication.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the reglamento is published by April 15.
The immigration spokesman declined to provide a copy to a reporter and said that everyone must wait until publication. She said that she did not know the contents of the new rules.