Immigration will begin collecting $100 fee for overstayed visa

Traffic officials say workers will remove and replace asphalt at the Rotonda de la Hispanidad below the Circunvalación in San Pedro starting tonight. The work, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, is expected to be done by Tuesday morning. This is the traffic circle south of Mall San Pedro, a portion of which can be seen in the lower right. Consejo de Vialidad photo

Starting at the beginning of next year, the Dirección General de Migracion y Extranjeros will impose a new fee for foreigners who overstay a tourist visa, according to Mario Zamora Cordero, security minister.

Delinquent persons will have to pay $100 for every month over their allowed visa period at the time they are caught. If the person cannot pay, he or she will be denied entry for a period that is triple the time that they overstayed, he said Thursday.

“So if you stay one month more, you won’t be allowed to enter for three months,” said Freddy Montero Mora, deputy director general of immigration. “If you stay a full year, you can’t come back for three years.”

Montero said border employees do not check for traffic tickets at the border. That was in response to news stories elsewhere that said persons who owe traffic tickets will not be allowed to reenter the county. He also said that the agency does not have the tools to crack down on so-called perpetual tourists.

If a person leaves the country within the visa period and has the correct documentation, immigration agents will not bar them from returning. A perpetual tourist is a foreigner who lives here and renews a tourist visa, usually every 90 days, by traveling outside the country.

“If you want to keep leaving and coming back, that’s your decision,” he said. His comments were perhaps the most clear ever uttered on the subject by an immigration official.

However, applying the law and its fee will help stop people from living here illegally, said Zamora. The provisions for the fee and the requirement to stay out of the country for three
times the illegal period are in the 2010 immigration law, but the measure had not been enforced until now.

This news came at a conference about a study the immigration agency did to compare the entry and requirement policies for 201 countries.

The study found that Costa Rica requires citizens of 109 countries to apply for a visa prior to entering the country.

These include persons from nations like Colombia, Nicaragua and Jamaica.

However, Ticos do not receive the same courtesy, officials noted. Twenty-five of the 93 countries whose citizens are allowed to visit Costa Rica without a consular visa, request such visas from the citizens from here. These such countries include the United States, Canada and Australia.

The discrepancies exist because of the economical, social and cultural differences of each country. Underdeveloped countries may have more lenient polices where countries with big industries have tighter policies, Zamora said.

The same thing is true about countries with more controlling governments.

“In countries without strong democratic authorities, the policy tends to be very strict,” said Montero.

Currently the immigration agency does not have a plan to change its policy, but an investigation will be conducted to see why countries are requiring Costa Ricans to have visas. “This gives us hints on how to interpret possible changes,” said Montero. Most First World citizens receive a tourist visa simply by filling out a piece of paper upon entry. A consular visa requires at least one visit to a Costa Rican consulate overseas.

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