Pardon us if we feel that the Costa Rican government is leaning on the expats here.
First there was the immigration law, new in 2010. Lawmakers said that those on tourist visas could renew them by just paying $100. That was good news because snowbirds with $500,00 condos on the Pacific coast would not have to trundle off to Nicaragua or Panamá in the middle of a five-month winter visit. But once the law went into effect, an obscure clause eliminated such renewals by most First World expats. Snowbirds still have to interrupt their winter vacations to a tourist run.
Then there was the luxury home tax. Now that tax also covered Costa Ricans who owned homes estimated to be worth more than nearly $200,000. But First World expats are programmed to pay taxes. And most did.
Then there was the rule that all legal foreignrresidents had to join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Now the Caja hospitals are great for gunshots and stab wounds. Doctors there get a lot of practice. But where did President Laura Chinchilla’s husband go when he fell? How about Óscar Arias Sánchez? Those choose private hospitals as most expats would. That is more money down the drain.
Then there is the DIMEX card, the cédula for legal residents. Doing business without one is difficult. An expat complained Monday that Banco de Costa Rica gave him a hard time when he tried to cash a check using his passport as identification. Not everyone comes to Costa Rican and obtains residency. See snowbirds above. And how about international business executives?
Then there is the long-standing reluctance of lawmakers, the judicial and the central government to tackle the problem of property theft. Many Costa Ricans are victims of property crooks. But expats are an especially ripe target. For a dozen years there has been no official notice of the problem and a few detentions were token arrests.
Now comes the big news that only Costa Ricans or those with legal residency can obtain a driver’s license. That little gem was inserted into the new traffic law. So those who come in good faith to seek residency have to still leave the country every 90 days if they seek to drive on their foreign license. The alternative is a skateboard, bike or taxi. while expats wait for the turtles at immigration to approve a residency application and issue a DIMEX card.
Called on this issue, some snob at the transport ministry said Monday that only Costa Ricans should have a driving license here. Does he not realize that respect for a foreign license is enshrined in an international agreement?
Did we mention the additional taxes on tourists?
Of course, business people have it doubly hard. That satellite Internet firm got strung along for three years before the government was forced to provide permission to work here.
Now one or two such incidents can be chalked up to ineptitude or laziness. But a long string of sneaky attacks on expats might just reveal a mindset. We are reminded of the vice minister who tried to pass an immigration law that did not include provisions for rentistas, an important residency category for those foreigners with money but no firm pension.
What are these people thinking?