Some tourists getting short-changed with visa dates

Some tourists are getting unexpected and inconvenient short stays from immigration agents at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia.

One North American businessman found that out when he flew into Liberia. He and his wife only were granted 30-day visas, he said. They both had not been in the country since April and had an exit ticket for three months after their arrival.

Pat Wegner, a permanent resident, said a friend came to visit Nov. 26 and told the airport immigration agent that he was leaving Dec. 5. The agent stamped his passport for five days instead of the 10 which the visitor had requested.

“This was our friend’s first visit to Costa Rica, and he is seriously considering retiring here in the near future,” said Ms. Wegner. “The question remains to be seen if this overstay will negatively impact his eventual application for residency. Only time will tell.”

According to Freddy Montero, it is not a usual practice for border workers to give less time than requested. However the government workers have the legal right to decide how many days a person should be granted, he said.

“North Americans have the opportunity to stay 90 days but that does not mean they are going to be granted 90 days,” he said. “This depends on the information you give at the time of arrival.”

The information comes from the question on the customs form that asks how long a person will be in the country, why they are are there and where they are staying.

If a person is only coming for a few days, it is likely that they will not get the 90-day visa, said Montero. He is a spokesman for the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Montero gave the example of if a person comes for a 10-day stay, the border agent may give a visa for 15 days. It is procedure to give a few days more than asked, he said.

An immigration official at the Liberia airport said he did not know exactly why these persons are getting less days than asked, and said that the visa cannot be contested at the airport.

Those who want their visa to be revised must go to an immigration office before it expires and file for an extension, he said.

According to immigration documents, this can only be done with a visa that has less than 90 days. It is also a complex process that includes getting authentication from a lawyer and paying money.

North Americans affected are saying the inconsistencies in immigration policies are going to have a negative impact on travel to the country.

“This is lousy business for tourism,” said the businessman, who asked that his name not be used.

He happens to own property in Costa Rica and was not happy with the prospect of having to leave the country again during the Christmas rush

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