Blindsided again, and this time the culprit is the Caja

Some expats are being caught up in another one of those governmental kafkaesque situations. This one is courtesy of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Legal expats have been required to become members of the Caja medical system for the last two and a half years. But the Caja is not recognizing marriage certificates.

The problem all stems from the Costa Rican system at the Registro Civil. That agency keeps close track of the marital status of Costa Ricans and those who marry here. A marriage performed by a notary ends up in the Registro Civil rapidly. When there is a divorce, this information comes from the courts and is posted quickly. A document the Registro Civil produces on request is called the Constancia de Matrimonio.

So the marital status of most Costa Ricans and expats who marry or divorce here is open to the public.

Consequently, Caja clerks are seeking an updated document specifying the marital status. They are trying to avoid providing Caja health services to people who are not really covered by someone insured by the Caja who they falsely claim is a spouse.

One Canadian expat ran into this situation when she visited the local Caja clinic to renew her identification carnet. The problem also would face anyone married elsewhere who was trying to affiliate with the Caja on the strength of a spouse’s employment here.

Because Caja affiliation is required for foreign residents, there is an urgency to do so.

As the expat pointed out, one solution would be to obtain a new copy of a marriage certificate from the country in which she was married. Caja clerks and possibly the hierarchy are unaware that other countries do not keep close track of a citizen’s marital status.

U.S. citizens could be married in any one of the 50 states and the territories. The certificate would be filed with the local government and eventually end up in a state archive. The document would be untouched from the day it was issued.

Still, Caja clerks want an up-to-date certificate issued by the appropriate foreign agency within the last month. In the case of Canadians, this document would have to be validated by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then sent to a Costa Rican consul in Canada for validation of the ministry’s approval. Then the document would have to be validated once again by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto in San José.

Only then could the document be presented to the Caja clerk.

U.S. citizens could do the process quicker because both Costa Rica and the United States are signatories to what is called Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. The agreement also is called the Apostille convention after the French word for certification.

That means the foreign ministry here will accept, validate and apply stamps to a document validated by one of the 50 U.S. secretaries of state. The state office would have attached a small document called the apostille validating the contents.

The Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that it is the authority in the United Kingdom.

Some expats caught in this pinch have considered being remarried in Costa Rica. But to do so both parties must swear that they are not married already, something that clearly is not true.

An irony is that many expat couples already have a validated and official marriage certificate on file in the office of Migración y Extranjería from the time they sought legal residency.

The Canadian expat said she probably would select a third option, that of affiliating with the Caja independently and pay the monthly fee.

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