Perpetual tourists are facing more constraints as Costa Rican and adjacent countries tighten up their entry requirements.
Like most entry situations, requirements frequently are different or absent from what the rules require.
The latest flap among U.S. perpetual tourists in Costa Rica is the enforcement of a requirement for a return ticket for those traveling overland into Panamá. That country for years has required proof of forward travel for tourists arriving by air. Costa Rica requires the same proof.
But some immigration officers in Panamá are requiring proof of forward or return travel to those entering the country by land from Costa Rica. This is a problem for perpetual tourists who live in Costa Rica and have to leave the country every 90 days to renew their tourist visa. Some said they have been required to purchase expensive air tickets before being allowed to enter Panamá,
Costa Rica requires proof that a tourist will leave the country at the end of the normal 90-day tourism visa. Those arriving by air sometimes meet this requirement with an open bus ticket to an adjacent country. That is the cheapest legal way.
Others simply forge bus tickets or provide airline information downloaded from a Web site. Some posters online have cautioned their fellow expats to refrain from being too candid about their forgery exploits.
A second problem for some perpetual tourists is the new computer link border immigration posts have with the International Police Agency. Theoretically, a Costa Rican immigration agency can determine if an incoming tourist is wanted or a fugitive from another jurisdiction.
Kirk Owen, a perpetual tourist living in Jacó, is a classic case of someone living here as a perpetual tourists who could not obtain legal residency. Owen, as has been reported in the past, has two child sex convictions in the United States. He made frequent exits and entries to Costa Rica because he was not a fugitive. Had he applied for residency, however, his convictions would have been discovered when his fingerprints were checked. Costa Rican officials deported him because they saw him as undesirable.
Most who opt for the perpetual tourist travails are not criminals, but they choose not to seek legal
residency. That may be because they cannot show the funds necessary to be a pensionado or a rentista.
Although tourists are supposed to be prohibited from working, many perpetual tourists do anyway. Some, like Owen, own expensive homes.
Even those who apply for residency are facing additional problems. Costa Rican motor vehicle officials now follow the three-year-old traffic law and require a residency cédula to issue a Costa Rican license. Even those who have filed residency papers must continue to make the 90-day trek out of the country if they wish to remain legal with their foreign driving license here.
A few expats in Costa Rica might be able to take advantage of the new Global Pass program in Panamá. That program was the subject of a January decree. It follows the U.S. Global Entry that allows low-risk frequent visitors to skip some of the immigration procedures. The program must be applied for and costs $100. Although both the Panamá and the U.S. programs are mainly for business travelers, some expats might be able to enter this category.