The election campaigns for president and legislative deputies are in full swing.
Generally expats are not supposed to involve themselves in the campaigns or donate money to favored candidates.
But there is no rule preventing expats from speaking out on issues that concern them directly.
Foreigners living here have been blindsided in the last couple of years with a flurry of rules and laws that make life difficult. We think these changes should be made.
When the new immigration bill worked its way through the legislature, there was a clause that would have allowed tourists to renew their visa simply by paying a $100 fee. This newspaper supported that concept, which eventually made its way into the law. Then the fine print revealed that this does not apply to anyone who enters the country on a 90-day visa. That includes most First World visitors.
That the country will not accommodate wealthy Canadian snowbirds who come to stay in their condos for four months a year is incredible. The current interpretation of the law requires the snowbirds and every other tourist to leave the country at the expiration of 90 days.
This law should be changed to reflect the general understanding when it was passed. Let tourists pay $100 to remain in the country, and let them do it at a state bank instead of creating another labyrinth at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
Another blindsided blow was in the new traffic law. Now foreigners cannot obtain a driver’s license unless they have a cédula or some form of residency.
Perhaps it was a bit loose when anyone who was warm and breathing could obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license, even though they came in handy when stopped doing 90 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Under the current rule, even those who have applied for residency cannot obtain a driver’s license until the residency is approved and the cédula is issued. Sometimes that means a wait of 18 months or more.
This rule should be changed to allow persons legitimately seeking residency to apply for and receive a Costa Rican driver’s license. Forcing someone who is awaiting approval for residency to leave every 90 days so they can continue to drive on a foreign license is burdensome and unnecessary.
Obligatory membership in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social
Immigration rules now required every approved foreign resident to affiliate with the Caja, even if they would not use the public medical services.
This is a good rule if the goal is to insure emergency medical care for foreigners. But this really looks like a tax. Even if someone had a solid gold insurance plan with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, they are obligated to join the Caja.
If it’s a tax, it is disproportionate and unconstitutional because it treats foreigners differently than Costa Ricans, who are not obligated to join the Caja. Foreigners should have the benefit of choice.
The current law, as interpreted by this administration, prohibits pensionados and rentistas, as well as legal residents other than residente permanente, from applying for a pistol or shotgun permit. Self defense is a human right. Costa Rica should extend its firearms policy to include these expats, many of whom are older and big targets in their communities.
After a few years in Costa Rica, many residents want to take the step to be authentic citizens and participate in the nation’s business and political life as equals.
If an expat is married to a Costa Rican, the option of full citizenship is there without the requirement that the applicant pledge to renounce any current citizenship.
If the expat is applying for citizenship based on time spent in the country, there still is that requirement. Hardly anyone follows through on the requirement and really renounces their U.S., UK, German or Canadian citizenship, so the rule makes them liars. And some day some enterprising politician may require that this rule be enforced.
Although the Sala IV in another seat-of-the-pants decision says this is constitutional, it is not. And the rule should be changed.
Getting a work permit for a foreign employee is equivalent in time, effort and frustration to getting residency. The same kinds of papers are required from afar. And the wait is lengthy.
Costa Rica should streamline these permits, bring the many illegal workers on the tax rolls and knock off the favoritism shown to some companies. Not to mention the frauds shown by others.
What to do
If they are in agreement with these statements, expats should find a reason to draw them to the attention to the candidates who are seeking public office from now until Feb. 2. There is only one chance every four years to do this.