No presidential candidates appear to be talking about the issues important to expats.
Foreigners cannot vote nor can they make political contributions, but they certainly have opinions and needs. Many feel they have been battered during the Laura Chinchilla presidency.
They cite recent changes in the traffic law that prohibit issuing a driver’s license to someone who does not have a cédula, a DIMEX card. That card is only available for persons with legal residency, something that may take from a year to three years.
This means that a foreigner who is applying in good faith for legal residency still must leave the country every 90 days to renew a tourist visa if he or she wishes to continue driving on their foreign license. Or they can put the car in the garage for however long it takes for the Dirección General de MIgración to approve residency and issue the DIMEX card.
Banks, too, generally require such a DIMEX card for online transfers or to open an account.
Of course the expat in limbo who needs to make a trip to renew a tourism visa might also be hit with another problem that irks foreigners. Immigration agents are arbitrary in specifying the time period for a tourism visa. Some perpetual tourists here have been issued 30-day visas. Some foreigners who own substantial property here also have had that problem.
Snowbirds are faced with the need to leave the country at the expiration of their tourism visa. Most have swallowed the fact that they must do so at least once during a stay of more than 90 days. But now they are not guaranteed the 90 days.
Some business leaders who are foreigners have faced this problem with relatives who visited for several months. Some received minimal time on their tourism visas. Immigration agents also appear to be out of the control of the administration.
Then there is the problem of secure property ownership. Squatting is epidemic, thanks to Costa Rican laws that favor property thieves. Ask the expat who has been fighting to keep his property near Los Sueños for 16 years. He has another court date next month.
The reluctance of some presidential candidates to address this problem is understandable, considering how close they are to those who would grab property.
Johnny Araya Monge, for example, was married to Kenia María Gutiérrez Castillo from 1990 to 2007, records at the Registro Civil show.
During that time she and some associates had the good fortune to purchase at a discount a $1 million property on the central Pacific coast from a vendor of snow cones on the Quepos beach. At least that is to what she testified in court, according to records of testimony. Johnny Araya is the current Partido Liberación Nacional presidential candidate.
The cheap land purchase was a good deal for the family because one of the three new owners was the wife of Rolando Araya Monge, the 2002 Partido Liberación presidential candidate and brother to Johnny. The third individual was the wife of a man who had been elected to the legislature, also on the Liberación Nacional ticket.
The U.S. expat owner of the property fought for years even after a prosecutor washed his hands of the case. Eventually even sympathetic judges could not accept the story of the snow cone vendor, who remained a fugitive. And the land reverted to the expat in 2006.
Someone had forged the name of the real owner to show a sale and then the three women claimed to be the innocent third parties who bought the land. The notary involved in the deal was acquitted because, he said, someone had stolen his notarial book. The expat proved he was out of the country when the fake sale took place.
There were no criminal convictions. A full news story on the case is HERE!
Plenty of expats who own property here have them in secure environments and subscribe to the relatively new Registro Nacional alert service that tells them if any legal changes take place on the holdings. So to some extent they are protected.
But if they are legal they still have to confront another growing problem for expats, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Under current regulations those with legal residency, pensionado, rentista or sin limite, have to subscribe to the Caja insurance plan. Some expats report that they are paying in excess of $400 a month because the Caja workers took into account their presumed monthly income as rentistas.
Still there are many expats with other medical insurance plans, including policies written by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros or even stateside Medicare. Regardless, these individuals still have to sign up with the Caja under terms of the residency even if they never will use the services.
Finally, expats would like some form of speedy residency stripped of all the bureaucracy. The government has offered an amnesty of sorts twice to foreign agricultural workers and domestic employees. Most of these are Nicaraguans who will continue to work in Costa Rica.
Persons living here illegally who were older than 65 years also could have taken advantage of this amnesty, but few expats did.
Perpetual tourists here who own property or businesses and raise a family here would like to see some consideration to eliminate the need to pretend they were real tourists by leaving the country every 90 days or sooner.