Here’s some expat problems that need to be fixed

No legislator nor anyone in Casa Presidential has addressed topics yet that negatively affect expats and would-be expats.

A letter writer last week brought up again the problem with snowbirds who wish to stay in the country more than 90 days. They may have invested $450,000 in their ocean view condo, but they still have to pack up and make a trek to Nicaragua or Panamá if they want to renew their 90-day visa.

Note to lawmakers: The winter in Canada last more than 90 days!

When the immigration bill that passed in 2006 was being considered, there appeared to be an option to renew tourism visas for 90 more days for $100. This made complete sense, which maybe is why legislative staffers messed up the wording in the final draft that eliminated this option.

Then there is the relatively new traffic law that prevents anyone who does not have a cédula or a DIMEX card from obtaining a driver’s license. In the past anyone with a valid license from a U.S. state, Canada or some European countries could simply present it and get a Costa Rican license.

The government, of course, was trying to cut down on the number of illegals holding valid licenses. But officials went too far. Expats who have completed all the requirements for the several forms of residency cannot get a driver’s license. So to keep their foreign license active, they must make the same trek to another country to renew their visa.

That would not be so bad if the Direccion General de Migración y Extranjería were anywhere near efficient in approving residencies. Sometimes, through, the wait may be more than a year.

Then there is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social into which every legal expat must pay. No one ever said the fee would be more than $400 a month! For that monthly price an expat has the privilege of getting up at 3 a.m. to wait in line with all the Ticos to get a slip that entitles he or she to seek an appointment at a later date.

Then if they are lucky they can have a date to see a second-year medical student who is under instruction that whatever the ailment,
the prescription is acetaminophen. This is why any expat who can goes to one of the private hospitals.

At the very least, the law much be changed to allow those with valid medical insurance from another source to skip the obligatory Caja enrollment.

Meanwhile, the Caja clinics have adopted an unusual way of determining who is married. They want a marriage license not more than 30 days old to enroll a spouse. The clerks are under the impression that foreign lands work in the same way as the local Registro Civil that keeps a close eye on marriage.

The Registro knows if a Tico or Tica is married because the documents are filed there. But the State of New York or California takes the signed marriage license and just files it. Forever. So a copy does not reflect the current situation.

The humor is that the Caja is considering extending spousal benefits to gay partners while expat couples who have proved their marital bond to the immigration service are forced to do so again for the Caja enrollment they probably will never use.

These are situations that would cost the country nothing or very little to change. Some expats have said they are surrendering their residency status to become perpetual tourists simply to avoid the Caja fees and similar bureaucracy.

They may be wrong to do so. The status of a perpetual tourist is tenuous. There always is the possibility of deportation. Yet thousands of foreigners hold this informal status and try to leave the country every 90 days. Many also have jobs.

When thousands reject a certain law or regulation, the suspicious in that there is something wrong with the rule. Costa Rica should consider the actual situation and take action to bring these perpetual tourists into a legal condition. And that would generate tax money, too, because many are employed under the table. Need it be mentioned that immigration inspectors routinely overlook the large numbers of illegal workers in sports books, call centers and betting sites. That probably is not by accident.

There is no doubt that these irritants are affecting immigration to Costa Rica and, by extension, real estate sales and other economic pursuits that depend on expats.

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