Immigration police cracked down Thursday on the long-running scam by which expats could have their tourism visas renewed without leaving the country.
Police detained three immigration workers at the Sixaola border crossing as well as two other individuals.
The way to obtain visa renewal for about 60,000 colons, some $120, was well known in the expat enclaves on the Caribbean coast.
A taxi driver would collect passports and money to take them to the border post. There the passports were stamped to show that the individual named therein left the country. Then a fake stamp from adjacent Panamá was applied to show the fictitious arrival in Panamá.
First World tourist have to leave the country every 90 days, and this generates a resident known as a perpetual tourist. Some individual have been renewing their visas either legally or illegally for more than a decade. Despite laws to the contrary, many work here.
The arrests also underscore the proposals made by a number of residents in an informal poll Sunday. The frequent suggestion was that Costa Rica should allow tourists to renew a visa simply by paying a fee at a bank.
That would be a boon to snowbirds who own property here and seek to stay four or more months during the Northern Hemisphere winter
Such a provision was in the last immigration bill, but when the measure finally past the legislature, technicians had changed the wording so that renewals did not apply to 90-day tourists.
Fake exits and returns take place at other border posts. In fact, wanted individuals have been known to enter and exit Costa Rica without generating any paperwork at all.
The arrests Thursday took place while tourists were lined up at the border post seeking to make a legitimate crossing.
The arrests might cause trouble for some long-term tourists because agents at the border question and sometimes deny entry to those who have been exiting and entering Costa Rica repeatedly.