Immigration director backs reform of current law

The immigration director says that the law covering her agency needs a reform.

The director, Kattia Rodríguez, appeared at a legislative committee Wednesday to address some changes proposed by bill No. 18.922.

The law covering immigration underwent a complete rewrite in 2010.

The director said that there are fundamental and important principles that are difficult to implement and a reform would make the law more agile.  The law was done from the point of view of the immigrant and is rigid, she said. That was during the administration of Abel Pacheco.

Several proposals would benefit expats. One would allow legal residents as well as Costa Ricans to provide residency to blood relatives, such as parents. That would be an advantage to many expats whose parents are older and still in the home country.

The director favored such a change.

Another change is to make the penalties for living in Costa Rica proportional to the period during which a foreigner remained here. She made a distinction between someone who had been here illegally briefly and someone who had lived here illegally for years.

She also complained that her agency only has 400 immigration police officers who have to at least cover the various immigration border posts.

The director also noted that the current law prevents some legal residents from becoming permanent residents. Although pensionados and rentistas can convert to permanent residents after two years, persons who have been here on work permits much longer cannot.

The current proposed changes are in the  Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos. Many expats would like to see changes, too. One would be a way to lengthen a tourism stay here without traveling outside the country every 90 days. That would benefit wealthy snowbirds who come here for four or five months of the year during the harsh North American winter.

Current enforcement of immigration laws appears to be chaotic. Normally when a person is stopped by police and found to be here illegally, the individual is given an appointment to visit the immigration agency. Many ignore that summons.

Members of a suspected human smuggling ring that was broken up earlier this week were said to be using these immigration appointments as safe conduct documents and selling them to their illegal clients.

Current regulations required those receiving legal residency to immediately sign up for membership in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Some expats consider this an intrusion, too, and the rule has led to a growing group of so-called permanent tourists who leave the country every 90 days.

They renew their tourism visas despite having jobs, real estate and vehicles here.

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