There is not much relief in sight for those expat headaches

Each week a handful of expats here voice their complaints via email to A.M. Costa Rica.

In most cases these complaints and concerns do not involve million dollar issues. Some, like the recent Banco de Costa Rica ruling on dollar emissions, are just inconveniences.

A unifying threat is that there has been no action by the current central government to ease the life of expats here. The reverse is true.

When Banco de Costa Rica decided to limit automatic teller emissions of U.S. dollars to about $105 a day for foreign credit and debit card transactions, there were a lot of questions. The bank responded to a reporter’s questions with vague reasons.

So far there has been no response to requests for additional information.

Some expats figured that the bank action had something to do with the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. Certainly by requiring expats to take out the bulk of their money in colons and convert it to dollars will assist central bank efforts to hold an artificially low exchange rate on U.S. currency.

The exchange rate has been another gripe by expats for years. The Banco Central claims it is subsidizing the U.S. dollar to prevent it from falling lower than the current 528/540 sell/buy rate. Yet elsewhere in the world the U.S. dollar is getting stronger. In Costa Rica commercial inflow of dollars has declined because agricultural sources report declines in pineapple and banana exports, key money generators.

There are big issues, but there are smaller ones that legislators could take action to ease the life of expats.

A continuing complaint is the problem of getting a driver’s license. Foreigners have to have some form of legal residency to obtain one. The earlier policy of providing one to anyone who could show a valid license from elsewhere was a bit loose. But there are many expats who have filed for residency who still have to leave the country every 90 days to be able to drive their vehicles legally.

Those who do file for residency know that when approved they must join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. This is not a small bite. Many expats will not actually use the Caja, but they have to pay the monthly quota anyway. That can be as much as $400 a month for a rentista. The Caja does headache111015not give credit for those expats who have valid medical insurance here, such as the retired members of the U.S. military, and U.S. seniors who are getting by on Medicare.

Plenty of North Americans only are here part of the year and enter on tourism visas. A number own luxury condos and houses. Yet they, too, must leave the country after 90 days to renew their visa. This is another gripe from long-term visitors here. Expat advocate thought this issue was resolved in the 2010 immigration law, but the final draft prohibited administrative renewal of visas issued for 90 days, the type given most North Americans.

Such badly drafted legislation does not equal good public relations. Not only that but North American snow birds with dwellings here probably also are paying the luxury home tax that was supposed to build homes for the poor.

Expats and long-term visitors alike are very concerned about the proposed changes in the tax laws. They fear that the government will slap a 15 percent assessment on money entering the country, even those at the Banco de Costa Rica automatic tellers.

Plenty of expats receive money from their home countries as pensions or dividends. And some are just getting by. Nothing has been settled yet on this issue in the legislature, and even the best intentions sometimes can become badly drafted law.

Many expats know that good manners prohibit becoming involved in Costa Rican politics. That rule does not apply when the issues directly affect the expats. Plus many have Costa Rica spouses.

So concerned expats have the option of writing lawmakers HERE!  They might be surprised to receive a response.

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