Request for direct deposits was not an immigration rule, expert finds

A Guanacaste couple cited some surprises they confronted when trying to renew their pensionado cédulas at a Banco de Costa Rica branch on the Pacific coast.

They described in an email how a bank staffer urged them to have their U.S. Social Security payments deposited in the bank electronically each month.

That request seems to have been a bit of informal marketing by the bank employee, because Javier Zavaleta of Residency in Costa Rica looked into the issue. He concluded that no such requirement exists.

“This sounds more like an attempt by the bank officer to increase the amount of deposits into that branch by forcing the expats to direct deposit their Socials Security check into the bank,” Zavaleta said in an email. “Sounds more like extortion.”

He said that an associate assisted five expats in renewing their documents in the previous week and they did not meet with any such new requirement.

Also true is that financial institutions are tightening up on the use of U.S. dollars. Both Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional only dispense limited amounts of U.S. dollars at automatic tellers. Payments on government loans and the central bank’s currency policies seem to have created shortages.

Banco de Costa Rica also collects a commission of about $7 for every cédula application it processes on behalf of the immigration agency.

Zavaleta did note that staffers at the local immigration office in Guanacaste did have the right to require a police report from the expats. The couple went there after declining the Banco de Costa Rica offer to deposit their Social Security checks.

“Migración has the authority to require this report but it is rarely, if ever, required,” Zavaleta said. “This is the first time I learned of the report being asked in the last six years.”

Immigration probably will find little use for the police report, called an hoja de delinquencia here. Lawmakers just changed the law and now allows convicts to have their record wiped clean under certain conditions. In other words, the document will not reflect correctly the criminal history of an individual. Lawmakers did that so convicts could get jobs.

Pensionados have to show periodic exchanges of U.S. dollars into colons when they renew their immigration status. Zavaleta urged the Guanacaste couple to seek permanent residency status as soon as possible to avoid hassles in the future.

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