By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
As of today, tourists who stay in the country for more than 90 days have to pay a fine of $0, since the last two governments have not yet implemented a system to collect the penalties established by the law.
According to article 91 from Ley General de Migración y Extranjería, people who overstay their 90-day tourist in the country should be charged $100 per extra month on their departure.
If they fail to do so, they will be banned out of the country three days for every overstayed day.
The current immigration law dates from 2010, however, immigration authorities claim that legal debate as to whom and how the fines should be collected have delayed the process for seven years.
“There have been many interpretations on the subject and our lawyers have been discussing the issue with the Procuraduría General to gain a clear view on how the process should be properly set up,” said Seidy Muñoz, spokesperson for the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
The Procuraduría General de la República works as the country’s solicitor general and its criteria is usually legally binding. In fact, last March the Procuraduría sent a final resolution on the subject to immigration officials.
“Right now, I’m not able to provide an estimate on when the system should be up and running. It is up to a special commision to define the deadlines,” Ms. Muñoz said.
Aside from the legal issues, the compliance with the law in terms of collecting fines also implies the creation of an informative platform from scratch and its deployment.
It also implies that Migración should partner with banks and other private institutions to develop a payment network.
Ms. Muñoz was not able to provide an estimate of how much money the state could be collecting from those fines. She said that, in case of a tourist with or without a visa, immigration authorities do not keep statistics on how many people overstay and for how long.
Even though the fines are not being applied yet, there are other penalties in place for the tourists who forget to leave the country on time. One of them is to reduce the time of future stays or declining entry at all, explained Ms. Muñoz.
“The immigration police may get suspicious if they see some tourist entering and leaving often and may reduce the validity of his or her visa.” she explained.
There is also the matter of getting caught or at least being found guilty of a crime committed in Costa Rica, which could also have a factor on returning as much as potential deportation.