Why Bother Applying For Costa Rica Residency? Part I of II

There are good practical reasons to get residency if you plan on staying from 91 to 365 days per year. That pesky 90-day visa restriction is lifted the moment your application for residency is submitted.

Lets first address an increasingly risky tradition still carried out by many… “Border Running” sounds and feels a lot classier than “Border Runner.”

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life feeling like a refugee? I get that you don’t mean to cause insult. But to Ticos, and in particular, the Immigration Department Police, that practice is looked upon the same way you looked upon illegal aliens back home.

Remember that Immigration is a Police and Security arm of the government. They have a lot of agent pick up trucks and a few full sized buses in their parking lots for a reason. Many of them are brand new. Hmmm…

Note the word “POLICIA” in the sign on top of the Costa Rica Immigration Center.

Mocking the system with border runs is not a promising strategy for peace of mind living. How often did Mom, Dad or the school principal admonish you for justifying behaviour with “everybody does it” reasoning? 

In actual practice today, it is only a minority of non-residents doing it. The number of “border-runners” has dropped steadily and for good reason. The door on that program is going to be slamming down hard very soon. Seen the news about Syrian terrorists and also 90 Cubans headed to the U.S. attempting to pass through here in December 2015?

Care to get in the middle of one of these scenes? Global conditions will create many more in the future.

Connect the dots.

Costa Rica security may have had a self serving (easy on the tourist) Pura Vida tolerance and budget challenges in the past, but the big dog called Homeland Security a few km’s north isn’t amused. New laws are in effect.


Look at the size of the U.S. consulate (where I once worked) compared to the combined size of the Costa Rican presidential and legislative offices. It’s massive. The main pressure being brought to bear to stop this practice is from Washington.

Wayward Syrians and Cubans are serious threats to security. But tightening up laws also serves the agenda of another Washington pit bull: The IRS. As only one of hundreds of enforcement methods, influence on foreign countries such as Costa Rica is a means to pressure, hound, restrict and corral ex-pats draining their money out of the U.S. Does the number $19 trillion indicate any type of motivation?

Close Call, January 2016.

Last week (January 3) a frantic client called me for service. Her motivation was that the Costa Rican border police told her on her 9th border run to Panama: “This is the last time we are going to give you a stamp. Be serious and get your residency now!”

Horror Scene:

Three days into Playa Coco’s Herb and Marge Petrie’s 17th stamp run to Nicaragua, they found themselves in the Managua Airport in a sleep-deprived state of shock.

They were sitting at gate 4 with one-way tickets back “home” to Decatur Illinois in the middle of December with no chance of returning to Costa Rica to claim their assets, life, friends and ailing dog for ten years.

They lost their limp argument with the Costa Rica O.I.J. and Immigration agents when trying to get back into Costa Rica where the best they could put forward was, “But everybody does this. We have done it for years.” (Refer to Mom & Dad above.)

All this is negative reinforcement to dissuade you from the practice.

But as a professional and a proud Costa Rican, I’d much prefer the positive motivation of really getting serious about being part of our culture. I have seen enthusiastic smiles on all my clients when that residency card was finally put into their hands. Some cry.

Believe me… it’s as big a deal as when my daughter and I were sworn in as Canadian citizens in a room filled with cheers and tears.

Also, if you add up what some have spent on these border runs, they could have had residency cards and benefits for less!

Written by Laura B. Gutiérrez who specializes in getting your residency approved in Costa Rica quicker and more efficiently than any attorney.

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