I lived and worked on the Texas Mexican border for 35 years before moving to Costa Rica.
I had a manufacturing business in Mexico and I guided hunters into Mexico. During these years I learned to appreciate the Mexican forms of corruption. It was normal to pay a Policeman directly for some real or imagined infraction to avoid a ticket or trip to jail.
This little bit of corruption is also prevalent in Costa Rica. I have no problem with this because the Police here are very friendly and courteous and are very poorly paid. I have been truly speeding each time they have stopped me.
In Mexico, it was normal to pay ‘expedite fees’ to officials to help speed up all forms of paperwork. For years we just handed an envelope with the proper amount of dollars to the various Border officials to allow our hunting groups to cross with guns and ammunition without inspection of documentation.
Once I learned the system, it was just a cost of business and really more efficient than trying to deal with Bureaucrats in the US. Once a new President of Mexico fired all of the Officials on the Border to “eliminate all of the corruption”. This really screwed up our crossings. They would take up to an hour to carefully check the serial numbers on the documents with those on the shotguns, compare addresses and phone numbers between documents, etc.
All of the new Officials were young, offended by offers of ‘expedite money’, college graduates who behaved like many of the Bureaucrats in the US. They thought their job was to find any little error in the paper work to stop the legitimate flow of people across the border. It only took one year for most of them to see how much better it was for them and their country to allow us, (we always had the required documents even though some might have a typo’ or two) to cross quickly and receive a pre-agreed upon token of our appreciation.
The US and Costa Rican Bureaucracies seem very similar in many aspects. First of all, I have not seen any instances of front line inspectors open for ‘expedite fees’. My attorneys insist there is no way to skip the requirement for getting a properly ‘authenticated’ copy of my wife’s birth certificate from Latvia which is causing some problems wince the country no longer exists.
We have been working on becoming legal Residents here for some months. The requirements seem quite simple. You must have a Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, proof of $600 per month income, and a Police letter of clean record.
The ‘authentication’ part of this can be really difficult. It requires a Costa Rican Consul to verify the authenticity of the signature on each document. This costs $40 per document and is easy if there is a Costa Rican Consulate in the city where the document is created. If the document comes from someplace outside of the Consulate’s area, an authentication from some state or federal agency that the Consulate can authenticate is required.
Now follow this, my wife was born in Latvia. In case you are not aware, it became a State of the USSR after the WW2. It regained it’s independence after the fall of the USSR. She is a Naturalized Citizen of the USA, married to a USA Citizen, has a sworn affidavit that she was born in Latvia, an original document from the USA state department of her birth which was sufficient to get her USA citizenship, all of these are ‘authenticated’ by Colin Powell, and the required document from the USA Social Security of her income for life over $600 per month.
There is an article on the books of Costa Rica which allows a sworn affidavit to be used when there is a problem with the source country being able to produce an original, authenticated birth certificate.
We applied with all of the above and now, after 8 months, have been informed that my Residency will be approved, but she must obtain the following: An original birth certificate from Latvia, the signature on this must be authenticated by an official of the Latvian State Department, this signature must be authenticated by the Latvian Consul in Washington DC, this signature must be authenticated by the Costa Rican Consul in Washington DC then all of this must be authenticated by the Costa Rican State Department in Costa Rica.
I would happily pay an expedite fee to avoid all of this time and expense of sending all of this paperwork all over the world. After all, what is the purpose of this?
So, Costa Rican bureaucrats are very similar to most in the USA. Their purpose is not to enforce the intent of the laws, but rather to jack the paperwork around for as long as possible to grow their jobs and assure job security. Where is ‘corruption’ when I need it?
This is only an inconvenience! We are so happy living here and grateful this is one of the very few negatives we have encountered.
Written by our friend George Lundquist, who is the founder of Costa Rica Retire on Social Security. If you are thinking of retiring in Costa Rica, you might want to consider the tour that George offers, his goal is to share his experiences here with you to save you time and money!
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