San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Can Seniors Get Help To Renew Residency Papers?

Last year, in going to Costa Rican Immigration for the annual renewal of my residency cédula (identification card), I waited the normal one and a half hours to be given an appointment date two months later. Arriving on time at the 10 a.m. scheduled appointment time, I found myself waiting along with hundreds of other seniors, many 70 plus, several in poor health, for six hours mostly standing because of a lack of enough seats.

After 15 years of living here I have learned to expect and nearly accept long lines and waits as Ticos do, but for many of us seniors this is a great physical hardship. Is there any a provision or agency to assist seniors or the infirm in the renewal of pensionado (retiree) or residency cédulas?

Alan Currier

Sabanilla de Montes de Oca,

San José

Immigration has a special line for seniors, pregnant women and people with handicaps, Immigration spokeswoman Heidy Bonilla told The Tico Times.

While the main waiting area is equipped with chairs, these often fill up, especially lately, with the restructuring of Immigration’s foreign section. This has initially brought difficulties and delays but will eventually make the process of renewing residency permits much faster, according to Bonilla.

All foreign residents will obtain a new residency card that looks much like Costa Ricans’ identification card next time they renew their cédula (TT, April 21).

Renewals after that will no longer require stamps, signatures and seals, because Immigration officials will just swipe the card through a machine to update the information contained in its metallic band, a procedure that should take two minutes, Bonilla said.

However, it could take officials some time to master the new system, which is producing delays right now because upgrading from the old permits to the new cards requires taking residents’ digital photos and fingerprints, she said.

Bonilla explained it could be months before Immigration officials get used to the new equipment and reach maximum efficiency.

For personalized help renewing your residency paperwork, you might try the Residents’ Association of Costa Rica. The association assists its members in obtaining or renewing residency permits by hiring lawyers whose assistants can wait in line for clients at Immigration.

According to Anabelle Zumbado, a customer service agent at the association, members can avoid standing in line throughout the process except to pick up the cédula, which must be done in person.

Residents may join the association by paying a $50 membership fee and can submit their information online, at For more information, call 233-8068.


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