San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Foreign Residents Return Faulty Immigration Cards

Since the Immigration Administration started handing out “new and improved” identity cards, or cédulas, to foreign residents in February, at least 190 of the 32,500 recipients have returned their cards, citing problems with printing, magnetic bands and photo quality.

According to the daily La Nación, the photos on some of the new cards fade within months. If recipients keep the cédulas in a protective plastic case, the photos come off on to the plastic. Fungi form on the cards’ magnetic bands, which are also easily damaged by normal wear and tear.

The new cards, which replaced the handwritten booklets that previously served as cédulas, are produced using a $2.6 million computer system Immigration bought in 2004, La Nación reported. Immigration Director Mario Zamora, who took office after the new system was already in place, said the purchase was “a joke” for officials and foreigners seeking more secure documents.

Gerardo Lang, legal representative of Costa Rican company GTK Corp., one of the two companies in the consortium that won the cédula contract, told the daily the printing quality Immigration has received is the same that “was offered, was ruled on and was delivered.”

Lang said the company determined early on that the cards were being printed on the wrong material, a problem they corrected by adding a protector for the cards.

He claims Immigration waited 79 days to authorize the addition of the protector.

The quality of the cards isn’t the only problem for foreigners at Immigration.

Foreigners with residency status who get a new card also get a new identification number, which some claim causes problems at banks and other institutions.

Foreigners seeking to renew their cards also face waits up to 10 months for an appointment, along with the risk that their documents will be misplaced in the archaic filing system (TT, Sept. 29).


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