San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Immigration Director Deemed Responsible for Visa Suits

Immigration Director Mario Zamora, who has been praised for his efforts to root out corruption and reorganize the troubled Immigration Administration, was “personally condemned” in a ruling this week by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) following several suits by rejected visa applicants.

Judicial Branch spokesman Fabián Barrantes said the court found Zamora did not have adequate grounds for rejecting the applications.

“For many of the people who’ve turned to the Sala IV (regarding Immigration), it’s because he (Zamora) denied them a visa,” Barrantes said. “The Sala condemned him because of a lack of grounds.”

Because the Sala IV doesn’t apply sentences, the ruling constitutes an “abstract condemnation,” Barrantes explained; however, if the parties involved file suit in an administrative contention court, it’s possible Zamora could eventually have to pay damages out of his own pocket, he said.

According to a statement from the Sala IV, one reason for the decision is that the court has found in favor of those filing suit on multiple occasions, without corrective action by Immigration.

“In multiple cases, the Sala has had to restate the fundamental rights of Costa Ricans and foreigners because… the administration of Immigration has not corrected the constitutional errors in previous sentences,” the statement read.

Zamora warned the ruling limits the Immigration Administration’s ability to deny visas in marriages of convenience – those between a Costa Rican and a foreigner seeking entry to the country.

“As you can see, we have no other option than to start automatically allowing the entry of foreigners who have (agreed to) marriages by power of attorney, which despite not complying with the regulations in effect, and despite the administration having reasonable doubt about their truthfulness – according to the Sala, we can’t evaluate those facts,” Zamora told the daily La Nación.

It’s not the first time the Sala IV has ruled against Immigration when it comes to handling marriages between Costa Ricans and foreigners. In 2005, a ruling by the court meant Immigration officials could no longer investigate or interview spouses, as it had traditionally done, to determine whether the marriages were undertaken solely to obtain residency. The Immigration Director at the time,Marco Badilla, told La Nación that his department would obey the ruling “under protest” and that the decision would open the door for future marriages of convenience (TT, Jan. 28, 2005).


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