San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica adds new ID, phone number for immigration

The almost two-year freeze on renewing permanent resident cards is over, Costa Rican Immigration announced this week. As of Monday, foreigners can begin requesting new resident cards.

Director Mario Zamora said his agency installed a new high-tech document system, thanks to a $750,000 donation from a U.S.-based private company called Laser Card.

“The previous cards were of low quality and the photos on them disappeared over a relatively short period of time,” he said. “But with this new technology, the same they use in the United States, the same level of security is being transferred to Costa Rica.”

Zamora suspended the issuing of new cards under the old system in 2006 shortly after he took the post.

He said the $2.6 million contract that GTK-TML, a private consortium of businesses, won from the Public Security Ministry – then under Rogelio Ramos – in 2003 was a failure. The cards, because of their low quality and photo disappearance issues, were easily abused to perpetrate identity theft and bank fraud.

The director also said his agency awarded a contract to a private call center to manage a new Immigration phone number – 900-1234567 – for people to call to schedule appointments. He said staff is available to speak English and the hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

However, when The Tico Times called yesterday at 5:30 p.m., there was no answer. Laser Card official Luis Sciupac did not return an e-mail request for comment.

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