San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Resident Cards Ready

The almost two-year freeze on renewing permanent resident cards is over, Costa Rican Immigration announced this week. As of Monday, foreigners could begin requesting new resident cards, which cost $48.

Director Mario Zamora said his agency installed a new high-tech document system, thanks to a $755,000 donation from a U.S.- based 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 consortium of businesses, won from the Public Security Ministry, then under Rogelio Ramos, in 2003 was a failure and that the cards, because of their low quality, were easily abused to perpetrate identity theft and bank fraud.

Because photos on the cards could wear off within months of their issue and after a rash of bank frauds committed by people using other people’s cards, many banks stopped accepting them as valid forms of identification, Zamora said.

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 English-speaking staff is available 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.

“It’s the first private call center used by the public sector,” Zamora said.

To call a 900 number here, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute has to unblock the service, spokeswoman Adriana Víquez said.

Zamora said the service costs ¢105 ($.21) per minute.


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