San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

False marriages for residency now a crime

Foreigners looking to gain residency through a falsified marriage could face up to six years in prison under a new law signed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday.

The law looks to put an end to a practice by which foreigners pay a Costa Rican to act as a spouse in order to gain legal residency in the country. According to top officials during a news conference Wednesday, the loophole results in unwanted foreign residents in the country (such as criminals).

Jannina del Vecchio, public security minister, said the current system results in the exploitation of poor people through “ ridiculous payments ” for legal status, while also threatening the security of Costa Rican residents.

“It´s not rare for these (foreigners) commit illicit acts and undertake activities that counter our values and traditions,” she said.

Evita Arguedas, a lawmaker who backs the legislation, added, “It´s common knowledge that many foreigners caught in criminal activity have legal resident status in their favor – thanks to falsified marriages.”

Not only will the foreigner be at fault for a fake marriage, but other people involved could face similar penalties, including prison terms. Notaries that certify false marriages will lose their authority for a period of six months to three years.

The law has been lingering in the Legislative Assembly for two and a half years, but is now expected to go into effect in two weeks. It comes on the heels of immigration reforms that require more substantial proof of marriage before residency can be granted.

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