San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Law Attempts to End Fake Marriages for Residency

Foreigners looking to gain residency in Costa Rica through falsified marriages could face up to six years in prison under a new law signed by President Oscar Arias this week.

The law looks to put an end to a practice by which a foreigner, in an attempt to gain legal residency in the country, pays a Costa Rican to act as a spouse. At a news confercence Wednesday, top officials said a loophole in the law had resulted in many unwanted foreign residents (such as criminals) in the country over the years.

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) to 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.”

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

The legislation, which had been lingering in the Legislative Assembly for two-and-a-half years, is 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 will be granted.

–Chrissie Long


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