San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Implementation of new immigration law delayed

Despite an extensive reform to Costa Rica’s immigration laws in March 2010, implementation of the reforms continues to stall.

The Immigration Administration had an initial deadline of December to implement the law, but Immigration Administration spokeswoman Heidi Bonilla expects it to push back to the early months of 2011. Implementation procedures are being reviewed by the Public Security Ministry and will be passed off to the Executive Branch in the new year.

While the law went into effect on March 1, there has been disagreement relating to its interpretation. Immigration lawyers are waiting for the publication of the “reglamentos,” or implementation procedures, for the situation to become clearer.

In an interview with The Tico Times in March, former immigration director Mario Zamora (now Vice Minister of Public Security) said foreigners would be able to renew their tourist visa without ever leaving the country and that they could file for residency status through local consulates and embassies.

In a follow up interview, Bonilla said that this was not true; foreign nationals would still have to leave the country to extend their permit beyond 90 days and that only foreign nationals living in select countries could apply for residency entirely from Costa Rica.

When the reglamentos are published in 2011, the significance of the March 1 law and what it entails is expected to become more defined.

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