San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ask the Consul

Q: I am an American citizen and recently accompanied my girlfriend of two years to the U.S. Embassy for her visitor visa interview. She was denied. I don’t understand why I can’t sponsor someone to come visit the U.S. with me.

 A: U.S. immigration law requires that all applicants qualify for a non-immigrant visa on their own merit. Section 214(b) of the Immigrant and Nationality Act states that all applicants must overcome the presumption of immigrant intent by adequately establishing to the satisfaction of the interviewing officer that they have sufficient economic, social and financial ties that would compel their return to their home country after a limited stay in the United States.

 This is often confused with the process for acquiring an immigrant visa, for those wishing to live permanently in the U.S. The immigrant visa process not only permits, but also requires an affidavit of support from a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident sponsor. The non-immigrant visa (short-term, temporary visas) process does not permit such third party sponsorship.

 You can learn more about the non-immigrant visa process at

I am an American citizen who has lived in Costa Rica for three years. During the elections several of my friends told me that they had received an email from the U.S. Embassy with information on voting. Why do some Americans living in Costa Rica receive information from the U.S. Embassy while some others do not?

 The Embassy emails information only to those persons who have registered with the U.S government as living or traveling in Costa Rica. Therefore, the Americans who received voting information from the U.S. Embassy in San José likely had enrolled in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and indicated they would be living/traveling in Costa Rica.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. 

STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Americans can sign up for STEP at:

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