Not Feeling The Love

Taken last week in San Pedro
The Arias administration doesn’t seem to like gringos anymore. If it ever did, which is seeming less and less likely.

Last week, it published a new proposed immigration bill which, if passed, will effectively eliminate the gringo middle class here.

Pensionados, those receiving a monthly pension, have to prove $600/month income today. Under the new law, they’ll have to prove $2,000. Quite a step up. Since most pensionados live on Social Security and since $2,000 represents top $ for Social Security payments… well, let’s say your options are limited.

Rentistas, who now have to prove $1,000/month per applicant (read “spouse”) and $500/month per child (i.e., $3,000/month for a family of four), would have to prove $5,000/month per applicant. It doesn’t address the family situation, whether or not $5,000 covers the entire family. But A.M. Costa Rica did the math on just the $5,000:

“If the proposal is passed and immigration officials insist on proof of five years of income, an applicant would have to show a bank deposit of $300,000 or an investment generating at least $5,000 a month. An applicant would need to have about $1.7 million in savings at the current rates.”

‘Scuse me while I crack up.

When this law was announced last week, there was much brouhaha on the Costa Rica Living group. Everyone said, “Oh, relax, it will never pass.”

Oh, really? That’s what they said about the proposed immigration law of 2006, when they upped the ante from $500 to $600 for pensionados and from $1,000 for the whole family to $1,000 per applicant plus $500 per child for rentistas. Everyone, even residency advisers, said, “Oh, don’t worry, it will never pass.” Even the newspapers reported it wouldn’t pass. Then, surprise, on August 12th, it did.

Front page on today’s A.M. Costa Rica announces, “Quick OK predicted for new, stiff immigration bill.” I’m predicting that, too.

Even if it doesn’t pass, clearly they don’t want us here. At least not us middle class gringos. Mel can stay. If they wanted us here, would they be pursuing this path at all? It’s not like the Costa Rican government gets anything out of having this money in the bank. It’s still your money and you don’t even have to keep it in a Costa Rican bank! So what would be the purpose except to only have rich gringos here? This is not seeming so friendly to me. No warm fuzzies.

Here’s the kicker: “The law also appears to say that, if passed, pensionados and rentistas will be required to meet the new, higher requirements when they renew their permission to stay in the country.” For all those without adquate pensions or $300,000 (at least) to plop down, that leaves perpetual tourism: leaving every 90 days. For the privilege of living in a country where it seems you aren’t really wanted… what’s up with that?

Wondering if that Gentleman Farmer’s house is still available up there in Bankrupt Nation.

43 comments to Not Feeling The Love

  • Wolfie_CR

    IF I was American, with 300k in the bank (which must be an ultrasmall minority in the US since everyone owes tens of thousands in cc’s to start with)…….
    I would certainly not risk my life (and throw away my chance to enjoy my 300k) by moving here
    There are plenty of areas in the US where its possible to live a nice/relaxed retirement
    now, to be fair, I have a hard time…..thinking of countries that actually welcome immigrants (the type you have in mind anyway, the ones with $) , of course there are places but they either say that they ‘welcome’ them and then show a very different scenario…..or downright setting requirements that explicitly say “goodbye”
    retirees here ‘stopped’ being welcomed as soon as the law that allowed them to bring stuff duty free was withdrawn
    but rest asured, if the economy keeps going down (and of course everything points to a ‘it will’) they will change their mind , eventually

  • I agree: i can’t see how CR will survive all the retirees leaving… I guess they don’t really think they will? But the economy is having an effect here – I have several friends and acquaintances who have had to leave because they lost so much money in the stock market. Another friend lost her job teaching at a college because so many students (from around the world) withdrew.
    Panama went thru this. They changed their immigration laws dramatically, had an immediate dramatic effect, then changed the laws back. But the damage was done, particularly in real estate. People will only buy property in a stable government, something Costa Rica has always offered, where they feel they have some protections. A government that would change its laws so dramatically – on a whim, sounds like – makes for uncertainty…
    I hate to say it but you are also right that good ole Bankrupt Vaccine RFIDed Nation, is starting to look (choke) like an option. At least no worse than the way CR is heading… It’s very depressing. Que será será.

  • deb

    sigh…….I am visiting family in the US of A until Nov. 20th and I know for certain I do not want to LIVE here again, ever…Besides that, hubby and I bought a great property, at a steal, with ocean and Nicoya views, built a lovely home and a rancho and bodega, small piscina, and lovely landscaping and IF this new law really happens, could we sell and WHO would buy? certainly not a gringo, unless it was a rich one….I guess they will have to drag us handcuffed to Juan Santamaria and physically kick us out. I think it is illegal to not grandfather us with our 5 years of residency under out belt. I am feeling fewer warm fuzzy feelings towards Costa Rica right now. So the feeling is mutual. Not to mention how they are STILL ripping off its citizens, with the price of petrol..when right here in Chapel Hill NC it is $2.15 a gallon! Must relax, adrenal exhaustion is not a good thing. Fight or Flight, which one makes more sense. Poco puravida happenin’!

  • a tico friend told me that it would unconstitutional NOT to grandfather in those who are already in proceso… I’ve heard that before about other laws so I guess we should wait and see. at least the sun is shining here today!!!! that gives me a little warm fuzzy.
    btw, what size blade does hubby use on your hair? thinking of going extreme at least once…

  • I am not leaving here no matter what. We don’t want to live in the US, life is fine here. No place is perfect, but life has more meaning here.

  • Somehow, I knew that about you ginnee!!! I don’t want to live in the US either, but simple economics may force us to move… somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I think its a bit exaggerated to say that CR can’t survive without the expats that have decided to move here. But I do agree that the expats living here are definitely giving way, way more to the economy than receiving. Just like a lot of things here, I just can’t see the logic of some policies or decisions. There would definitely be very verrrrryyy few foreigners that can afford to show $5k/month for a total sum equivalent to 5 years. That few that does have that kind of cash, would not be stupid enough to risk it here. Its sad, but things are turning here and not in a good way. Things like this law just simply defies logic, unless of course the underlying reason is to altogether stop migration here. This law applies to all foreigners and it does not take a genius to know that if passed, this would practically halt to migration of those applying for rentista, the pensionados – probably quite a number can still afford this. We all know that the Nicas, Colombians, Venezuelans and even Chinese do not gain residency here using these programs, they go the other route – via fake marriage, having babies, or just being illegal. I have nothing against that, but I totally agree with you that the gov’t is simply saying, “we don’t want you gringos here”. They are specifically targeting us. Being the case, I don’t see much reason to stay.

  • Chuck

    Since I don’t live there, and have only visited once, I’d be interested to hear the in-a-nutshell version of why this law is being considered (especially from any Tico readers you might have). It does seem to target less-wealthy retirees. Is there a problem with (or perception of) poorer retirees coming down and taking more resources from CR than they’re putting in?
    Also, if I understand it right, you aren’t really risking the money (as your last anonymous poster suggests), you only have to show that you have a certain amount of income, and you don’t have to spend it in Costa Rica.

  • I am trying to think of a reason to stay even if the law doesn’t get passed because the message of “Get Out, you are not welcome” rings pretty loud. But wtf? We’ve built a life here… I got some stuff here. Trying not to take this personally. We aren’t doing anything now. Our M.O. is to get an idea, think it’s great and boom, off we go. Like moving here. We are NOT doing that this time… one day, one step at a time…

  • laffingbear

    Where could I find more information about the new proposal. And who proposed it. What reason was given? And last of all but not least, who is going to make some money out of it.

  • Hi laffingbear, You can find out more information from Ryan Piercy at or Javier at I don’t have any answers nor does anyone at the Costa Rica Living yahoo group. No reason was given and we can’t figure out who will make money out of it. There is speculation that the Chinese are somehow involved: either the CR government is making it difficult to immigrate so they won’t be flooded with Chinese immigrants or the Chinese govt is behind it, not wanting to compete with gringos for space… wanting to come in and snatch up all the cheap property for sale… But that’s as far as anyone’s gotten in speculation. Other than CR just doesn’t want us here.
    Trying to follow the money is difficult here. OH: one other speculation is that the US is behind it wanting everyone home where they can keep tabs on them, so we can spend our money there. got any other ideas?

  • laffingbear

    The Chinese huh. Who would have thunk it. I hear though they have pretty much taken over Panama. One of my thoughts is that there is an underground grass roots movement so to speak to turn CR back to what it once was before all the development. But then thinking more about it there has to be some money for someone in it. Money seems to be on everyone’s mind anymore. And some people will go to any length to get as much of it as possible. By hook or crook. Say, like the great stick up going on up here now.

  • Yeah, following the money is easy there… geez. Could they be any more transparent???? Here, it’s proving a little more difficult. they won’t be able to hide it forever though. Panama, huh? That’s on a lot of people’s minds as the next place to go. I don’t wanna move. Boo hoo.

  • Anonymous

    Theoretically, you are not risking it. You could even have it in a bank account in the US, BUT getting that “required letter” from bank in the US is extremely difficult if not close to impossible. As far as I know, most end up having to deposit their required money here in a local bank. Now, the money is required to be converted into colones for the minimum monthly total (which is currently like $1k per person for rentista and $600 for pensionado).
    I don’t know about you, but having a huge amount of money deposited at a local bank here is a risk, maybe not the $60k currently needed, but more so if the law does change and it now has to be $300k – rentista and $120k – pensionado.
    As somebody has mentioned, it could simply just be that the CR gov’t really needs the extra dollar influx that the law (in theory) might bring into the local economy. But, just my opinion, it would probably have the reverse effect.
    Yes, there seems to be lots of Chinese here in Costa Rica and personally I see it as a good thing. Hopefully it teaches the Ticos to be more hardworking.

  • Yeah, I wouldn’t deposit that amount of money here even if I had it – banks don’t have anything like fdic insurance here and this is a corrupt country. I don’t trust the banks here.
    I don’t care if there are Chinese here. I want to be able to stay legally.

  • WolfieCR

    While CR banks don’t have FDIC insurance, the goverment banks are backed up by the goverment
    Obviously something owned by the goverment can’t go bankrupt unless the goverment itself goes bankrupt, in other words, if a goverment owned bank fails….the goverment bails everyone out (We’ve already had a case of that in the 90s)
    Now private banks are on their own, that’s for sure (there are quite a few cases of that)
    My problem with having $ deposited in a goverment owned bank is not the security of it, but the hassle factor of dealing with their slowwwwwwwwww lines…….and general incompetence (not that private banks are ANY better but at least they have shorter lines)
    Now about the FDIC…..projections indicate that by the end of 2008 they will have 55 billion to insure 4.42 trillion ….the failure of Indymac suposedly cost 8.9 billion (that was already taken into considertion for those estimates @end of 2008)… lets hope there are no more bank failures of that magnitude (or they will have to print a lot more dollars )

  • the US government has insurance companies for everything. the fdic is actually a small drop in the bucket… whoa nelly.

  • laffingbear

    Another thing to be aware of living in a country that the Chinese have an interest in would make one to think of Tibet.

  • The Chinese don’t mess around. But this administration doesn’t care: he’s here for just a bit longer, then he can retire and enjoy the riches. Life is too short to worry about the details…

  • WolfieCR

    “Another thing to be aware of living in a country that the Chinese have an interest in would make one to think of Tibet”
    -too far away, just ‘slightly’ farther away than Tibet, also not right next to China
    -culture WAY too different
    -right next to the Panama Canal, something the US would never allow (they didnt go through all the trouble to make sure Colombia had no chance to nulify Panama’s independence …….to later on allow one of their potential enemies to hold an strategic position right next to the canal)
    -religion deep ingrained into most people (And totally and absolutely different from their ‘known’ religions)
    -why would they need another Tibet? they already hold trillions of US currency, produce most things that you buy /use /eat /wear…..its almost as if they already have another Tibet
    if anything we need another commercial partner in case our current main one totally and absolutely collapses 🙁

  • Your current main one totally and absolutely collapses? You don’t mean… oh my goodness. Hey, maybe China is preparing for that… maybe we really should learn Mandarin. oh, no wait, that’s an orange.

  • laffingbear

    “right next to the Panama Canal, something the US would never allow (they didnt go through all the trouble to make sure Colombia had no chance to nulify Panama’s independence …….to later on allow one of their potential enemies to hold an strategic position right next to the canal)” Actually the Chinese are heavily invested have huge presence in Panama.

  • I read your article as well as the am costa rica one and I wasn’t very happy with it, to say the least. A tico friend said that the Arias administration was more interested in ousting the “other” gringos – basically anyone who isn’t a tico – specifically the Columbianos. That surprised me, but he didn’t think the yankees were the target because we do pour a lot of our money into their economy.
    Sally, don’t worry about the income thing, stay positively focused on it flowing into your life and opportunities will come your way, just be aware. Also, check out my URL Let it flow, baby!

  • Thank you, Rick. I am working on the positive. Fortunately even when I’m depressed I see the glass as half full. I’ve always had a roof over my head and things seem to fall into place. I’ve been rich and I’ve been not so rich. Poor is one of my yets but I’m just going to take it as it comes. I need to drive ALL the way over to your side of the world to meet you. Are you all coming to see the play Love Letters at the LTG? Please come see it – I’m the director and it’s a great play!!! Fri/Sat 7:30, Sun 2pm, opens this Friday night, runs for three weekends. See you sometime.

  • WolfieCR

    “Actually the Chinese are heavily invested have huge presence in Panama.”
    I am sure they are, they are a heavy user of the canal to start with (either the heaviest or the 2nd one , not sure)
    They still don’t have military bases in there I think 😉
    If I was to make a ‘local’ Tibet ………I think they would prefer Panama, at least they already have an actual city built up, in here they would have to first bomb San Jose LOL

  • WolfieCR

    From today’s AM Costa Rica
    “The majority of foreigners who come here are here for just a few months,” said Aleyda Bonilla, a member of the real estate association “Residents who come down here for development, in terms of real estate, are usually the rentistas who would be able to afford to pay $5,000 a month.”
    now you know where they get their ideas that they will get plenty of people with 5k/month

  • laffingbear

    The point I was making is that never think that the Chinese have our best interest in mind except to get us dependent on them and the reference to Tibet is that the Chinese can be very cruel when it comes to getting what THEY want. They will do anything.

  • WolfieCR

    ah ok now that you put it that way, you are totally right but its not just the Chinese, the US or Europe both go into that very same category (and well Russia and others that don’t have so much influence in here)
    I doubt that ANY country puts the other one ‘first’ when it comes to anything, that is why there was so much discussion about the CAFTA, because many things favored unilateraly the US (I was for the ‘yes’ to CAFTA even with those issues)
    Similarly, these days, its economics that matters, no need to invade a country at all when you can do it all with $ (say loans from the IMF at horrible terms, stupid small countries like ours that take them etc)

  • laffingbear

    Yep, Yep, that is correct, every country you mentioned is right up there with the Chinese so be careful. I do wonder if the small countries are just stupid or if there are certain personality types everywhere that will allow bad things to happen as long as they can get more of the fun tickets than they really need. Radical changes are in the wind so keep your heads low and check out everything you hear and are told. This is new territory so it can be an adventure even if it doesn’t have any of stability we look for. Just having the ability to converse with folks that are on this blog gives one hope.

  • When is Hal’s new book coming out on the CR Painted Whore? The concept that we gringos are all rich will soon end if they do something like that. I know I won’t meet that requirement and neither will most people I know.

  • “The proposed law provides that a foreigner seeking to gain residency here with a marriage to a Costa Rican has to show that the union has been consummated.”
    They want what… videotapes?
    Really, though, given the “perpetual tourist” loophole, it doesn’t seem to me that they want us out; they want to let anyone with some margin beyond living expenses (hence, enough to afford visa vacations) to be able to stay, but they want to make it annoying enough that those who can afford to seek residency will do so.
    It seems they’re thinking they’d prefer a smaller number of people qualifying for residency with higher deposits… and more perpetual tourists. Perhaps they want to deny more of us permission to work here; I don’t think they mind if we stick around and spend our money here.
    Then again, I may be applying way too much logic to something being considered by a government.

  • Yeah, video tapes. That would really be the only conclusive evidence, right? Government logic: oxymoron.
    Teri, trying not to think about the new law. Just the fact they want the new law is giving me pause. And will November ever END for god’s sake??? We are freezing, Mo is sick again (not bad, just a cold, but still). I’m sick of being cold… and it’s moldy here… I gotta get off the internet. So much bad news!!!!
    And, yes, laffingbear, it’s good to know we are not alone. The world is a very funny (peculiar) place right now. It feels like no place to hide… ah, I’m probably just paranoid. Right?

  • “paranoid”
    Be they named “authorities” or “terrorists” — the primary task of all who would exercise control is to create paranoia.
    Large and small cruelties offer their weight, and our own needs and hopes a fulcrum; but fear and uncertainty provide the leverage by which we are most customarily enslaved.

  • It’s working. I’m paranoid and definitely enslaved in my mind… I’m thinking of going back to the SAT yoga place and washing dishes so I can hang around there. Good old Gerald Celente says spiritual healing will be a growing need in the new world. I can believe it.

  • Saratica,
    I believe Gerald is right. All the major religions talk of this time and the spiritual growth that will acompany it. And, I also believe that personal development will run a close second – that’s why I am involved in it and share a proven program that will help others with theirs.

  • I’m gettin’ there Rick… curiouser and curiouser!

  • Joan Jauida

    Why do North American have such a feeling of privilege? Why should another country be happy to get you no matter how much money you bring along? Do you feel that USA should accept every person? Lots of ex-pats in usa work extremely hard and add a lot to our society but I don’t see North Americans being so welcoming. As a North American what I have seen of most North American presence here is an embarassment. A few people genuinely are good but lots of you just want to live a life you couldn’t have back home with servants (12 hours a day!) and other oppresive “rights”.

  • Joan,
    I really don’t think it’s a matter of feeling privilege. As far as I know, Americans don’t have any rights here that Ticos don’t, and if we require services, such as medical care, we have to pay the going rates for them. I don’t see how we’re coming here “to live a life we couldn’t have back home” any more than a person who, say, moves from San Francisco to Little Rock because the cost of living in San Francisco is beyond her means is, in some pejorative sense, moving there “to live a life she couldn’t have back home.”
    We Americans do, though, tend to have an underlying libertarian streak that leads us to feel offended when a government appropriates privilege to itself just because it can. Might does not make right.
    Unfortunately — shamefully, in my opinion — that only occurs to most Americans when their own personal choices are subject to interference. People with tax troubles loathe the IRS, but don’t see anything wrong with a war on drugs in which their government locks people in cages for presuming to choose for themselves what to put into their own bodies. The same black voters who helped elect our first bi-racial president also swung the vote for Proposition 8, giving a resounding slap in the face to gay men and women in California. We’re pissed at the Soviets for invading Georgia, but the only thing that bothers us about our own invasion of Iraq is that maybe it wasn’t in our best interests after all. And, of course, few Americans consider how our draconian immigration policies must appear to the rest of the world that we expect to travel so freely.
    But, no, I don’t think it’s a sense of privilege that afflicts Americans. We don’t want special treatment. It’s self-centeredness and willful ignorance that leads us to think we can remove the speck in our brother’s eye while paying no mind to the mote in our own.

  • Oh, and to answer the question directly — Do you feel that USA should accept every person? — a sane and humane world would recognize a basic human right of any person to live wherever he or she chooses.
    This nonsense of drawing lines in the sand and piling up regulations about what happens when one has the temerity to cross them is simply one of governments’ many grotesque ways of shoring up their own indefensible self-importance.

  • JR

    No worries. Panama, Belize, and Mexico will welcome the U.S. dollars with open arms while CR scrambles to backtrack.

  • I’m with Coise: everyone should be allowed to live wherever they want. And no government should be in the business of taking from one pocket and sharing it with another’s. That would solve at least half the problems in the world.

  • Ria

    I once read this blog years ago~I chanced upon it again this morning. This post and it’s comments lets me know I’m not the only one dreaming of moving on. I’ve been a perpetual tourist in CR for many years after moving here to try and become a resident. I was never able to jump through all of the hoops put in front of me. There were too many hands out. So, I just legally live here and there and travel. I agree that Panama and Mexico are definitely going to be the choice of many ex-pats. People will still come here, but staying is another thing. Most people don’t last beyond two years. It’s pretty on the surface, but CR has an ugly underbelly that many will flee from when it’s exposed. The land scams, theives, assaults, no police, murders, no forensics, parasites, the seething ill feelings from young angry Ticos, the rampant cocaine abuse that makes people crazy, the hazardous roads, the bad food in resturaunts, food poisoning, salmonella, and all the while every person has their hand out or their scheming as to how to get your money: and all of this is delivered PURA VIDA. It’s a very funny place.
    This is a November 2008 article and I have watched a hundred families move here, into this small community and leave since it was written.
    Or people have moved here and get stuck with a house that they can’t sell and their money is all gone.
    The beat goes on.
    It’s all entertaining.
    pura vida
    They don’t put all of that in the advertisments.

  • Saratica

    Hi Ria, I hear you. I have not heard of the salmonella or food poisoning but the rest, yep, heard of it although thankfully did not experience most of those things. We miss Costa Rica so much, miss hearing Spanish, miss the beautiful country…

    No, lol, they don’t put that in the ads. Pura vida!

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