You will be, too, when you read this, especially if you’ve ever had first-hand experience with migración. If you are moving to Costa Rica, a visit to migración will be required sooner or later. By the way, be sure to take your own papel higenico [pa-PELL ee-HEN-ick-oh, t.p.] Trust me, you will be there so long, you will have to use the facilities and no t.p. on hand. So to speak. But, on to better news:
Since Ryan is under 18, he has to have permission from Costa Rica’s migración to fly out of the country. Yes, even though he is a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport. Costa Rica WILL NOT allow any resident* minors to leave the country unless they have gotten the requisite stamp on the requisite letter from migración.
*Please note: this does not apply to tourists, only residents – whether temporary or permanent – and
This, sadly, requires a trip to surely one of the planet’s most disorganized and ill-equipped immigration offices. Almost as bad as customs at the airport. If you’ve tried to get anything done in one trip, you fail miserably and dread going back.
For instance, one time Hal went to pick up a piece of paper. He’d been there the day before and seen this paper in his file, but the Official declared that Hal had to come back the next day to actually get the paper. Hal showed up at 8am the next morning, found his Official and asked to have the paper. The Official said, sure, be right back. SIX HOURS later, Hal’s Official – who’d been M.I.A. all day – showed up and said they couldn’t find the file. We never did get that piece of paper, whatever it was.
At least, that’s how migración used to be.
On this day, we headed straight to the permiso de menores (permission for minors) office. We knew where it was because we’d been here once before, in February ’07, to get stamps for both boys. We had tickets to fly to the states, departing in a couple of weeks. We didn’t know about this required permission until that day, but figured we still had time to get it. (This is long before we’d had much personal dealing with migración, we were so naive!) Turns out, it was not possible. Even though there was a sign on the door stating all the boys needed was a passport and a cedula (ID), both of which we had, this Official insisted we also needed, drum roll please, a birth certificate, notarized by our Costa Rica consulate.
Since the boys were born in FL, our Costa Rica consulate is in L.A. Getting a notarized anything requires ordering a new one from an online service, getting it here (which takes at least two weeks), then mailing it to the consulate overnight ($70 and not overnight) with instructions and an overnight envelope back. This process can be accomplished in about a month. We didn’t have a month.
Brash Americans, we decided to go to the airport and throw ourselves on the mercy of Officials there. Miraculously, it turned out that there is an emergency permission to be had, but it is only available on the day of the flight. That’ll make you nervous! I had recently found out that friends without permisos had been refused to board their flights, losing their tickets and having to make new reservations with new money. We did not want this to happen. But the day of the flight, and 1,000 pounds of paperwork and ink later, we got our emergency permission and away we flew.
Fast forward to May 2010. Hal is adamant that we forget permanent stamps, requiring a trip to migración, possibly to wait for hours and likely requiring at least two trips. He wants to hang his hat on the emergency permission at the airport. I don’t like this: we were lucky once. I hate to bank on luck. And the boys have to fly to the states twice before Ryan turns 18 in January 2011 (Mo no longer needs the permiso, thank goodness). It’s too nerve-wracking. I’m for trying the migración route one more time. If that doesn’t work, OK, airport and emergency permiso.
Of course, I win this tug-of-war. I’m still playing the sympathy card: “I almost DIED, remember?”
Actually, the boys remember all too well. I was drugged for the most part and the entire episode is fading for me. I guess the sympathy card is pretty low, huh? Ok, no more of that! Promise. Unless it’s something really important.
8 a.m. last Wednesday, we set out for migración with our good friend, Offical tica and bureaucracy expert, Ester. She helped us get our permanent residency and join the Caja (the public health service), as well as a myriad of other tasks. I wouldn’t go to migración without her.
Now, we are almost to the shocking part, so I hope you are sitting down.
Today’s requirements for permiso de menores are: two passport photos (which we can get right across the street), cedula, passport, parents with cedulas and passports and, drum roll, a certified copy of said minor’s birth certificate. Which, of course, we don’t have. When we told the Official that we did not have the birth certificate, she asked, “You are permanent residents?”
We said, “Yes.”
She said – and this is the shocking part: “Oh, well, we have his birth certificate IN THE COMPUTER.”
There was actually a moment of stunned silence. Even Ester couldn’t believe it. “In the computer”? Migración has done something as efficient as going paperless??? This is a new migración.
Not only that, we sat down in front of an Official who turns out to be a friend of Ryan’s from gymnastics. So no grief, no stonewalling, no suspicious looks… A little typing, some printing, some signatures and – BOOM – the coveted stamp. All told, we were out of there in less than two hours from the moment we stepped onto the property. This is a record for us. Of course, we are still hoping we never have to go back. How long can this kind of luck hold?
Me and Bekah are sitting here with mouths hanging open! Of course they are going next week and the rules will probably change as they are standing in line!
congrats, you guys get to leave 🙂
I am in shock. We also had used the “day of” permission stamp several times, until last year when we were told we could only get it if we had the birth certificates to show at the airport (we didn’t). We were not allowed to board & had to go to Migracion later that week. We did leave Migracion that day with stamps in the kids’ passports, but if I remember correctly we were there almost 8 hours. Next year all the kids will need to renew passports & get new stamps so hopefully we will have an experience similar to your recent experience!
Jessica, you might want to go back to migración with the old passports and get permission letters. We got a letter with a stamp on it to paper clip into the passport, instead of a stamp in the passport. So renewing a passport doesn’t present that challenge.
Ha ha ha. Small miracles do happen. I also went with my wife to get the exit permit from my son and to revalid his passport. He’s 6 and his passport was valid until last year, I was worried because he had a 6 month old photo on his passport and he doesn’t look now as he did then, not even close! So I really wanted a new passport with a new photo just in case ( I imagined the look on US inmigration officials comparing the baby photo with the 6 year old version and saying “sorry but I can’t let you in”).
So I took one morning off for the trip to TSE to get the birth certificate and another afternoon off for the trip to Migracion. Well, guess what! The online form for TSE DOES WORK, got the b.c in around 10 min. I was amazed! I shouldn’t even had to pay for parking really. Well we were prepared for the worse at Migracion but when we got there they just glued and stamped an updated photo to the passport, gave us the permit sheet and off we went, total time 20 min!
We did get into trouble at the bathroom, my son HAD TO GO but my wife said the bathrooms were like a horror movie and no toilet paper! After begging at the cafeteria and after a long and angry face from the girl there we got 2 NAPKINS, that’s it. NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
Sara, you need to quit saying ANYTHING derogatory about Costa Rica – purge your hard drive and take down this site a.s.a.p.!
Bill Clanton here from Costa Rica Blogger, long time reader and admirer of your blog!
I just wanted to warn you that our days are numbers. By ‘us’, I mean we Gringo’s that have absolutely no right to criticize Costa Rica but still continue to do so.
My own writings have left me in hot water as I am currently under ‘investigation’ and the boom will soon be coming down on the rest of those that say anything negative about this country if their father did not have Costa Rica sperm, their mother did not have a Costa Rica uterus or they were not born within the geographical borders of Costa Rica.
I’m so concerned that I’m going to ASEMBIS today to get dark-brown contact lenses to cover my blue eyes and then it’s off to the local belleza to get my blond hair dyed black so that the authorities won’t be able to recognize me.
If interested in reading more, goto the Costa Rica Blogger facebook Page (within facebook search: Costa Rica Blogger) and scroll down to the subject regarding the in-school machete.
A comment about daily life in Costa Rica turned into alerts to government officials, immigration for deportation and a legal lawsuit. Scary stuff!!! 🙂
Hey Manrique – you made me laugh about the napkins. I, too, had to beg and plead for napkins one trip… I learned my lesson!
Hey Bill, you made me scared! Are you really under investigation? Really?
There is a special request that you can file with an attorney that grants “permanent” permission to leave the country. Once it’s done you no longer need both parents and don’t need to make a special trip to immigration.
I’m not sure if non-Citizens can receive the permission but its worth asking around.
Girl, You know there are as many migracion stories as there are people who read your blogsite. Your latest story helps me during a time that Rob and I are dealing with migracion for our cedulas permanente. At least it balances out in the universe of “easy for me hard for you”. We began application process Dec. 2008! In April of 2010, we finally reach the end of our patience and find an atty. who could help us get something done. Atty’s. father becomes our new best friend. We pay Geiner $300. to take the documents we had from Dec. 2008 to San Jose to a person he knows on the inside. He gets us the hallowed letter approving our change from pensionado to permanente, I want to hug our helper Geiner…He gets us the appt. to finalize everything and to Migracion in Puntarenas we happily go. We had every document, plus copies, 4 BCR receipts totaling over $900., 4 more each passport photos. Pura Vida..not yet…. The Official Woman behind the desk, while eating an apple, flips back and forth through all Rob’s documents, back and forth for 10 minutes, like she is looking for a problem right? More bites of apple. Then repeats with my documents. Then asks for passports, flips through them back to front, front to back. Leaves to go speak to el jefe. Comes back to desk with computer print out showing every exit and entry we each have made, then begins to go page by page through our passports, making check marks on the print out. This makes me very nervous, what if something doesn’t match up? I think to myself.. Female intuition yep, I had stamps in my passport, not on print out. Hay Problema grande. (I’m thinking, this could be because they haven’t always been computerized, but logic doesn’t play well in our new country!) We are told we need a letter worded a specific way in Espanol of course, color copy of the pages in passport of the stamps, and so it goes. Until they get the matching up of check marks and stamps to their liking, we are s-o-l. Helper tico Geiner says, for $200. mas dinero, he will type us said letter and personally take these newly requested papers to San Jose to a person he knows and get it done sooner than later. All I can think is what else will they think of that we need, what other hoops for the gringos to jump through. Call me paranoid but I will believe it when I see it. All I want is that hallowed plastic cedula. Cuando cuando cuando?
Deb, sounds like my customs story. Big painful runaround. So sorry to hear it!!! Not sure I’d give Geiner another chance. Could be a bottomless pit…
The A.M. Costa Rica story on the teacher who was deported was revealing. The tica who stamped her deportation papers said something like, “This is how you treat ticos in the U.S. [referring, I’m thinking, of the visa process at the embassy], here’s a taste of your own medicine.”
I have to say, the new driving laws and the new gun control laws do seem to be aimed at gringos – the new gun laws for sure. Re. the driving laws: the fines are so ridiculously high ($300 for parking fines), what tico can afford those? Not feeling the love, as a friend said recently. Feeling the love for here still, but wary… especially after Mr. Bill’s comments!
I’ve had several ask for exact directions to my Costa Rica Blogger facebook Page and story.
The Costa Rica Blogger facebook Page is located at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Costa-Rica-Blogger/133670226647
The ‘machete story’ and subsequent discussion is currently the second Wall post down from the top.
For the record, several times monthly I receive threats of having my site shut down along with personal threats of being reported to the Costa Rica government for my conduct – ALL from Costarricenses that live outside Costa Rica.
I am not concerned about some nut-case not liking my writings. I write the truth about a country I love enough to care about, promote and live-in by choice. In my opinion, I have MORE rights to discuss my life living here than does a native that lives somewhere else.
P.S.: I CAN’T BE DEPORTED! Because according the the mind-trusts over at Migración I’m not even here. According to their computer records I left in 2008 and never returned … even though; I’m standing in-the-flesh within their offices, their own agency issued me 2 separate Permanent Residency cédulas during this same time period, and my passport is full of their own stamps at the Juan Santamaría Airport (no I didn’t swim across any border and yes they refuse to accept their own stamps as proof!) :~/
@Deb Klipper –
I’m going through the same process of trying to rectify my passport stamps with the official Costa Rica Migración computer records or ‘entradas y salidas certifica’.
Don’t waste a dime on paying somebody to write the letter for you. I had 2 letters written to Migración’s EXACT requirements only to have them rejected.
Upon rejection of the 2nd letter, I refused to leave the main Migración office in La Uruca until they sat with me and helped me write a letter to the liking of the department’s boss – Patricia.
My contesting of their ‘official’ computer records vs. my passport stamps from their own Costa Rica Migración airport agents and other supporting documentation is FINALLY in the Migración legal department undergoing a 90 day review as is the process.
If you’re interested in the handwritten letter that was finally excepted … after it was written in the Migración hallway by a helpful English speaking attorney (that was behind me in the line I refused to leave) with exact wording provided by Migración records department manager Patricia … send me your e-mail address directly and I’ll gladly e-mail you back a scanned copy.
What have you done to that girl!!!! I’ve only once witnessed such anger coming from a woman – the time I forgot my wedding anniversary + forgot to pick up my wife after class + drove away with her purse and umbrella on the rainiest day of the year.
But this Kattia girl, I am glad she is thousands of miles away, I think you got yoursel an ex wife by default.
Anyways I have NEVER EVER seen derogatory comments from expats living in Costa Rica. I have only seen comedy mixed with desperation for everyday stuff. When we complain about stuff (not as much as we should) we get angry, throw a fit and then get back in line. I wish we had more sense of humor like you guys have. I admire that.
ah Sara, what new gun laws?
I ask because I happen to own/carry them and have no clue what you mean by ‘aimed at gringos’ part
They sure have made STUPID changes……but they are not aimed at anyone other than the law abiding citizen, crooks of course don’t care about new requirements or the ridiculous ‘sworn declaration of why you need to have a gun to protect yourself’
The new gun laws don’t allow anyone to own a gun here unless they are permanent residents or citizens. We bought a gun when we first arrived via a corporation, but that is no longer allowed. So you have to live here at least three years unarmed.
This is aimed at expats. They are the only ones affected by the change in the law, as far as I can see.
As far as carry permits, those can now be revoked or denied at will. This gov would like to disarm its citizens, just like every gov. Can’t see it happening in the U.S. Those citizens would draw the line… I think.
Thanks for the laugh!
A Tica friend of mine wondered if I used to date my facebook ‘friend’ Kattia when she first read the rage.
When I explained I’ve never met the woman who lives 3,000+ miles away in British Columbia, Canada; another Tico friend suggested the problems is one of two things: either she has/had the hots for me -or- she’s just certified nutz.
I say it’s quite simple: I sometimes have this type of affect on women and distance doesn’t seem to diminish the problem. :o)
All joking aside, I am a permanent resident that does legally carry a concealed firearm (reference to the above comments) and this is seriously the first time I feel there is a credible threat and cause for caution when this woman is back in Costa Rica on a visit. She’s got issues and I think forgot what both “tranquillo” and “Pura Vida” really mean!
If you’re a certified Costarricense that is on facebook and so inclined, I invite you to share some of your wisdom with Ms. Kattia before she goes all Canadian-Tica Correos on somebody.
That is because they have discovered a gazillion ‘corps’ that were registering a lot of guns and they didnt exist, this is what my gunsmith told me, that someone showed up and said “I want to buy 10 guns for security company operating in xyz address” and when he went to check it out they were nowhere to be found
so they may be targeting expats indirectly BUT they are also targeting these non-existent ‘entities’ that were used to buy guns for my buddies the jamaicans/dominicans that well…do their ‘thing’ quite often
Corporations CAN and still register guns……because otherwise the security companies couldnt buy guns for their guards/etc
They just have GAZILLION requirements, among them showing the tax returns etc.
Now while I know you are good etc, I kind of like the idea that ‘tourists’ cant own weapons….because just as we have good ‘tourists’ ..we also happen to have a few bad ones.
This is soooo anti-Libertarian and natural rights, you know! Everyone has a right to defend themselves, even tourists. This is the gov’s way: everybody takes the cure. One person dies of salmonella in tomatoes, all tomatoes are irradiated now.
Showing tax returns to buy a gun? Wtf. This should worry ticos. This is becoming the little U.S.
My gun shop is closing for lack of business. I won’t tell you which one, small town and all that. But if you get around, you’ll notice.
It does bother me more what the banks are doing with the KYC crap…….it should be called AYC (annoy your customer)
But in summary, the recent changes in how you register/get a CCW permit are not targeted at expats, they are targeted at everyone
Now this is the real problem, one of the new requirements is to get a sworn declaration of why you want the gun, simply saying “I want it to defend myself” is APPARENTLY not enough, so the real problem is that the government wants you to get robbed ONCE so that then you can say “I want it to protect myself because I have been robbed” blabla and THEN they issue the permit.
Its the typical story when things are open to interpretation by some @#$@#$#@ burocrat.
And all this happens because the jamaicans that got arrested a while back had LEGIT permits with FAKE fingerprints!
Apparently thats what started it all.
The funny (or actually really annoying) thing is they don’t know us… every time we walk in, they act like we are suspected money launderers. Like boarding an airplane.
The best tip I can give you is get a lawyer to do the work for you. Migracion is probably the worst place to be in Costa Rica, hours and hours waiting in line to than get a “come back tomorrow” or “your file is missing”. It might be a little more expensive but if you find a honest law firm that won’t charge you “gringo prices” its your best solution. We use NCC abogados and usually talk to Lin, she is a paralegal there and DOES NOT work on “TICO TIME” so you can rest assured that if you were told that the paper work was done on a specific date you’ll get it done without excuses. Give them a call they are in Escazu 2288-6464 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and if you need someone that speaks fluent english ask for Lin or Dahiana.