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

Migracion 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?

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