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Border Runs During COVID

On January 11th, 2021 Immigration issued their latest resolution regarding Residency processing, tourist entry stamps, appointments at Immigration, etc.  You can read a summary here. They have been consistently publishing these resolutions since the COVID19

On January 11th, 2021 Immigration issued their latest resolution regarding Residency processing, tourist entry stamps, appointments at Immigration, etc.  You can read a summary here. They have been consistently publishing these resolutions since the COVID19 crisis began in March 2020.

As you may recall, they started to extend the validity of entry stamps in an effort to protect the community of tourists that were visiting the country when the virus hit. Hence, people who entered the country between December 18th, 2019 and November 30th, 2020 saw the validity of their entry stamps extended numerous times, the last time until March 02nd, 2021. This was, in my opinion, a very nice move by Immigration. It showed compassion and protected the interests of the tourist population and the country.

And whilst Immigration was ahead, it took a huge effort to have Transportation recognize the validity of the stamps until March 02nd, 2021 as well. Always a few steps behind, Transportation required a little, if not a huge, nudge to follow Immigration’s lead in this particular matter. Luckily, they did meaning that the tourists who are currently enjoying their legal stay as a result of the extension of their entry stamps, can also legally drive until March 02nd, 2021.

However, almost a year has passed since the initial resolution was published and the January 11th, 2021 notification was different from all the others. It made it clear that the entry stamps would no longer be extended, and that March 02nd 2021 was the last day to remain in the country as a tourist visitor (and with authorization to drive using a foreign and valid drivers’ license) if you entered between December 18th, 2019 and November 30th, 2020. We will not get into much detail regarding how to legal stay in Costa Rica past March 02nd, 2021 as this has been addressed here, but we wanted to share a few thoughts on completing border runs during COVID times.

If you need to depart the country, please be advised that our land borders remain closed and we do not know when they will reopen. Land borders are opened to residents and nationals but not tourists and people crossing the land borders are required to quarantine. Hence, the usual trip to Paso Canoas, for example, to depart and re-enter the country to receive a new entry and fresh stamp is not an option until further notice.

That means that people who need to complete border runs will now need to complete flight runs, meaning board a plane, depart Costa Rica and visit a neighbouring country. You are not obliged to return to your home country, you can take a flight to Panama or Mexico, for example, stay for a little while and return. Obviously, if you feel comfortable travelling to your home country, you surely can, but this is not an obligation. When arriving in that country you may not even be required to go through Immigration. We have clients who have visited Panama and have confirmed that they entered the country, visited the shops, ate at the airport restaurant, and took a flight back without inconveniences.

It is important to state that nowhere in the law does it say that you must be abroad for 72 hours or for X number of days. You can take a flight out and return on the same day or the next day and that would be acceptable. It is common for Immigration Officers to speak of this 72-hour rule, but again, this is not supported by the law.

Evidently, you will need to be mindful of the receiving country’s entry requirements. Prior to flying out, please review the need for insurance, quarantine, COVID19 tests (quick tip: many private labs in Costa Rica have excellent turnaround time with COVID19 test results, one of them is Laboratorios Echandi, if needed. A good friend and client also mentioned that Hospital Clínica Bíblica is great for the rapid antigen test if needed. They take appointments 24 hours a day including Sundays. It cost around $50.00. Results are emailed in less than 2 hours), etc. since things are constantly changing. It would be awful for you to board a flight only to be turned away or to be forced to quarantine abroad so please be careful with this. When returning to Costa Rica, you will need your passport, round-trip ticket, and insurance to be able to enter (you can read about the current entry requirements here). If you wish to ensure that you receive a 90-day entry stamp, make sure you present insurance that covers you for 90 days as the number of days allowed in the country will depend on this. If you present 10-day insurance, you will only be allowed to stay in the country for 10 days.

Many have asked why Immigration is no longer extending the entry stamps and the response we can come up with is this: there were two main reasons why entry stamps were extended. First and foremost, because Immigration closed in March 2020 and reopened until October. Second because our borders were closed for quite some time. Now our air borders are fully open, and Immigration has been taking applications since min-October meaning the country needs to ask its tourists to regularize their immigration status. Immigration cannot endorse perpetual tourism because it goes against the very law that it needs to enforce.

Remember that people with application in progress, meaning people whose Residency requests have been filed at the Immigration Department and have an expediente number) are not required to depart. For Immigration purposes, you can legally stay in the country during the analysis period of your process. However, if you do need to drive, then you do need a valid entry stamp.

Consequently, if you will soon need to depart because you need a valid entry stamp to drive or because you are not ready to file for Residency, ensure you do your border (flight) run the correct way and in a timely manner.

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ibrenes@outlierlegal.com

Attorney with more than 10 years of experience in customer service, team management and team building at an international level. Has worked immigration cases in various countries, including Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama.

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24 COMMENTS
  • Avatar
    Mascha Janu January 20, 2021

    I heard rumors (actually mentioned by a lawyer)that maybe the land border to Nicaragua might open for borderuns and it would be possible to cross back with a negative Covid test. Do you know anything about that?

    • Rafael Valverde
      Rafael Valverde January 24, 2021

      Mascha,

      As you said, those are rumors. We cannot confirm that being the case.

  • Avatar
    Rick Overman January 20, 2021

    Can one travel outside CR while applying for or during Temporary Residency?
    Thank you.

    • Rafael Valverde
      Rafael Valverde January 24, 2021

      Rick,

      Inddeed, you can travel while your application for residency is pending.

  • Avatar
    Nikki January 21, 2021

    Do people with a residency in process need the insurance for covid?

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      If you leave the country and re-enter you will be required to provide proof of health insurance

  • Avatar
    Marcel January 22, 2021

    So my question would be….what is the penalty for overstaying my 90 days. I have insurance for my 6 months….have changed my airline tickets for the 6 months. so what will/should happen to me when I arrive at the airport in April….having entered in November.
    What is the reason again that they don’t like perpetual tourists….we help the economy with groceries/restaurants/bars/cleaning staff/gas/riteve/marchama and more !

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      If you overstay, please be advised that you would be in violation of local immigration law. If by any chance, you are caught by the Immigration Police or any Authority that identifies your irregular status, you could face deportation proceedings. Furthermore, while the fines and penalties for overstaying are currently suspended due to COVID, when reinstated (which could be any day), they will be retroactive. Furthermore, if caught driving without a valid foreign drivers’ license and a valid entry stamp, your plates could be taken, a fine could be imposed and you will be referred to the Immigration Police.

  • Avatar
    Karyn Zaremba January 22, 2021

    Thank you. Where would a person need to go for this appointment? Is it local or only in San Jose?

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      yes in person at Immigration Department (DGME) offices in San José, La Uruca

  • Avatar
    Tim January 23, 2021

    We are in the process and have our Expediante so we can legally stay indefinitely. We live rural so driving is not a luxury, it is required. The 90 day driving restriction is both impractical while also being a public health issue. The most sensible flight would be to Panama, but they have very bad Covid numbers. To keep driving priveledges, we are forced to expose ourselves every 90 days to needless travel and associated exposure risks. Our little part of paradise has had very few cases. Though we are very respectful of the masking and distantancing requirements, this policy risks bringing Covid to our area. Though I think this whole driving issue in general is needlessly complicated, in order to control irregular immigration it would be so much easier if the law simply stated you’re legally allowed to use your valid driver’s licence if you are legally in Costa Rica. Is it reasonable to think that an argument can be made on public health grounds to have Transportation extend the driver’s licence exemption for those like us that are legally present in Costa Rica and have their Expediante?

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      DGME and MOPT are not interconnected so that at this time people are still required to leave the country and return to maintain driving priveledges

  • Avatar
    Gerry Wiley January 25, 2021

    I have been in Costa Rica since December 21st, 2019. I always understood that I have to have a valid (current) visa to be able to file for Residency. So is my visa today considered to be valid or invalid? I would like to apply for Residency tomorrow, but if my visa is considered to be invalid, I have to make at least one border run before March 2nd to get my visa current, correct?

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      Yes you will need a valid entry stamp in order to proceed in applying for residency

  • Avatar
    danielle dilaura January 26, 2021

    hello thankks great info. how can i prove that I own a house in costa rica to be avoid paying for the lodging insurance . your information is a huge service

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      If you wish to enter using proof that you own a home (presenting a property title) or a rental (it must be for more than 1 month, in your name. It cannot be an Airbnb or similar), we cannot assure you that it will be accepted since this is not supported, in writing, by any current ruling or law. ICT’s written confirmation is not equivalent to a Decree, Resolution, or Circular. We know of some people who have already entered this way; however, the situation is so unstable at the airport that we cannot assure you a smooth entry. Ultimately, if the documentation you provide is not enough, you can purchase the insurance upon arrival.

  • Avatar
    danielle dilaura January 26, 2021

    please disregard previous. REGARDING residency..i do want to apply . i see i need covid insurance for the interim before my appointment. But when wil immigration Verify that i have purchased insurance? thank you

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      It’s not necessary but we suggest extending insurance to be covered until the day of the appointment. This is not featured in any written guideline, but it would be good to be covered, just in case.

  • Avatar
    Bradley Ross February 10, 2021

    Is there a hopefull possibilty that MOPT and Migration may agree to allow The Expediente to be The Document to extend Driving priveledges ?
    Would solve many problems for those patiently waiting on residency,
    Likely the majority.
    Esp for those who are established here w necessity to drive.
    Would seem to make sense.

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 10, 2021

      We do not have any updates regarding this at this time. If we receive any notifications we will advise.

  • Avatar
    Angie February 13, 2021

    Hello,

    My husband applied for residency while benefitting from this extension (Jan 25th 2020), he has an appointment to present the documents in July.

    Does this mean he can stay in Costa Rica legally until then? Or will he have to do a border run?

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings February 15, 2021

      That is correct. The appointment stops the clock on his tourist visa stamp. However, driving privileges have not been extended past March 2, 2021. If he will be driving he will need to leave the country and return in order to drive legally.

  • Avatar
    Michelle March 2, 2021

    As of this week, it looks like Panama has refused flights from Costa Rica now in response to the land borders remaining closed from Panama to CR

    • Stacey Jennings
      Stacey Jennings March 2, 2021

      I am not sure where you heard that – but we have employees who fly it every week no problem. This week included

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