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.