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Doing your border runs the right way!

Many of you may already know this, however, it is always important to remember that an essential requirement when applying for Residency in Costa Rica is to have legal status in the country. That means that your entry stamp, received at the port of entry, must be valid. For example, if you entered the country and received the 90-day tourist stamp, you will have 90 days to file your Residency application. If you are not ready to file the request within that 90-day window, you need to complete the necessary border runs.

Border runs, simply put, mean you have to depart the country and re-enter. Some expats plan trips back home and take advantage of the time away to visit friends and family. Others simply coordinate to make a quick visit to Nicaragua or Panama for a few hours or days and re-enter. The idea is always to receive a new 90-day stamp (depending on nationality. Some nationalities receive less than the 90-days. The number of days will also depend on the Immigration Officer´s discretion upon arrival.

Nonetheless, we have heard, seen and dealt with a few “funny” border run stories and wanted to raise our hand to warn expats of the dangers of “unusual” ways to receive new entry stamps.

The correct way of crossing the border is to arrive at an authorized port of entry/departure, present your passport and exit the country. Upon re-entry, you will again need to give your passport to the Immigration Officer for proper stamping. The Authority also reserves the right to ask for a round-trip ticket or reservation showing an eventual departure from Costa Rica and ask questions such as where are you going to stay?, do you have sufficient means to support yourself during the time you will spend in the country? etc.

Anything different to exiting and re-entering the country through the authorized borders is not correct, straightforward or even legal and can certainly cause tremendous headaches later on. The best example we can think of is having someone collect your passport for a few hours or days, whilst you remain in Costa Rica, and have them return it later with a supposedly fresh and new entry stamp.

Whilst enticing, this is against the law and can even result in the denial of Residency. Doing border runs can be a tedious and tiring process, but it is a necessary one.

Our law currently states that if you overstay and file Residency with an expired stamp, you have the option of paying the $100 per month of overstay fine. We say currently as we have received information from the Legal Advisors within Immigration that they are taking the legal steps before Congress to remove this from the law.

Consequently, we generally recommend completing border runs and avoid the fine. Authorities, per our experience and as mentioned above, prefer and advocate for new entry stamps rather than for the payment of the fine. Hence, to protect our clients, we also endorse the border runs whenever required.

We recently took part in a very interesting course with one of the substitute judges of our Migratory Administrative Court and went over the border run matter. Unsurprisingly, it was said that a fraudulent (not “funny” or “unusual”, the correct word is fraudulent) entry stamp, which unfortunately is not a rare thing, is taken very seriously by the Authority and can hinder the entire Residency process. In such cases, even the Immigration Police will get involved, thus aggravating the matter.

Therefore, make sure that you and all expats you know who are interested in applying for Residency in Costa Rica know the importance of abiding by the rules when it comes to border runs and proper entry stamps. Doing it any other way is just not worth it. The risk is too high and can ruin all your plans for securing Residency in Costa Rica.

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Irene Brenes

Irene Brenes


  1. jeffrey
    April 11, 2019 at 12:15 am — Reply

    Very neat article. It is a quite valid warning. It is common sense, but many people lack common sense.

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    Karyn Zaremba
    March 23, 2020 at 7:57 pm — Reply

    Could you please post about those of us who have not yet left, but stayed with the extended date of May 19th before leaving? We would like to apply for residency but need to return to states for documents before we can do so….are you thinking they may extend that again due to COVID19. We hope to return and would like to keep our rental house while back in states if we can come back.

    • Marianela Sánchez
      March 25, 2020 at 4:40 pm — Reply

      Hello, at this time we do not know if the May 17, 2020 date will be extended. We will continue to publish information as it becomes available. We do offer assistance with the procurement and apostille of US documents in case you are interested. This in addition to the Residency services.

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