Urgent Information Regarding Residencies and Tourist status

The Immigration Department issued this evening Resolution N° DJUR-043-03-2019-JM, which, in summary, states:

  • The Immigration Department WILL NOT receive Residency applications going forward and until May 17, 2020. This includes all categories. Basically, Residency applications are suspended until May 17, 2020.
  • Consequently, documents which will expire within this period will be deemed valid (meaning their validity will be automatically extended) until July 17, 2020.
  • Exigencies will not be raised by the Department until July 17, 2020.
  • The Immigration Department will continue analyzing applications during this time. Hopefully it will give them time to catch up on delayed work.
  • Approvals and rejections will continue to be issued and notified solely via fax or email only.
  • The exclusive attorney window used by many professionals to follow up on applications will remain closed until May 17, 2020.
  • DIMEX requests: Will work solely through Banco de Costa Rica and Correos de Costa Rica by APPOINTMENT ONLY. Residencies based on marriage to a Costa Rican national can and will only be renewed at Immigration. Therefore, these will be suspended and may be processed between May 17 and July 17, 2020. If any of the other categories cannot be renewed through Banco de Costa Rica or Correos de Costa Rica, applicants will have until July 17, 2020, to process their renewals.
  • Entry visas for Restricted Nationalities are suspended until May 17, 2020.
  • Tourists (non-Residents) who entered the country after December 17, 2019, may legally remain in Costa Rica until May 17, 2020.
  • Minor’s exit permit requests and issuance of Costa Rican passports will continue to work, as normal.
  • Starting March 18, 2020 at 23:59 and until April 12, 2020 at 23:59, only Residents and Costa Rican nationals may enter the country.

No word on three major questions:

  1. What will happen to people who entered the country prior to December 17, 2019, who, as of now, do not have legal status in Costa Rica. It is to be expected that if they depart between now and April 21, 2020, nothing will occur. From April 21, 2020, onwards, they will be subjected to fines and penalties, as discussed here.
  2. What will happen to foreign nationals who have received the approval of their Residency but are yet to secure a DIMEX cards? Are they free to enter the country as part of the Resident population? It is to be expected that people with approved Residencies should be allowed back into Costa Rica, however, Immigration Officers at the ports of entry may not be familiar with Residency approval resolutions and delays are to be expected when entering the country.
  3. Transportation Authorities (MOPT and COSEVI) are yet to confirm if they will recognize the “legal status” of those tourists who will be deemed legal until May 17, 2020. As many Expats know, you should be allowed to drive in the country using a foreign driver’s license as long as your entry stamp is valid. Therefore, at this time it is unknown if the legal status Immigration is granting to tourists until May 17 will also be recognized by Transportation Authorities.

Applicants can continue to procure and apostille/legalize their documents in the mean time. Whilst other countries may issue their own measures and delays could be suffered, it could be a good time to gather documents. If you are in Costa Rica, Outlier Legal Services may assist with the procurement and apostille/legalization of certain documents from Costa Rica, so as to be ready by May 17, 2020 with most requirements, when and if possible.

This is a developing matter, and we will post more information as it becomes available. It is impossible to measure the impact this will have on processing times when it comes to the approval of Residencies, however, we will continue to do what is legally possible to help the Expat community whilst supporting the efforts displayed by our Government, so far, to control this crisis.

In the meantime, lets be safe.

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The Author

Irene Brenes

Irene Brenes

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.


  1. Avatar
    Carol Heise
    March 17, 2020 at 3:07 am — Reply

    Does this mean that I cannot enter Costa Rica as an American Citizen on a tourist vida until after May 17th?

    • Jeffrey Zamora
      March 17, 2020 at 6:31 am — Reply


      Good evening. As of today you can still enter Costa Rica as an American Citizen on a tourist visa. Starting Wednesday, March 18th at 11:59 pm, only Costa Rican nationals, legal residents, and diplomats will be allowed in the country.

      Best regards,

  2. Jeffrey Zamora
    March 17, 2020 at 6:21 am — Reply

    Lots of awesome information in a nutshell!

  3. Avatar
    John Stoller
    March 17, 2020 at 12:37 pm — Reply

    What a terrible idea shutting down the border to tourism. 200,000 plus employees out of work. Hotels, restaurants, tourist facilities, etc. Devastated. A generally non lethal virus causing three people in hospital intensive care and the country suffers its’ greatest economic disaster.

    • Avatar
      March 18, 2020 at 6:03 pm — Reply

      I hope you’re right…but be ready to eat your words in 2 or 3 weeks

  4. Avatar
    March 17, 2020 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    I have a 90 day visa valid until May 1, 2020. Wondering if I should be going to the border today/tomorrow to get a new stamp as we won’t know if the borders will re-open on April 12 or after the grace period of May 17 and I don’t want to be penalized for having an invalid visa.

    • Jeffrey Zamora
      March 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm — Reply

      Julie, you can complete a border run prior to 11:59PM tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18th. Be advised the Panamanian border is closed. However, if a border run is not completed and you entered after December 17, 2019, you will be legal until May 17, 2020.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Powers
    March 17, 2020 at 1:46 pm — Reply

    Thanks for this, it is getting shared widely and quickly, around the expat community!

    Just to clarify, my family of 5 did our last border run on Jan 7th. It looks like now we are good until May 17th. We have tickets to leave for the US on June 4.

    Under the current rules, are our options to either pay a fine for the May 17th to June 4th period, or make a border run sometime after the border reopens but before May 17th?

    • Jeffrey Zamora
      March 17, 2020 at 4:56 pm — Reply

      Andrew, you will have legal status until May 17th. If you depart after May 17th, you will face penalties and fines.

  6. Avatar
    March 17, 2020 at 6:22 pm — Reply

    Thank you for this excellent information. However I don’t understand one thing. If I crossed the border on March 15, am I in legal standing as a tourist for the usual 90-day period (ie until mid-June), or only until May 17th?

    • Marianela Sánchez
      March 21, 2020 at 7:22 pm — Reply

      Andrea, you’ll be in legal standing until May 17th. They are extending the time for all those who had been entered the country as tourists after December 17th.

  7. Avatar
    March 18, 2020 at 12:34 am — Reply

    Thank you for the updates!

  8. Avatar
    Will O Connor
    March 18, 2020 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    Is there information on the US Embassy having a mobile unit to renew and or relpace lost or stolen passports?

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