The President said that if I travel my status would be cancelled, but the Decree says something else

As announced earlier in the week, the President alerted that any foreign national with legal status (meaning Residents, people with Special Categories, Estancias or applications in progress) who departs the country during the COVID19 crisis will automatically lose their immigration status. The summary of the press conference can be found here:

Today, at last, the Executive Order that tries (emphasis on tries) to support this statement has been issued and it is strange!

Executive Order 42256-MGP- S states, in summary:

The intention of these sanitary measures is to protect those people living in Costa Rica from the effects of the COVID19.

Considering that Executive Order 42227-MP-S places the country in a state of emergency, sanitary measures may be issued, including the prohibition of travelling. This particular measure is directed to foreign nationals who have legal status.

Foreign nationals with legal status who depart during the crisis will be faced with the consequences set upon on Section 61. 2 and .6 of the General Law of Immigration, Law 8764. This measure will be in place from March 25th, 2020 at 23:59 and until April 12th, 2020 at 23:59. If necessary, Immigration may extend the deadline.

However, this is where things get weird. This is what article 61.2 and .6 says:



Foreign nationals will be rejected at the time they intend to enter the territory and entry will be denied if:

2) The entry implies a proven risk to the public health, per the technical studies and the protocols established by the Ministry of Health.

6) When there are entry restrictions ordered by the Executive Branch.

Who are exempt?

Foreign nationals who drive international transportation services may it be through land, sea, or air or for the transportation of goods and cargo, per the sanitary guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Entry through an unauthorized port of entry or entry whilst having an impediment or entry ban will immediately result in the cancellation of legal status and deportation.

This Executive Order modifies Executive Order 42238- MGP-S as follows:

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 as a result of the COVID19 crisis.

Some of the exceptions to the rule, per Executive Order N° 42238 – MGP – S, are:

Costa Rican nationals

  • Costa Rican Residents with valid DIMEX (generally referred to as cedula) cards. This means Temporary (examples include Pensionados, Rentistas, and Investors) and Permanent Residents.
  • Special Categories
  • Estancias
  • People with applications in process, meaning people whose requests were duly filed at Immigration and have an application filing receipt or plantilla, in Spanish, showing an application number (expediente).

However, Residents, people with Special Categories, Estancias or applications in progress who depart the country between March 25, 2020 at 23:59 and until April 12, 2020 at 23:59 WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO RE-ENTER. But again, this is odd since supposedly, on April 13, 2020, the borders will reopen so everyone will be allowed back. For example, if you departed on March 20, 2020 and plan on returning on April 02, 2020, it seems you will be allowed back. Nonetheless, if you depart on March 28, 2020 and plan on returning on April 02, 2020, you will NOT be allowed to enter the country.

Therefore, it simply seems that travelling is discouraged but this Executive Order, at least, does not state that people with legal status will automatically lose their Residency or Category or Estancia or will see their ongoing processes cancelled.

It makes sense to state that Residents, people with Special Categories, Estancias, or people with applications in progress are allowed to enter Costa Rica if they departed prior to March 25th. On the contrary, it make sense to restrict the entry of that class of people who departed between March 25th and April 12th. If the It would be unfair to penalize the people who have left the country prior to release of the measure. The only explanation here is that this measure is, as suspected, aimed at controlling the movement of foreign nationals during Easter; particularly, if we consider the situation in Nicaragua where no efforts are being displayed to deal with the COVID19 crisis.

So, the Executive Order seems to contradict what President Alvarado stated on the press conference.

Travel is clearly discouraged but it does not seem that it will result, automatically, in the cancellation of your status. Evidently, we will file a clarification request, but until then, if travelling can be avoided, that would be wise.

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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
    William Howard
    March 27, 2020 at 3:44 pm — Reply

    What about medical emergencies from family members like children and grandchildren who are living stateside while their parents or grandparents reside in Costa Rica and are permanent residents. What recourse do we have if our children or grandchildren need us back.

    • Marianela Sánchez
      March 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm — Reply

      William, per this decree you can depart but you will not be allowed back into Costa Rica until the borders open. There are no exceptions to the rule, unfortunately. These are crazy times and rules are being temporarily impossed to try and contain the virus.

  2. Avatar
    John A Davis
    April 1, 2020 at 12:58 am — Reply

    So is the border going to open April 12? I have a ticket to SJO on April 15.

    Not sure I want to come that soon anymore but I still have to interface with my airlines to cancel or whatever.

  3. Jeffrey Zamora
    April 6, 2020 at 3:02 pm — Reply


    Our apologies for the delayed response. Currently, April 12th is the scheduled day for the border to reopen, however it is foreseeable that this measure will be extended. As a matter of fact, the Immigration department commented one of their articles from their Facebook page, where they state they are working already to have the Government extend the border closure.

    Best regards,

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