Friday, August 13, 2010

Permanent Residency - Mission Impossible?

The Goal: Permanent Residency status in Costa Rica.

Likelihood of Success: Diminishing?

In 2006, several immigration law changes ago, Rick and I applied for and received "Rentista" residency in Costa Rica. Under this version of the law, which still applies to us, we deposited money in a Costa Rican bank, in an account in Rick's name. Each month, the bank transfers dollars from that account into an account in colones (also in Rick's name). This counts as our "income" in Costa Rica, and covers the entire family (that's me!) even though only Rick's name is on the account. This is what was required.

Each year, we have renewed our residency by getting a letter from the bank stating how much they converted from dollars to colones. This letter *always* states that this was done in Rick's account. Other items required for renewing have included passport stamps showing that we were in the country for at least 4 months each "residency year."

Since our residency was approved, there have been two new laws which have gone into effect: (a) in 2006, rentista status changed so that each person had to have their own account, (b) in 2010, rentista status changed back to covering the entire family (but the amount went way up).
In addition, there is now a requirement for (1) joining the health care system (known as Caja), (2) registering with your originating country's embassy, and (3) being able to prove that you have been a good boy/girl while in Costa Rica. This means additional paperwork when renewing:
- orden patronal (caja)
- print out of embassy registration
- "Hoja de delincuencia" (Costa Rican police report in your name)

What has not changed is that after three years of this type of residency, you can apply to become a "permanent" resident. This means several things - you no longer have to show proof of "income" (our bank account), you don't have to spend more than one day each year in Costa Rica (not that we want to limit it, it just gives us flexibility), and you can legally work (more flexibility).

So, last year, in September, Rick and I both applied to become Permanent Residents. In March, his application was approved. Mine is still in LIMBO!

My cédula (ID card that shows valid residency status) will expire in early September (as will my residency, unless it gets renewed or "permanent-ed"). Since my status is still in limbo, my lawyer said to get my cédula renewed. She also said that 95% of the time, people in my situation automatically get a permanent status with their renewal (they see that I am in process, and it has been a year, and so they just sort of approve it on the spot).

You can call for an appointment to renew in the month before your cédula expires (so, NOW). We did that - Rick, great guy that he is, did this for me while I was out having fun painting :-). We gathered all the supporting documents we needed, and went to our appointment.

We both go to the appointment at Banco Costa Rica (BCR), supposedly the only way now to renew cédulas, and reportedly much easier, faster, efficient, (name your superlative), etc. than going to the immigration office.
I have all the documents you could conceivably wish for:
- my old cédula
- Rick's cédula
- orden patronal (every single one of them, also all in Rick's name)
- Caja carnet (shows that I am covered under Rick's orden patronal)
- old and new passports, boarding passes, exit tax receipts (covering every single year of residency)
- embassy registry (yep, I'm "other traveler" here, under Rick's registration)
- bank letter (account in Rick's name)
- our marriage certificate ('cause, DUH! everything is in Rick's name!)

Well, so... the nice lady at BCR looks up on her cheat sheet for what kind of documents she needs to verify, and asks for my bank letter. Hmmm - she takes it to another person. She says that it needs to be in *my* name. We explain that that's not possible, and that our residency is under the old 2006 law. She talks to more people. She does stuff on her computer. She writes out a note, first in Spanish, then takes the time to translate into English. But the fact remains; the cheat sheet says the account has to be in my name, so that is what the nice note says. It makes no difference that we got our original residency that way, and no difference that we have renewed several times the same way. After an hour, we leave without a new cédula on the way. (And *forget* anything about *any* possibility of getting in on that "95% of people in your situation will just get permanent residency!" HAH!)

We're pretty stunned, but - onward! I called our lawyer, who was shocked at what happened at BCR. She said that obviously the person hadn't been adequately trained. She also said there was nothing to be done about that. sigh. But, she could (and will) write a letter of complaint to immigration about how long my application for permanent residency is taking. She has already pressed the "boss" at immigration about it, and explained that she is (by law) unable to talk directly to the person who is handling my case.

I still have a few weeks left on my valid cédula. So, between now and then, my lawyer will write that letter of complaint, she will check on my status with immigration again, and we'll hope that works - and works in time. If I get approved by my residency expiration date, I'll get an appointment right away for my new cédula. If not, well, I expect there will be stronger methods available. Fingers crossed that I won't be breaking new ground in finding out. But you know, I *have* been studying French...

1 comment:

Jen said...

Not fun!!! I feel your uh, pain? XOXO Hang in there cuz we both know the little glitches are just part of the wonderful life we're blessed to lead here. :) Hugs!