Full implementation of the new immigration law is expected to take place in the coming weeks, and government officials hope it will both ensure greater citizen security and continue to inspire foreign investment.
The law technically went into effect on March 1, but some pieces were delayed as immigration officials drafted ‘reglamentos,’ or the standards by which the law would be implemented.
With over 600,000 immigrants living in a country of 4.5 million, the former immigration director Mario Zamora, who played a significant role in drafting the law said, “The weight that the issue of immigration carries here in Costa Rica is significant.”
Among the changes in the new law is the requirement that every foreigner working toward his or her residency is required to pay in to the social security system as a prerequisite. This piece comes in response to the concern that immigrants were ‘bankrupting’ the system.
Zamora also mentioned that the process of applying for residency should be easier, but that high penalties exist for those who remain in the country illegally. Illegal immigrants are required to pay $100 for every month they are in the country beyond their allotted time. If they fail to pay this fine, they are forced to leave for a period three times the number of days they were here illegally.
The pending release of the reglamentos clarify several aspects of the law, including confusion relating to the renewal of tourist visas. Under the new law, tourists are allowed to renew their visa without leaving the country. Yet a tourist can never stay longer than 90 days. The change is meant to benefit residents of countries who only receive 30 days upon initial entry into Costa Rica.
The new law is intended to be a ‘factor and a motor’ of continued development in Costa Rica as the country leverages its immigrant population for the benefit of both foreigners and residents.
Regarding the new immigration law, President Laura Chinchilla said in a statement that it would “promote greater economic opportunities and greater investment, while trying to maintain an adequate balance with issues concerning national security. It’s a flexible instrument that will allow us to shape a proactive immigration policy based on selective criteria.”