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Costa Rica Expat Living: My Story of Being a Dependent (With an Unexpected Twist)

It’s March 2021, and I get engaged to my husband in an arranged setting (arranged marriages are quite common in India). He tells me that he has applied for PR (Permanent Residency) in Costa Rica, as he has already completed 3 years and is now eligible for a PR. He also tells me that getting a permanent residency is an important step for our marriage (we were mostly looking for work visa benefits), therefore he had expedited the process. I am excited!

We get married in May, during the second wave in India. After crossing a lot of hurdles, like the CR embassy in India being closed, we managed to fly to Costa Rica in July. Our lawyer immediately starts my residency filing process and I go for my appointment in August.

And then the bomb drops on me!

My lawyer tells us that being dependent on a PR holder, I would get a “special category” status. And this will come with a restriction to work i.e. the employer would need to sponsor me.  On top of that, I would have to renew my residency every 1 year.

I find this very ironic because despite my husband being a PR holder and the category name having “special” in it, I get almost no benefits. I still don’t lose hope!

I receive my residency in January of next year, and I immediately start my job search. It is no secret that Costa Rica is an expensive country and in order to enjoy a good standard of living, both partners need to work. This is true, especially for expats who have moved to Costa Rica for work. Therefore, I am determined to work!

I start getting responses on Linkedin, and even get some interviews scheduled. Somehow all interviews don’t work out and I get rejected by every company. I ask my husband “Is this me? Do I say something wrong in the interviews? Am I quoting a very high salary?”

3 months pass by without a job in hand. I am disheartened!

I, then, start talking to people about my ordeal. And, almost everyone tells me the same thing. “It’s not you, it’s because of the sponsorship that you need. It’s a big deterrent for them (the companies)!”

And then it dawns upon me. All this while I had been in self-doubt, feeling under-confident, and blaming my skills when it was not even in my control.

I decide to give up on the job search and start taking on independent projects from overseas clients as a content creator. A year passes by, and I am still working on such projects!

My residency is due for renewal in January, but I get an appointment for February. As anyone who has renewed their residency recently would know, the residency renewal process is currently taking a lot of time in Costa Rica.

I go for my appointment, and my lawyer meets me at the office. I do whatever is required of me and come out.

The lawyer casually tells me, “Hey, by the way, when you get your DIMEX card, remember to check the words ‘libre condición’ on it.”

I am shocked! “But doesn’t that mean that I am free to work in Costa Rica and I would no longer need a sponsorship from the company?”

He casually nods “Yes!”

I am not convinced. I request him to meet my husband who was standing a little far from us and repeat what he told me. He obliges!

I still want to be double sure, “But why did I not get this written on my card last time?”

“Because the government introduced this sometime in the middle of last year.”

I thank him, gather my belongings and prepare to leave. I am still in disbelief. I tell my husband that I don’t want to set my expectations high unless I see it for myself on my DIMEX card.

A month later, I receive my digital card and immediately open the file with my fingers crossed and a racing heart. And then my eyes fall on the golden words “libre condición” written on the card. I am elated. My happiness knows no bounds!

I will now be able to work in Costa Rica without any restrictions. Hurray!

I am not sure which minister, or whether the new President introduced this change, but this is a really big step for dependents of PR holders. It opens up a lot of avenues and presents huge opportunities for hundreds of dependents like me.

I am now happy with the “special category” that I have. I still have to renew my residency every 1 year, but that is ok, I guess!

I am still basking in the happiness of this unexpected, but pleasant surprise, as I remember the quote –

“Happiness doesn’t always come from a pursuit. Sometimes it comes when we least expect it.”

Astha Garg
Astha Garg
Content Creator & Certified Yoga Instructor An advocate for environmental consciousness, has a strong quest for knowledge, and a deep love for traveling & exploring.

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