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Sep 26 2014

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In the Mailbag: Regarding Getting Residency in Costa Rica and Joining the Caja

In the Mailbag – September 26, 2014

Our “Questions and Answers” column in the last newsletter generated a lot of response. The topic was “Getting Residency in Costa Rica and Joining the Caja.” You can read the original question and answer here. Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts.

Tom B. wrote:

It’s not so easy to automatically leave and enter CR on a 90 day tourist visa. Many people are getting less time and are being required to have an air ticket to their home country. Those who are crossing into Panama have had the most problems, but who knows what the future will bring?”

M.A. wrote:

Permanent residency has NO work restrictions…you do not need work permits. You can apply for work permits when you have temporary residency. Visa extensions can be any length of time with maximum of 90 days for any given stay in country. For example, I was given a 10-day visa at Panama border. I applied for visa extension without a lawyer’s help and was given another 80-days. If you have a 50-day visa, you can apply for extension and get another 40-days. You do not really need a good reason other than you want to stay in country longer. There is also a medical visa if you are too ill to travel….has to be very well-documented by doctors, hospitals, etc. that you are unable to travel.”

We asked our Costa Rica residency expert, Javier Zavaleta, about the benefits of permanent residency. Here is his response:

As a temp resident, say as a Pensionado, every time you go to renew your cedula for 2 years you have to provide a letter indicating your pension is still valid and being paid. Permanent residents have NO income requirement. So you never have to get another pension letter from the embassy or a former employer which, in some cases, can be difficult.

A temp resident must be mindful of the mandatory one day per year in-country requirement. Permanent residents have no specific in-country requirement but are still expected to spend at least a day per year in CR

Permanent residents are entitled to offer residency as dependents to parents with no income requirement (like it’s done in the U.S.) Not available to temp residents.

In general, being a permanent resident makes life easier, with fewer rules. AND it gives a long-term resident the feeling of being accepted, of truly belonging in Costa Rica.”

And, finally, we received the following comment from Diego R.:

This is part of your answer to the question regarding health insurance until you become a resident: “If something major would happen and you needed to go to the emergency room, it is mandated by law that you will be treated.”

Factually, you are correct. However, do you realize this is the equivalent of not paying for major medical insurance? In your experience you were fortunate and did not need major medical care. If you had it would have been paid for by the hardworking Ticos because you have not contributed to the medical system up to that point. Many Ticos are aware of this and it contributes to prejudices against Ex-pats who are viewed as moving here to take advantage of the medical system which is highly overburdened. The responsible thing to do is follow the other advice in your answer regarding paying for insurance through INS, etc.

Most people in the US are not open to illegal immigrants receiving medical care covered by the taxpayers. You are now advocating this in Costa Rica whether you intended to or not…. I follow you site because I think you and your husband are very nice people and I have learned a lot from you sharing your experiences in Costa Rica.  Please feel free to share my comments.  You are in a position to shape perceptions which holds a lot of responsibility.”

Thank you, Diego, for your email and your honesty.

Diego also suggests our readers take a look at the following article, published in A.M. Costa Rica’s Retire NOW section, for more information: Cheap medical care for expats is not as easy as some say.

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1 comment

  1. Stfree

    A good friend, who has been a PT for many years, recently had a cardiac event that had him in need of medical attention. His physician (private) had him transported to the (new!) CAJA hospital in Heredia on an emergency basis. He recieved excellent care there for the next six days. On discharge, he was given a bill that was a bit above $8,000. It was never “free” but it was very reasonable for the services recieved. He has made arrangement to pay this in two installments and has already done the first.

    The lesson I take from this is that it is not foolhardy to expect to rely on the CAJA for emergency attention BUT expect to live up to the reality that you must also be prepared to pay your way.

    This can be important for those who are remaining in the country while their applications for residency are slowly grinding their way through the system. However, if you arrive with a on-going and non-emergency need for medical services, be prepared to use the private sector and pay accordingly while waiting. The CAJA cannot address those issues.

    Our experiences as residents with the CAJA have been very favorable although we do make use of the “medicina mixta” for some things – usually to speed things up. As always, your experiences will vary with where you choose to live. Just like with the weather here.

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