In anticipation of our planned three-month visit to Mexico this year, we asked a friend to explain to us, and to our readers, how a part-time legal resident of Costa Rica can avoid having to pay for the Caja during the months one is out of the country. Most of these folks are “snowbirds,” as they come to Costa Rica every winter to escape the cold winters up north. Paul and I are what I call “rainbirds,” as we usually leave Costa Rica during the rainiest months of the year in Costa Rica. Others may find that they need to leave the country for months at a time, yet continue to pay their monthly Caja payment while they are gone.
So, what are the requirements to stop paying the Caja while we are living out of the country for a period of time? First off, one has to be out of the country of Costa Rica for a minimum of 90 consecutive days to be exempt from paying the Caja for those months. Here is the process which our friend outlined from his experience:
Upon returning to Costa Rica after your 90+ day absence from the country, go to your local Caja office as soon as possible. Explain to them that you have been out of the country for X months, and that you would like a print-out of what is required from Migración to secure the document that the Caja needs to cancel your Caja obligation for those months. If you do not speak Spanish fluently, I recommend bringing someone who does. They can print out two documents to help guide you: (1) A listing of what you must bring to Migración for them to authenticate that you have been out of the country for the months you claim, and (2) a printout of those months for which the Caja has received no payment from you.
Important: Upon your return to Costa Rica, do not pay anything into the Caja before you square things away with them. I made the mistake of paying the Caja in the month I returned, thinking that I was paying for that month, when in fact the system would only credit me for the first month for which I was in arrears. This causes you to lose credit for one of the months that you were out of the country.
What You’ll Need
If the guidance document remains the same as mine, you will be asked to bring your passport, your cédula (residency card/DIMEX). You must also bring two photocopies of your passport information page and two copies of your cédula (showing both front and back). This is what will be necessary for Migration to produce a Documento de Salida e Ida.
Where To Go Next
You will need to go to Migración y Extranjería, San José, in La Uruca. Be sure to use GPS if you are driving. There are twists and turns exiting form the General Cañas Highway that will amaze most mortals. Paid parking lots are plentiful in the block approaching Migración and for the time you are there the rates are very reasonable. After going through Security, ask the attendant on the other side which window you should go to get the aforementioned Documento de Salida e Ida. For me, it was the last window at the end of the building cluster which is Migración. The window will have a number. However, the instructions you are given may not have a number, only the “last window.” All these windows have a grouping of chairs in front of them for people awaiting service. Go directly to the window and explain what you are seeking, armed with your originals and copies. The wait is usually not long. But again, if you do not speak Spanish fluently, I strongly suggest you bring someone along who can help you.
Returning to the Caja to Present your Documento de Salida e Ida
Just to be on the safe side, make two copies of this document. The Caja is not a perfect system. Ask the Caja to review your account and present the clerk with the original Documento de Salida e Ida. The months you were out of the country and the months documented in the Migración document should match. Ask for a dated receipt of this document.
Making the Caja Payment for the Month You are Now In
One would like to think that this adjustment to your account would be entered into the system quickly. I can only relate that my experience one week after I gave the document to the Caja, the local Servimás still was not showing the adjustments for all the months I was out of the country. I returned to the Caja Office to ask them what had happened. It was explained to me that sometimes it takes more time. The clerk asked me to give it two more days, and suggested I might pay at the Caja Office, as, for some reason, their computer updates quicker than the outside system. This turned out to be true. Again, it is important to not pay the Caja until all your months out of the country have been adjusted — usually with the word “Ajuste” which recognizes that a month has been accounted for.
So is it worth it?
Like all things, once you get the hang of it, it is always easier the second time around. If you are out of the country for six months, or more, this might represent a savings of several hundred dollars, as a much as a round trip ticket, so yes it is worth it.