Our “moving-to-Costa-Rica” travails are pretty much behind us. Our recent focus has been getting our DIMEX residency cards (cedulas de residencias) making us official full-time retired residents of Costa Rica. It was the biggest item and the one that has also taken the longest, has just been completed.
It has taken far longer than we planned to make this a reality. Since I covered some of this more than a year ago, I’ll recap the “before” and “during” highlights for you here.
We were referred to an immigration lawyer and had our first appointment to see her the day after we arrived at the end of February 2013. Our lawyer presented all of the required apostiled documents and copies of other docs shortly thereafter to Costa Rican immigration and we were approved for the process of being granted “pensionado” residency status, being given an in-process letter and number in May 2013.
Our timing was awful. We were dumped into the approval process in the midst of the government’s illegal immigration amnesty program. Over 100,000 of these illegal applicants were given priority over those of us trying to enter through the front door.
The result was a wait of 14 months instead of the typical 4-7 months experienced previously. (Our lawyer tells us that now the process is back to its streamlined self and she has clients that applied four months ago that will be receiving their cedulas de residencia later this month.)
Gold Citizens of Costa Rica waiting in Immigration line on the 4th of July
Except for a trip to the central police department in San Jose months ago to be inked and fingerprinted the old-fashioned way, our lawyer did most of the immigration appointments and legwork leading up to the day when we actually had our appointment to be digitally fingerprinted and photographed at Migracion y Extranjería in La Uruca (an area of San Jose) and receive our DIMEX residency cards.
In advance of receiving a DIMEX (cedula de residencia) card, it is required of all aliens that they sign up and pay for participation in Costa Rica’s national healthcare system, commonly called CAJA. For this we paid a visit to our community’s CCSS (Caja Costarricense del Segura Social) office to sign up (one simple form for each of us) and make the first-month’s payment for my wife and myself. (Don’t bother wasting your time without your lawyer’s go ahead that you have been approved for residency as your name and passport number won’t be in their system.) After this was completed, we then headed across the street to CAJA with our receipt to receive our three-month temporary CAJA carnet.
Protect your Dimex Card's electronic strip by keeping it in a paper protector
We were told that our lawyer would have one appointment on Day X to schedule our actual appearance at Migracion in La Uruca. She also told us that our actual appearance should occur on Day X plus about 22 days. As it turned out, our physical appearance at Migracion was scheduled for 8:00 AM on Day X plus about 13 days and fell squarely on July 4th. (Hey, why not spend our Independence Day morning at Migracion. After all, it’s not a holiday in Costa Rica and any celebrating we might do would come later.)
The day before our appointment our lawyer had one final meeting at Migracion where she would supply our passports, CAJA carnets, and originals and copies of other documents of ours to prepare for our appearance. So to minimize the amount of time we’d be without these important documents, we made back-up copies and dropped them off at her home the day before her appointment.
This is how your CAJA card will look like
At 7:00 AM on the 4th, we rendezvoused with our lawyer about halfway to the Migracion office in front of the Hard Rock Café just off of the Pan American Highway and followed her to our appointment. When we arrived, we parked in a lot just outside of Migracion’s large cluster of offices, and headed in through security. We were a bit early, so once inside we headed for the cafeteria and a cup of coffee. Promptly at 8:00 AM, our lawyer headed to her appointment to pick up our approved and stamped papers that would gain us entry to the building where we would be fingerprinted, photographed and handed our long-awaited cedulas de residencia.
Before entering, our lawyer wrote “Cuidadano de Oro” (literally “gold citizen”) on the top page of our paperwork, which meant we are over 65 and should have priority processing. It did help expedite things a bit as we entered a full room of seated bodies and our name was called in less than five minutes. We both were instructed to go to one of the numbered cubicles where our fingerprints and photographs were taken. As “gold citizens” we had been told that we should expect to wait a short time and pick up our cedulas de residencia that same day. Well, each element of almost any multi-task process here rarely seems to work to perfection (note: this statement is totally refuted in next week’s blog).
As such, we were told that there was a large backlog in processing and no matter how old, how polite (or rude) we chose to be, there would be no chance of getting our cedulas de residencia that day. We had the choice of having them mailed for seven-mil colones to our post office box or returning the following week to pick them up. We chose to return the next week and everything went smoothly enough: we were on our way home in less than an hour with our new cedula de residencia cards in hand.
The writer of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.