If Costa Rica wants to continue to attract foreign retirees and investors it needs to pay closer attention to the Department of Immigration.
In one of the latest oops ! we did not think of that moment we have a large gap between the letter of the law and the actual reality of processing immigration applications. On the one hand the time frame for processing applications before the Department of Immigration continues to grow.
It is not unusual for a residency application to take a year or more to get approved. On the other hand. Many local banks will no longer open a bank account to foreigners that do not have residency status. How is the foreigner that has a residency application pending supposed to live day to day and pay bills if he cannot open an account until residency is approved.
Another issue is insurance coverage. The local insurance company INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros) will not issue health insurance policy to a “non-resident” They expect the residency applicant to go with no medical insurance for a year or so until the application is approved – I guess so. Oh – You better not want to drive either. The Costa Rica traffic law only allows foreigners to drive for 3 months with their foreign drivers license. After that you are expected to get a Costa Rica drivers license. But wait – you need to have residency approved to get a license ! If residency takes a year to be approved – they are expecting the foreigner to leave the country and re-enter at least 3 times to keep the drivers license current.
Of course none of this is done on purpose but it just one of those things where you scratch your head and say – what were they thinking ! –