The Fingerprinting Department Collapses Due to Excessive Demand
The fingerprinting office (huellas) is part of the Costa Rica Ministry of Public Security. The office is in charge of collecting and processing fingerprints. Any person that is applying for any residency status in Costa Rica is required by the immigration law to have their fingerprints taken and proof of that indicated in their immigration file. For a long time I have advocated that the fingerprinting office needed revamping and better electronic equipment for the process. After all for many residency applicants to Costa Rica this is the first government office that they will see and interact with in Costa Rica. In a away this is Costa Rica’s initial presentation card. After all the Costa Rica Tourism Department spends thousands of dollars in promoting Costa Rica and appears to have completely overlooked this contact point.
What caused the collapse of the fingerprinting office ? The Costa Rican government announced a deadline of November 17, 2012 for all persons that have been residing in Costa Rica to legalize their status. For those foreigners that have relationships with Costa Rican citizens certain requirements have been waived. The result is that thousands of applicants have turned up to file their immigration petitions before the November 17th deadline. However oops ! a prerequisite to having a completed file at immigration is – you guessed it – fingerprints !
So all of a sudden the fingerprinting office without an increase in staff was overrun by Immigration applicants. The local newspaper La Nacion published a full page article under the heading “Costa Ricans and Foreigners Spend the Night at the Fingerprinting Office Due to the Hardship of the Fingerprinting Process.”
The response to this avalanche of people by the fingerprinting office was to limit the amount of people it could process in a day to around 70. It then hands out 70 entry tickets to the first 70 people in line. As a result people began sleeping in line to be able to get a ticket. Some people are re-selling the tickets for up to $80. And no folks at the end of the line you do not get an free iphone 5 – you just get fingerprinted.
Due to the current mess we are currently filing immigration applications without the fingerprints and waiting until the November 17 deadline passes to monitor the lines at the fingerprinting office. Generally this was a process that would take about an hour so asking clients to spend the night in line is not an option so we will keep you posted on how this unfolds going forward.