Our First Costa Rican Residency Renewal - Part 3/3

The drive up to San José was maddening as there seemed to be more semis on the highway than usual, sometimes 3 or 4 in a row. We'd have to slow down to 20 KPH (13 MPH) until gradually we could pass, one truck at a time, but then more would appear within 15 or 20 minutes. Despite that we made pretty good time due to bat-out-of-hell driving whenever the road was clear. There were no pit stops until we reached our attorney's office at 9 AM on the dot.

Curridibat Post Office
Curridibat Post Office
The assistant, Daniel, who was to accompany us to the appointment with Costa Rica Migración, hadn't been told he was going with us. As always, he took such unexpected news in stride. We still needed the renewal letters and our attorney wasn't there (of course). Another of the partners had them whipped up in short order, however. Then I got the first good news of the day, which lifted my spirits and hopes.

The appointment was not to be at Migración (clear across town), but at a nearby post office, just a short drive away. I relaxed a little. Then our attorney called and reassured us that this time it was going to work, and that he would be there before our appointments were over. Relaxed a little more. It wasn't quite smooth sailing after that, but the remainder of the experience was nothing like I had been expecting, and by Costa Rican standards I couldn't have expected how it all played out.

English: Coat of arms of Costa RicaA couple of minutes before 10 AM we left the office, following Daniel in his own car. In less than 10 minutes we arrived at the Zapato P.O. Why the P.O.? Turns out that beyond select branches of the BCR the equipment and process is also at select post offices now. Cool. Unfortunately, it turned out that someone had decided to move two of our three appointments to another P.O. Weird. But the clerk called over to that P.O. to let them know that all three of us were coming. Another 10 minute drive to the Curridibat P.O., which had a classic faux tile roof and palms in front. Cha cha cha.

At this point I felt I'd entered an alternate universe. 

Costa Rican Sunset
Costa Rican Sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While I went to the BCR only 50 meters away to pay the renewal fees, Tamara, Sean, and Daniel went in to the P.O. to let them know we'd arrived. Now the P.O. here in Pérez Zeledón (which doesn't have the renewal system, of course) is almost always hosting a line or two out the door. If you need a clerk's help it's common to have a 30 to 60 minute wait. When I returned from the bank to this P.O, I was surprised, firstly, that the members of our entourage were the only customers there, and secondly, there was only one postal employee. The place had a deserted look. I thought that was strange, but this was the norm for them, apparently.

We were there for at least two hours, (and yes, our attorney did show up, I had an enlightening long chat with him while Sean's renewal was in process, about Uruguay, but I digress). During the whole time no more than a half dozen customers wandered in who needed the clerk's help. 

Costa Rican banana bunch
The whole atmosphere was so laid back and relaxed that I had to wonder if I'd stepped through a portal and how I'd get back, or if I wanted to go back. All of us, clerk included, were chatting and taking the system glitches in stride, just having a great time. We even went a half hour into his lunch break. No problema. All pura vida. This is not the way it is supposed to be, people, when doing this kind of stuff in C.R. The clerk is supposed to be grim, we're supposed to be stressed out. What was going to be next, paved roads, a falling Colone, Central America one big Free Trade Zone

Recall that in the first installment of this saga that I told you to hold that thought about the income verification. That “glitch” arose again here, but was resolved in an unexpected way. Though Migración had our certified income documents, that had been a few months ago so the clerk wanted some updated statements. I hadn't brought any, because, again due to my procrastination and an untimely storm that took out both our power and Internet the night before, I couldn't print them up.

We went through the papers we had and did find one more recent statement and he seemed satisfied for the moment. How important it really was revealed in the final step of processing my renewal. That step requires that he photocopy the bank receipt, my Caja carnet, my old cédula, our most recent payment receipt for the Caja premium, and the deposit/withdrawal information. In the government's infinite wisdom, they only allow the clerk to make a single image per applicant. He didn't have room on the scanner platen for all of it. He finally decided that the income statement was the least important and left it out entirely. I had to chuckle at that.

Dr Pepper bottlePretty soon after that we had our filing receipts and we expect the new cédulas to show up at our local P.O. in about 3 weeks. We thanked everyone profusely, and left for home. By this time we were practically at the highway, so that was another bonus. We decided to “celebrate” by visiting a nearby AutoMercado, which astute readers remember is the only store that carries Sean's favorite soda, Dr. Pepper. Loaded down with deli food, Dr. Pepper, and chocolate we headed back home, which was an uneventful return trip.

The only two things that didn't quite work out are that they couldn't re-adjust our expiration dates to be all the same (they are spread over a 7 month period, go figger), and because this renewal took so long, my next renewal, which comes up first, is only 14 months away now! On the other hand, the next renewal will be our Permanent Residency, so the following renewal periods will be 5 years instead of just two. Maybe by then we can do the whole process on-line. I can dream can't I?

Care to share any personal tales of convoluted governmental processes in the comments?
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9 comments:

  1. Whew! It went decent, and you came away with a 3 poster about it! Not bad at all, nothing like an adventure that you can walk away from with a story that has a happy ending.

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  2. Dan, And now you have to re-read the new ending because I bungled the cut-n-paste from another doc and didn't realize it until a few minutes ago!

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  3. Very interesting, glad it worked out but...now I'm really not looking forward to the paperwork/ordeal involved in our move there in the future. I'll second your hopes it all becomes simpler and available online!

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    1. Scott,

      The initial residency acquisition is (unnecessarily) harder than renewal. Most people don't seem to go through what we do for some reason, though most folks here are straight-forward Pensionados, no kids. I think C.R. really shoots itself in the foot by making so many obstacles, especially as compared to other countries, i.e. Panama. On the other hand, I can understand why they don't want to sell out their national identity by having a mass immigration of Gringoes here, even though it would bring in lots of money.

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    2. That's a relief Casey. We will be applying as straight pensionados with no dependants. We were lucky enough to be set up with a very good lawyer by our real estate agent when we bought the condo and he has assured us that he will take us through the process when we are ready. So..fingers crossed and we will see.

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  4. Are you sure the next renewal is for 5 years? My first cedula as a permanent resident was 1 year, and the second one was 2 years.

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    1. Hi Daniel,

      First, remember that we applied for residency before the latest overhaul of the immigration law, so things might be different for us than they are now.

      My understanding is that we are conditional residents for the first two cycles of two years each. We are in our second cycle, but because of the renewal delay it's only a little more than a year until the next renewal for me (Sean and Tamara's expiration dates are months later than mine). At my next renewal (which will be 4 years from first grant) I will get permanent residency for 5 years.

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  5. You are lucky you didn't move to France. The French invented bureaucracy.

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    1. Oh, but I think the food (especially as compared to here) would more than make up for that! After all, once you'd ground your way through some bureaucratic hoops you could find a nice café with an excellent wine list, even in the fast food joints!

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Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey