Do You Hear What I Hear?Sometime around the end of 2013, I started to faintly hear a giant sucking sound, which I soon identified as an impending residency cedula renewal event fast approaching.
|That giant sucking sound of cedula renewal|
The Very First Time Through the MazeIn hindsight, our first renewal difficulty was rooted in our out-of-the-mainstream initial residency application and the procedural swamp that characterized Costa Rica's immigration process back in 2008.
Retiring at age 54 without pension or Social Security meant that to achieve the $600/month income requirement, I needed to purchase a lifetime annuity. The problem, however, has always been getting documentation from the annuity provider that would pass muster with Costa Rica Migracion.
Cedulas Expiring One by OneOur other problem was that due to the indecipherable wisdom of Costa Rica's immigration department, once they approved our initial residency, they decided to dole out my cedula in November, my son's in February and my wife's in May even though they are dependents on my residency. The dates are such that if we want to renew them all together, at least one has to be in expiration or too early for renewal.
I have asked more than a couple of immigration attorneys if they could convince Migracion to consolidate these dates, but their answers are eerily equivalent to how Japanese businessmen indicate that some proposal is impossible: they slowly draw in their breath through clenched teeth and then say "it is very, very difficult" avoiding a flat out "no."
Even though we attempted renewal the first time last year via the process at Banco de Costa Rica, it was a disaster due almost entirely to their incompetence. Despite that, this time around, based on encouragement from others who assured me things would be different this time, I decided to forgo a lawyer and again go through the process myself.
By this time, Sean's cedula had expired.
They Are Certain It Is to Be CertifiedI called the DIMEX 900 number to set appointment and receive the documentary requirements. They insisted that I bring a "certified" letter stating the monthly amount and a statement that the pension was active. They could not explain what "certified" meant, however. Did I need it to have an apostille?, I asked. They simply repeated from their script that it needs to be certified with no additional elucidation.
OK, whatever. The certification, whatever it was, seemed minor compared to actually getting the annuity company to issue such a notarized letter. Even though I'd obtained one for our initial residency and we were able to recycle it for our first renewal, I needed a fresh one this time. Trouble is, their policies had changed and obtaining the notarization was a huge lift for them. After six weeks, they approved an exception and sent it here by UPS.
By then, Tamara's cedula had expired. Mine is still good, because at our first renewal they had set my date a year ahead, who knows why, but that's neither here nor there.
Residencia Permanente to the Rescue!
Prudently, I decided before I sent the "pension active" letter to New Hampshire for an apostille that I'd check with a local attorney to see what the actual certification requirement is. I was also going to have to draft two letters explaining why Sean and Tamara's cedula expiration had gone over the 90-day grace period. He took one look at the letter and essentially said "fuggedabouit!" You've been in the country over 5 years, so take advantage of the new law, which lets you apply for permanent residency.
I had been working under the assumption that even if I had wanted to go for permanent, which until that moment didn't seem all that attractive to me, I would have to get straight with Migración by completing our current renewal. Not so.
To apply for residencia permanente:
- our expirations were irrelevant
- we paid the equivalent of $204 times 3 at a local BCR branch to secure our place in line
- gave the attorney copies of our cedulas
- signed a power of attorney for him to represent us with Migración
- paid him $150 times as 50% down payment and to cover transaction fees
- and ... that's it! There is no income proof required, no letter of explanation.
The even better news in this is that in just a little over 2 years, all of us will be able to apply for Costa Rican citizenship. Pura vida!!