Questions about renewing visa every 90 days

As I stated earlier this trip was primarily to renew my visa in Costa Rica. I get occasional letters from people considering a move to Costa Rica with questions of all kinds. Well, just today, a regular reader of this blog asked the following questions about getting the visa renewed every 90 days. The questions are in blue and my answers in black. Maybe you have had the same questions? These photos are not from this week’s trip, but a group trip I did December 30, 2015. This week’s trip was solo and much more than just getting a visa! This week in two days I birded in two reserves and photographed colonial churches in Leon. A lot more fun than just a border run! But both give you the 90 day visa needed:

Has the 90 day visa situation worked okay for you? 
One of several “Visa Run” groups I was a part of – at border.
It has worked fine for me for a year and a half now, but I’m kind of hoping today’s is the last visa I have to get as I am completing residency requirements and will then be able to get a CR Driver License. I do not have a car but rent one occasionally, mainly for birding trips. You have to have residency before you can get a Costa Rica Driver License, so I have to use my Tennessee Driver License which requires a current Visa. Once my residency was in process I could have lived here without renewing the visa, but could not drive (legally). It is interesting to note that there are actually a lot of expats who, for whatever reasons, do not want to fool with residency application red tape and elect to be permanent tourists, living here legally on tourist visas. There have been rumors about the government “putting a stop to that,” but since it brings money into the country I doubt they will. If we could just get a Tico Trump for president of Costa Rica, he would put a stop to these damn yankees! 🙂  Fortunately, Ticos love Americans and Canadians and are all very welcoming of us and all foreigners, all races and all religions. 

A reasonable wait in line coming out of Nicaragua.
How many times have you had to leave and return? I think this week was number 6. The first 4 times I used a local tour operator who organizes “Visa Runs” for local expats. We left at 5 AM, stopping for breakfast and then in Liberia for the exit tax certificate. At the Nicaragua border town of Penas Blanca we cross over and then turn around and come back. About $25-$30 of border fees plus tipping a local Nica expediter. We payed the tour guy $150 for the drive, technical assistance and two meals enroute. It was a 12-14 hour day with some good fellowship, but I got tired of that and for two times now I have made it into birding trips.  

Did you ever have any problems returning (as some online sources say you are at the mercy of the agent and the agent doesn’t have to let you back in for a full 90 days). I’ve heard of that and agents do have that power, but it has never happened to me (or anyone in our groups). Well, one time a lady was given 30 days and our tour leader went back and talked to the agent and he changed it to 90 days. I always get 90 days. Now you do have to show proof that you can leave the Costa Rica within the 90 days and that is easy by purchasing an open-ended bus ticket at the border for just $25. It is good for 12 months.  

I also read that you cannot depart to the same country two times in a row. Not true. It is funny to hear rumors like that and wonder how they get started. 🙂 I just departed Nicaragua 6 times in a row with 90-day visas every time. I go there because it is closer from Atenas than Panama or other country further away. If I have to do it again, I plan to go to Panama next time, which I will do anyway at some point. Birding is very good in several spots along the canal which I have done, but I haven’t been to northern Panama yet or seen Boco Toro which is mainly snorkeling I think, but sea birds I’m sure. 

Many of the “Snowbirds” only stay here 3 months or if longer take one trip out. And there are Americans with a lot of family who go home to the states every 3 months or so, which gives you the visas. So there are many angles, but if you are really going to make it your retirement home, I recommend getting residency. It will make life here easier. And of course I already have a bank account with debit card, have my SS check deposited here, attend a local church, joined clubs and made friends; all of which makes it more like home. 

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I’m back home from the Nicaragua trip but too busy to process photos, so this little break in my photo blog by answering questions. And remember that the SEARCH box top right will help you find answers like this somewhere in my blog! 

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