Renewal of Cedula or Residential Card Accomplished Today

This two-year one expires in May
and the new one is also good for two years.
Then I qualify for a “permanent” Cedula
good for up to 5 years.

To get my first Cedula I used a lawyer and spent a lot of money! This time was less complicated but still involved knowing where to go and what to do and all in the Spanish language which I am still not adept at conversationally. So I used a less expensive source whom I highly recommend, who charges a very fair price by the hour and speaks fluent Spanish. I used a local school teacher, Belinda Seabrook, originally from England. It was a delightful and easy half day trip to Alajuela Post Office where I was interviewed and photographed. Doing this at the Post Office is NEW this year and everyone says is easier than renewing at Immigration in San Jose. BUT . . . you must be prepared and here are the six things Belinda asked me to have for the interview:

  1. My current Cedula
  2. My CAJA or health insurance number
  3. Proof that I have paid my CAJA charge each month for the past 3 months (receipts)
  4. “Comprobante de pension” or letter from my Costa Rica bank proving that I have deposited a minimum of $1,000 a month into a bank here. (I have my SS check auto-deposited here,)
  5. Receipt from a different bank, BCR, showing I have paid $123 USD into a given Immigration bank account number in payment for this new Cedula (within 24 hrs off interview).
  6. And lastly come to the interview with ₡7,515 (=$13.23) cash which might be the fee that the post office is charging for the service, but I don’t know for sure. 
Correos de Alajuela – Alajuela Post Office

We waited less than 10 minutes for one of their 2 interviewers and in maybe another 10 minutes we were finished including the photo. It went smoothly & quickly because I had Belinda with me as a fluent Spanish speaker. Without her I would have been a nervous wreck! I highly recommend Belinda for this essential service for you expats here in the Atenas area. And she has a car which made the trip to Alajuela quicker and easier for me who depends on the buses. Call or email me for contact information on Belinda.

And I was informed that I could pick up my new Cedula at the Atenas Post Office on April 2. I then take it to the Clinic to register my new Cedula with the CAJA medical services. And I have a one month cushion since my current Cedula doesn’t expire until May 13. Until this year we had a separate medical card called a Carnet, but now we use the Cedula for everything! A national ID card of sort. Glad to have this bureaucracy requirement behind me for another two years, though I can apply for the permanent one in another one year if I wish. 
¡Pura Vida!
¡Costa Rica!

I’m an Official Resident of Costa Rica Today!

It is a longer number to memorize than my Passport,
but it will become my most important number now.
And of course the typical “bad photo” on all such cards!
But a nice hard plastic card with electronic strip on back.

Next I get a gold card for senior adults to ride on bus for free (Yay!) and other discounts. 

Then I will get a Costa Rica Driver License and I’m done for two years! 
In two years I renew this residency card, called a CEDULA here, and then three years after that I renew a second time for what will become my permanent residency card or Cedula. 
Note that my card says “Residente Pensionado” which is for retired foreigners who have a particular set of requirements. There are other categories of residency that have different requirements with people coming here to start a local business having the most complicated requirements. For me, I just had to promise to not take some Tico’s job (I cannot work for a local business) but I could earn money on the internet if I wanted to. And secondly I have to prove that I have income of at least one thousand dollars a month which is done with a Social Security form from the U. S. Embassy. Then the usual paperwork and red tape stuff and qualify for the government healthcare program which I am required to participate in whether I use it or not (called CAJA). It is all done now for me and I’m a legal resident! And fully covered for all medical expenses! Not a worry in the world!  🙂
For those considering it, I can’t imagine doing it without an attorney! And I really needed him today! I was suppose to bring the receipt where I paid for the first month of CAJA and forgot it! He managed to smooth talk the girl in inmigración and she let it slide. I couldn’t have done that! Plus my Spanish is not good enough to carry on this kind of business by myself.

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. 

***

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! 

Residency Approved!

Good morning Mr. Doggett,

Congratulations you got your residency approved!

I will send it to you on Monday when I get to the office.

Have a nice Sunday!
_______

That’s the email I just received from my residency attorney. I think there are separate steps to get the actual Cedula or residency card and the CAJA or medical services card. Plus a “Gold Card” for senior adults to get free bus and discounts on other things. Our next step is doing something on June 1 he said. One patient little step at a time!  🙂 The paperwork was filed in February 2015, so about 15 months for approval in my case. Friends have waited a great variety of times from 8 months to 3 years! So not bad and he asked for the resolution on Friday the 13th!  🙂

If you are wondering why I haven’t been posting as much on the blog, it is partly because of having a full schedule and partly because I’m using down time to work on a new photo gallery that will replace my PBase gallery for just Costa Rica photos, It is taking a long time to just upload/label the bird photos, not to mention all the other kinds of photos still to go! I hope to be introducing it soon. It is with SmugMug.com and will look a lot better than PBase plus you can order prints or other items with my photos on them if interested. 

Private Health Insurance, Public Health Coverage and Residential Papers

Boring Stuff for the Few Readers Anticipating a Move Here

That title just means some details only concern the persons actually moving here or retiring here and I don’t want family or friends back in the states worrying about my healthcare. I’m fine! Don’t worry! In a different country, culture or situation some things take longer than you expect and you just work them out the best way you can, sometimes one day at a time.

RESIDENCY & PUBLIC HEALTHCARE
It has been 15 months since I filed my application with Immigration and I am still not approved yet. I now know people who have gotten it in 6 or 8 months and another in 3 years, so the bureaucratic government office is always slow and it often depends on which agent’s desk your application ends up on or what is happening in his/her life at the time. So mine is not that unusual, but I talked with my attorney  by phone this afternoon and here is the update on my application or what is in his control: I am now his oldest application file, so I’m his number one priority now. Good! He has made an appointment with Immigration for May 13 to request “a resolution” on my application. That is between him and the government office, I’m not allowed to go then, but he is planning for approval on that date and has even made a June 1 appointment with the CAJA Office (government health plan) for me to get my healthcare card (Caja Card) which is separate from my residency card (Cedula) and I think that same day we may apply for the “Gold Card” which is for us old people to get discounted or free services like buses, etc. That means we have to do some paperwork and Social Security Office visits between May 13 and June 1. I will try to stay available though I do have a May 20-23 birding club trip. SO I’M HOPING FOR RESIDENCY BY MAY AND CAJA BY JUNE OR JULY. I will not hold my breath! Everything here usually takes longer than suggested!

The primary reason I’m in a hurry to get this residency and public healthcare coverage is because I really can’t afford to keep private healthcare insurance! For a reasonable amount per month I will be on something like medicaid or medicare in the states (only much better!). There will be no co-pay or charges for any doctor visit, surgery, hospital visits, prescription drugs, etc.! I will pay a monthly charge based on a percent of my SS income. I need this kind of “socialized medicine” as some Americans like to call it. Read on to see why.

PRIVATE MEDICAL CARE AND PRIVATE HEALTHCARE INSURANCE
I’m thankful I’ve had no big health issue like cancer or needed surgery, injury, etc.! But private doctors, hospitals and other medical services are so much less expensive here than in the states that for my usual medical needs so far in my life I could afford to have no insurance and just pay cash out of pocket for doc visits, x-rays, EKGs, prescriptions, etc. But prudence makes you plan for the worst and have insurance when you are not on the government health plan yet, as has been my case for the last year.

When I first came, I was could tell my Medicare Supplement Insurance that I was on an extended vacation and be covered for I think it was up to 4 or 6 months. When that expired, I cancelled that policy and purchased a Costa Rica Private Healthcare Insurance Policy which covered 80 to 90% of everything including prescriptions with a few restrictions I won’t get into here. But like in the states it was based on age and for someone turning 75 it was $3,000 paid up front for the whole year. It expires the end of this month and I just sent in my claims for the whole year, so waiting on a check!

Since I still don’t have my residency and thus the almost free government healthcare plan, I figured I probably should go ahead and renew for one more year “just in case.” Well, they do everything at the last minute here and I just got my renewal notice with the shocker that I this year move into the next age bracket of 76-80 years old and thus my renewal cost would now be over $6,000 for the year! NO WAY! That precipitated the above-mentioned call to my attorney and my push to get residency and the government healthcare plan expedited if at all possible.

It is close but the timing of my May residency and June healthcare plan may be just right! Though I may have a couple of months without insurance, so just don’t get sick! Private insurance companies here are about as bad as the states for high costs, but the government plan is certainly a lot better! And I hope to be on that soon!

If anyone considering a move here wants more details, just email and I will be glad to discuss it further and keep you posted on what happens, though I will do that here on the blog too once I’m approved and probably have stories of government bureaucracy to share.  🙂

Finger Prints for Residency

I am one step closer to my residency in Costa Rica. Immigration informed my attorney that it was time to be fingerprinted at the San Jose Police Station. I made no photos, so here is a verbal report of Thursday, 3 December 2015:

4:30 AM – Up for shower, breakfast and walk to the bus station
6:15 AM – Bus to San Jose
7:45 AM – I exit bus at northeast corner of Parque Sabana, 4 blocks from lawyer
                  Appointment is at 8:30 AM, so second breakfast at Soda Tapia (famous!)
8:30 AM – Meet attorney Jose Pablo Carter at his office 150 meters east of Soda Tapia
9:00 AM – We arrive in his car at Police Station with maybe 15 people ahead of us
                  We complete paper work and then I do the musical chair thing like at bank
                  This was just one long row of chairs. As a person is served we all move up
                       the chair line until I was next to be served. About a 25 minute wait.
                  Maybe 15 minutes of a guy two-finger typing all my info in a computer
                  He glues the three photos made back in February to 3 different forms
                  Then gives me all my paperwork and sends me to the fingerprint girl
                  I learned later she was new. She did 3 fingers then new form, start over
                        because she did one of my fingers twice  🙂
                  Then she gave me two of the photo/thumb print cards to take to my attorney
                  He gave one back to her and explained to her where it went (Wow!) Learner!
10:30 AM – We drive away from police station and he says no one knows how much longer
                     I will have to wait, maybe 2 months. But we have made some progress!
10:45 AM – He is taking me to a taxi stand to go to bus station because he has a meeting.
                    Then he sees a taxi, flags him down and I move to the taxi headed for the
                    Parada de Autobus de TUASA – there are about a dozen bus stations depending
                           on where you are going. I go to Coca Cola Station for Atenas bus but I need
                           to go to Alajuela to pick up a package at Aerocasillas. So I go to the
                           Parada de TUASA for the next bus to Alajuela. 5 minute wait!

By noon I’m in Alajuela with my package ordered from Amazon of  a Hypoallergenic & Bedbug proof mattress cover and pillow covers which I have not found here. Then a quick quesadilla and I have only a 5 minute wait for bus to Atenas (Lucky? God’s will?). Near the bus station in Atenas is my primary hardware store where I find they have only 1 soaker hose left, so I get it and try Coope Hardware and they have none (I need 2). I call a taxi and tell him what I want and he takes me to a third hardware store (ferreteria) and they have one left. Great! I just bought all (both) the soaker hoses available in Atenas!  🙂

I go home and install them in two gardens and water the gardens. My front yard and trees had a sprinkler system installed yesterday by my gardeners at a really good price, about what I paid for the two soaker hoses! Now my yard, trees and gardens are ready for the dry season without me spending two hours every two days holding a hose to them. Bear in mind that it may not rain again here until May!

When finished, it was 5:30 and I suddenly remembered I had a 5:00 Spanish class! Oh well! I am exhausted and will catch up next week. 🙂

Today is Friday and I got more cash for Angel Tree expenses (trying 3 ATMs before one worked!), paid one Angel Tree bill, got groceries, and I’m staying at home the rest of today! Susan picks me up at 6:50 tomorrow morning for Angel Tree party preparation. She and I are in charge of moving 300 wrapped gifts from Su Espacio to the church salon. Other volunteers will help. Then a fast-moving party and I’m on bus back to Alajuela for a rent car. I like to get a car the day before needed to get used to the car and make sure everything works! 🙂 I’m excited about experiencing another new birding place starting Sunday!  Rancho Naturalista. My happy feet are busy feet!  🙂  And when the bone spur in my heel hurts, I take an anti-inflammatory Rx the doctor prescribed and do great! The heel cushion in a real shoe helps also!  🙂  Wear my sandals only around the house now.

        

Yellow Bells Begin Blooming

Dry season begins and these trees in my yard begin to bloom
and if like last year will continue through March or April.

 

 

I zoom in for the flowers because . . .
They are on the opposite side of trees from my terrace where the afternoon sun
shines, but maybe later they will bloom on this side too! Summer has begun!

 

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”–  Lady Bird Johnson, Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom

Busy days ahead!

Tonight I go to Su Espacio’s “Arts Festival” which is more of a dance recital. I’m the photographer.

Tomorrow, Thursday, I go to San Jose early to be fingerprinted for my residency application, which is no guarantee that I will get it soon, but at least it is in the process!

Friday I may have to help shop for any angel tree kids we have not received gifts for.

Saturday is the Angel Tree party in the morning and I get a rent car in the afternoon for my Sunday to Wednesday birding near Volcan Turrialba.

Then just a couple of more Spanish lessons for this year before I get a break from conjugations and verbs! I’m considering a trip to Nicaragua over Christmas but if I don’t do that, I will make the border visa run on December 30.

 

The Autopista del Sol to San Jose

Well, I splurged today and hired a private driver to drive me to San Jose for my residential paperwork appointment and to sign up for medical insurance. Part of the way we drove on the Autopista del Sol (official site), or the newest, access-controlled highway from San Jose to the Pacific Beaches. See also a Nosara Surfer’s Report on the Highway. Here’s three phone photos, then I’ll tell you about the experience in the big city.

Out our way is beautiful scenery driving up the central valley.
Further from the city is only 2 or 3 lanes, but . . .
In and near the city are 6 and 8 lanes, toll plazas, and bumper to bumper in rush hour.

I have a wonderful attorney, Jose Pablo Carter Herrera, the son of another attorney with the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, a service organization for expats living in the country. I’m still waiting for an Apostille on my proof of income which Social Security in the states refused to help me with. The embassy here is supposed to do it easily, but it didn’t happen today! The only unfriendly, unhelpful place I’ve been in Costa Rica is the U.S. Embassy. I wasn’t too surprised that they wanted me to make an appointment but they would not let me make it even though I was there standing at the guard station. The correct procedure is to do it over a certain phone number between 8 AM and 11:30 AM, no exceptions! So me and my driver wasted time there. (The embassy in The Gambia was just as haughty and difficult to work with, but you have to work with them!)

The good thing I did not expect was I got my application for health insurance started and within the next week or so I will receive a call from the doctor to schedule my physical for the insurance company. I’m covered by my Medigap Policy for the first 90 days or until March 24. My Pricose agent, Juan Colero, says I will easily have it secured by or before then. It usually takes about 5 weeks after the physical. So I wait for the doc’s call on this. Then pay a whole year’s premium at once, then after a $300 deductible, 90% of everything is paid. It costs less than my Medigap and Rx insurance in the states. But when my residency is finalized I get the even cheaper government medical service if I wish. 
Tomorrow I will dutifully call the correct embassy number during the correct hours and hopefully get an appointment fairly soon. Jose can’t file my residency application until I get this last legal document. Then it will take from 5 months to more than a year, depending on which bureaucrat is assigned my application in the Immigration Office. It is all part of the laid back life of Tico-land and I will not worry about it after I have done my part. The private insurance can go on indefinitely and I could decide I like it better than the Caja or government health plan – we will wait and see. But government medicine and a long-term Visa are the reasons I’m applying for residency.

After back around 1:00 I had lunch at a new place for me, La Trilla Restaurante. I compared their Casado con Pollo with La Carretta’s and it was very similar, though they add a piece of cheese and some black bean dip and chips. I also drank another Guanabana drink, this time con leche. Muy bien! Now back to my birds!  🙂 And my study of Spanish!

P.S.
Someone asked about the inside of the apartments. During the first two weeks I linked to a photo gallery of the downstairs apartment #4. I have a smaller gallery of my upstairs apartment, since much is the same, all built-ins, granite counters in kitchen, carved doors etc. But anyway, here are the links to the Inside Apartments Galleries:

I’ll figure out how to photograph the balconies soon. They are not super grand inside, but more than adequate for me. When my boxes get here, they might get clutter or crowded.  🙂

Focusing Day

Hotel Autentico, My Home Base for Two Weeks

First thing after breakfast this morning was walking the 5 blocks to the ARCR office and meeting with my new Costa Rican lawyer, Jose Pablo Carter. He helped me put together the important items from the seminar and create a checklist of what I need to do to gain residency and get moved to Costa Rica. I will include it below. I walked back to my hotel (above) where they know me by name now and the waiters are trying to teach me Spanish. Fun! I did a review of it on TripAdvisor last night. Worked on list and had a sandwich.

In the afternoon I walked down the street again to two banks and only one of them had English as a choice on their ATM for the cash withdrawal I needed to make. Got to learn Spanish!  Then at 3:00 my two-day driver came to show me the city and learn of my housing interests for our all day trip tomorrow to look at apartments and rental houses. I’m not renting now, but I want to see what they look like in different areas and get a feel for what I will try to nail down in 4-6 months maybe. Howard’s tour only showed expensive houses and tourist condos which was my biggest disappointment with his tour. We stopped for afternoon tea at a little neighborhood Soda, a small Tico cafe. Before and after this I typed up my checklist of things to do and had a bowl of mushroom soup and Tres Leches for dinner. Here is timeline: 
Step by Step Timeline for Costa Rica Residency
As I understand it from ARCR Seminar and personal conference with Jose Pablo Carter, Lawyer
At Association of Residents of Costa Rica, September 1, 2014
COLLECT NEEDED DOCUMENTS  
Send to Jose. I must then arrive within 6 months of earliest date on any of the following documents. 
1. Authenticated Birth Certificate with Apostille from State of Arkansas
2. Apostille letter from Social Security proving lifetime pension over $1,000 a month
3. Police Report on me with Apostille and if possible fingerprints
4. U.S. Embassy/State Department Online: Do a Consular Registration for Costa Rica, then save as a PDF file. Print one for this packet of documents & email the file to Jose.
JOSE & ARCR WILL DO ALL THIS WORK IN COSTA RICA FOR ME:
1. Provide Spanish translations of all the above documents as required
2. File my application with the Caja Office
JOSE/ARCR WILL DO AFTER I MOVE:
1. Review my rental contract
2. Get my fingerprints and physical exam that can be turned in after the Caja application is filed 
3. Help me open a local bank account
4. Prepare a Costa Rica Will and powers of attorney from copy of my U.S. Wills, etc.
OTHER THINGS I CAN DO BEFORE MOVING
1. Contact Juan C. Calero of Pricose to start INS insurance policy by day I arrive
2. Contact the young doctor from Metropolitano about my sleep apnea and meds
3. Get budget worked out
4. Contact mover, Charlie Zeller
5. Learn more Spanish
6. Get online business settled before the move and ask lots of questions about doing it from Costa Rica
7. See if X or X will let me establish a U.S. physical address with them for my TN Driver License, maybe mail forwarding, and maybe something else.
8. Renew TN Driver License which now expires in 2015
9. Rent PO Boxes from ARCR in San Jose & Miami before I move