So the residency approval process continues. In the last blog, “Approved”, we described the process up until receiving our papers confirming that we are now “rentista” residents of Costa Rica and signing up for the nationalized health care program.
Next step was to head to the post office to have our photos taken for our “cedulas” – the actual I.D. cards. Laura, our immigration consultant, made an appointment for us on a Friday at 1:00 pm, at the Correo de Nicoya, about an hour drive from our house. She included a little map, although our local GPS Waze did an excellent job. We had driven through Nicoya before, on the way to a beautiful beach town Samara, so we were somewhat familiar with the streets. Once we arrived in the center of town, a helpful parking attendant was there to guide us to a spot on the street; he assured us he would look after our car. Many people don’t, but we are always mindful to tip these guys generously. They really do keep an eye out for the safety of your car. Of course, we know never to leave ANYTHING in plain sight in the car or the trunk, but it’s still nice to have an extra set of eyes around.
We get to the counter and I say in my grammatically-imperfect-Spanish that we have an appointment to have our photos taken for our cedulas. Although there are several people waiting, we are ushered into an office. I start to hand him the papers I think he needs; he just wants my whole file. I think I have brought everything – our original “expediente” showing we had applied May 2016, copies of our current resolutions granting us residency, marriage certificate, extra copies of our passports, our health cards, rental lease, receipts from the payments we made at the bank, and of course, Laura’s contact info. Rummaging through the folder, he can’t seem to find my resolution, and sure enough, I had already given out all the copies between the CAJA and the clinic. So only Gary can be processed today, while I sit there kicking myself repeatedly. He reads through Gary’s 3-page resolution line by line – hasn’t he seen one of these before???? Then I hear him mention the word “confundido” under his breath……Wait – he’s confused???? Gary and I share that “Oh-no-what-now?” look. We were under the impression that we were here only to have our photos taken, not to have every document scrutinized and questioned.
Señor Confundido finds a how-to manual and between going through that manual and Gary’s resolution page by page, line by line, we sit and wait another 15 minutes. Finally, he brings up a form on the computer and starts to type information. Then Gary’s picture is taken. Then the arts and crafts every Costa Rican government agency seems so fond of — the passport photo has to be cut down to size. Then the photo-copying of the passport, receipts and who-knows-what-else. I find it so ironic that these agencies make so many copies of everything – I think Banco Nacional has about 15 copies of our passports by now – yet, when I am on the bank website and want to print out a payment, a little box pops up reminding me how many trees are cut down to make paper, and am I sure I want to waste another piece.
Anyway, Señor Confundido gets through all the paperwork and the computer form. Time for fingerprints. Whoa – he has a digital machine???? Way better than the old ink-and-pad routine we were subjected to last year in San Jose at the Investigation Department. And lastly, signing the form electronically.
Everything is printed out and stapled in precise order. Gary now has a “Comprobante de Solicitud” and his ID card will be ready June 5th, and we can pick it up at the Santa Cruz post office, which is much closer to our house – only about a 35-minute drive. Unfortunately, due to my slip-up, we have to come back on Monday with my resolution so I can complete the same process. Fortunately, it’s only an hour drive and we don’t need another appointment – the post office opens at 8:00 am.
On the way home, I happen to look through all the papers and notice that on our CAJA (health insurance) papers, I am listed as “single”. How is that possible? I distinctly remember checking off the “casado” (married) box. Concerned now that this might affect our payment or Gary’s status, we decide to stop at the CAJA office on the way home. 2:45 pm we arrive, but the office is closed.
So, Monday morning, on the way back to Nicoya, we stop at the CAJA office. There’s a nice young lady behind the desk. I explain that the form is incorrect – we are indeed married and I have papers to prove it. She just smiles, types something into the computer, and prints out another paper with my status corrected. Whew – that was the easiest business transaction we have EVER had.
On to Nicoya. Again, there are many people waiting, but we go right into the back office. Señor Confudido seems happy to see us again. This time, I have a hundred copies of my resolution – well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I went over every paper in that folder at least a dozen times. I am processed quickly, my ID card will be ready June 6th, and off we go.
On the way home, I remark how it is interesting that on Gary’s Comprobante, his employment is listed as “Unspecified Activity”. Mine also says the same, but in parentheses, it says “Ama de casa” meaning housewife. Vestiges of a male-dominated society.
Of course, our health insurance was only temporary for one-month and that will expire on May 24th. But we don’t get our cards until June 6th. We have to take those ID cards back to the clinic to get a permanent health care card – a “carnet”. So not sure how that gap will work. And I still haven’t figured out how to pay for the CAJA online. On every piece of paper we have received, there are numerous ID numbers. No clue as to which one is which. Well, we’ll worry about that later.
Needless to say, the cards weren’t ready on June 6th. We went all the way back to the Santa Cruz post office only to be told the government has about a two-month delay in printing the cards. Really???? I’m shown how to check online for the status of the cards, and diligently, every day, I look – hoping to see our cards have been delivered to the post office.
Here it is, July 13th – and we just picked up the cards today. Now, we have 30 days to get Costa Rican drivers’ licenses. Plus we still have to go back to the CAJA and straighten out our expired health insurance.
At this point, Kaia is the only one with all her papers in order. The saga continues.
Pura Vida indeed,
Cheryl, Gary and Kaia
p.s. Please feel free to share our blog with anyone who is considering relocating to Costa Rica. We are happy to answer any questions and share our experiences.