Until 2018, the immigration (residency) process was relatively straightforward. Even though the DGME (Immigration) mandate was to process correctly prepared and submitted applications in 90 days, they went past that deadline. Still, my application approvals (and that of other competent service providers) averaged 4 to 7 months. Then came the crisis in Venezuela and Nicaragua (not a coincidence). Through its agreement with the U.N., Costa Rica was obligated to take in many refugees that it could ill afford. This overwhelmed the already faltering DGME system. Residency application approval times ballooned to 12, then 15, and 20 months.
Then came covid. Total system shutdown for many months. In October of 2020, in addition to questionable travel restrictions unsupported by natural science, one of the most onerous overkill initiatives within the immigration process was a burdensome appointment system that barred the door from smooth logistics for most applicants and, for many, turned into a nightmare. As though that was not enough, since March 16 this year, in fulfilling the requirement of post-residency application approvals of enrolling in CAJA, applicants were shocked to learn that they had to now enroll in a pension fund that they would never collect. In many instances, it resulted in a doubling of the previous monthly CAJA premiums.
Cumulatively, these issues caused despair for many current and would-be applicants for residency, as reflected
in social media conversations – and most certainly in my email inbox.
In response to those emails, I speculated in articles that there existed a strong possibility of a reversal of this discouraging degradation of services to residency applicants and an imminent reversal of that CAJA pension enrollment.
My speculations seem to have been bolstered as of yesterday’s seismic event: The inauguration of the 49th president of Costa Rica.
If this man and his very carefully chosen new team succeed in just half of their lofty goals, there will be a massive change for the better for all those engaged in the residency process (let alone all Costa Ricans desperate for change.)
One of the ideas mentioned during the election campaign was that if a bureaucracy cannot process an application in 90 days (assuming it was prepared correctly), it will automatically be considered approved. I am not holding my breath for that one, but indeed things like after-service surveys may produce steady nudges for vast improvements through better management and staff training.
So I encourage you, the discouraged, to read the compelling speech delivered by newly elected President Rodrigo Chaves this past Sunday. He is fluently bilingual, has spent much of his professional career in the U.S. and abroad, and “gets it” about how Costa Rica has to up its game to compete on the global market. Including making things much more attractive for foreign investment, tourism, and retirement. The screeching wheels of infuriating bureaucracy are about to receive and thorough lube job by a new breed of ministers carefully chosen for their skills and competency and who will be held to strict account.
Hopefully the stake of accountability has been driven through the heart of nepotism and indifference.
BTW: Within ONE HOUR on the job, President Chaves nixed the face mask and vaccine mandates. Free at last.
Therefore, there will no longer be justification for these ridiculous appointment systems. Look for them to be disallowed. Soon.
I translated the following speech to English for your benefit.
It will get you up to date on the country you chose to retire in and should provide a clear perspective to alleviate your fears and uncertainties.
With the solemnity, gravity and sense of historical responsibility that the times impose on us, I am honored to receive this presidential sash in times of extremely important challenges, not only for the future of our country, but for the very destiny of humanity. (Attention globalists. LG)
The Costa Rican people, by electing me, placed in my hands the responsibility of leading the country’s destiny for the next four years. With reverence and humility I say: they have and will have in me, during all that period, a faithful Mandatory – that is to say, someone who, from this moment and until May 8, 2026, will aspire, with all my efforts, to fully abide by your mandate, to fulfill and ensure that the will of the Sovereign People is fulfilled in all tasks of the State, within the rigorous framework of the Law that governs us.
The moment we live in is crucial. We are the ones called to make a historic change. And that call is imposed with the force of the voice of the people who demand from the polls an enormous obligation to the entire political class, which includes, of course, the three powers of the Republic.
It is time to leave behind the old practices that cost us so much, and rightly so, the Costa Rican people.
We are seeing ourselves before a mirror whose image we do not like, because it presents us with two faces that do not seem to reconcile. In short, the least benefited and the most vulnerable class of our country.
It is no coincidence that, in 2020, before the pandemic, about 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 22 said they had not finished high school. We see in that same mirror the face of working people, of people who have been concerned with training in the hope that their families have the standard of living they long for, that they deserve, or that, despite not having formal studies, they have used their ingenuity and their ability to work to get ahead. But at the same time it is the face of hundreds of thousands of people who see the day end without a job with which to face the personal needs of the next morning. It is also the face of nearly a million people trapped in informal employment. (Costa Rica’s population is 5,100,000 – LG)
It is a country whose soil has the capacity to feed us all, but it is also a country where hunger sits on the table of hundreds of thousands of people, who do not earn enough to even buy the basic food basket. .
It is a country whose bicentennial democracy, with proven roots in our civic culture, has captivated the peoples of the world. But at the same time, we see in that mirror in which we look at ourselves, detachment and mistrust of the parties and traditional politics, which does not imply any renunciation or denial of democratic values, but, on the contrary, expresses the desire for a more authentic experience of Democracy and supposes a more genuine and transcendent assessment of its fundamental practices.
The image reflected is that of a country that, over the decades, has built a strong, robust institutional framework, but that in recent years has seen, with shame, impotence and just anger, how the institutions have not provided quality public services or cleaned up their structures of the infamous ballast of corruption.
The outrageous waiting lists of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, (CAJA) which for years have subjected thousands of Costa Ricans, is not only a systematic violation of the right to health, but is also humiliating and distressing for those who medical care means life or death.
Not even the rulings of the Constitutional Chamber have moved the foundations of the Fund. We look at ourselves with astonishment in that mirror because it is not the Costa Rica that we want. We do not want the country where the streets wear out the clock of life in endless prey. We do not want the country of rural areas that see with sadness and helplessness, from afar, how the gates of development and the economy only grow in the central zone of the country.
(Note: Most ex-pats live in the rural parts of Costa Rica. – LG)
This is the mirror in which all of us, Costa Ricans, are looking at ourselves. A mirror full of contradictions, of dreams that refuse to be part of our reality, of dreams that do not have the shoes to run, much less the wings to fly. Those contradictions are more than figures in academic studies. They are more than the alarming data that, year after year, the State of the Nation reveals to us. Those contradictions hurt us.
These contradictions make the life of our citizens harder, more difficult than it should be in a democratic, peaceful and rich country like ours. These contradictions hurt in the absent bread on the table, they hurt in the young people who must make the difficult decision to leave their studies to contribute to the family support, or, worse still, in the young people who have fallen into the hole bottomless drug addicts, or have joined the ranks of organized crime.
Will we, compatriots, be able to make history?
Will we be able to really lead Costa Rica towards the future it deserves?
Will we be able to make the people who live in this great country dream again, and not just dream, but have the opportunity to build that dream into reality?
That is the great challenge that we must overcome.
I know very well that the challenge seems very hard. And it is! But, compatriots, let’s not fall into the trap of despair. Let us not allow ourselves to be overcome by the darkness that some have wanted to sell us, as if they wanted us to think that change and progress are not possible. Prominent figures of the ruling political class, flippantly, and perhaps as an excuse for not having made the decisions that should have been made, have made us believe that Costa Rica is an ungovernable country.
It is not about ungovernability, but about making the decisions that need to be made, no matter how complex and controversial they may be. It is also a question of courage, even though these decisions go against the interests of small groups, those who have used their influence and power to benefit through public policies that have only diminished the welfare of the majority.
“The country is happiness, pain and heaven for all and not feud or chaplaincy of anyone,” José Martí told us, with words that speak to us not from the past, but from a tremendous present, from the permanent struggle for the desire for good common expressed in the citizen’s will.
I am very clear that if I put forward the beacon of that citizen’s will, I will never get lost.
If I put forward the path that each one of the men and women who voted for me, and also those who did not, have outlined for me, I will never use the excuse that this country cannot govern itself, because the order of the people is that it govern.
And that I do it with leadership, with energy, with determination, with humility, but, above all, with the conviction that each of my decisions and those of my team are guided by a will that has spoken, that demands of us, that it requires us to act for the good of the majority.
I say this, of course, bearing in mind more than anyone that the change that the country demands is not about an ambition or a personal project of a man named Rodrigo Chaves, but about rescuing a democracy, and that is up to all of us .
In the long history of more than 200 years of democratic life in the country, this possible historical accident, this, for many, unpredictable setback of the political orders, comes to raise the possibility of definitively changing the course of our lives.
As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that has achieved it.”
This change cannot be achieved by the will of a single person, but by the character of the thousands of Costa Ricans who, with their honest work and unquestionable dedication, build the country day by day. Costa Ricans who have demonstrated countless times the greatness of their spirit, leaving our country high in the most varied disciplines of sport, in the most beautiful forms of art and in the most innovative scientific discoveries and research.
Costa Ricans who, from the most diverse and complex conditions, today seek, with the best of their efforts, with the frankness of their actions and the commitment of their work, the honest sustenance of their tables and the modest tranquility of their families .
I know that at this moment many of these brave Costa Ricans must be watching or listening to this speech from their homes, worried more about the hunger that attacks their bodies than about the possible virtue that they can find in the words of this servant who speaks to you today.
I am aware that my eloquence should be the improvement of the conditions of thousands of Costa Ricans and not the beauty of a speech.
I also know that many others, disenchanted by the ghost of the unfulfilled dreams of previous governments, will not take the trouble to follow with an attentive ear the simple words of this man whom they decided today to name with such a high honor.
To all of you I address myself and say, see me as what I am, a humble instrument to fulfill the mandate of the people, a people that together can achieve the urgent change that history imposes on us.
See in me a counselor, who, in the full use of his powers, will seek no less than the best in the administration of this Government that unites us all, and nothing other than a future of peace, dignity and work for future generations.
See in me a facilitator, who, through a respectful and attentive dialogue, will seek the conciliation of a people that today is divided between deputies, unions, businessmen and institutions that for years have undermined each other’s development to obtain some benefit at the expense of the majority.
Today I tell you that the idea that they want to sell us of a tidy house – vanishes before the reality of the country. The reality is very different and it is a reality that is undeniable for us! As much as some want to continue scamming us.
Today we bravely face the imminent obligation to repair the country and fight with the conviction that God protects us and that it is only through the honest work of our hands and not through the indolent spirit of conformism that we will be able to build a worthy homeland for our children. and daughters.
We’re not just going to tidy up the house. We are going to rebuild it! This is the sign of our times, it is the urgent urgency for change, the deaf cry of a democracy that we will not let disappear!
I will not accept defeat, we do not have to accept defeat! I will never accept it because I know that the wealth of this country goes beyond its ecological diversity; it goes beyond its unique culture and traditions in the world; it goes even further than its unrepeatable history.
It is its people that make this country rich. My people, you are the ones who enlarge our homeland.
People who know as well as I do that there is a need for more employment, to lower the cost of living, for more tranquility in our homes and streets, to dream again, to trust again, to believe again that leaders still exist politicians who seek the best for the country.
It is the fundamental need of a country like ours! It is the plain certainty that our democracy is strong and that it will not be overthrown!
Costa Rica is a great collective force that beats like a heart full of hope.
This collective strength throbs in every corner of our nation, in the constant rush of the streets, in the commercial waves of the ports, in the offices and their comings and goings of papers and computers, in the sweet breeze of the countryside that feeds us, in the warm aroma of the home where our sons and daughters are raised.
I address this youth and tell them: Young people! I know that they must be tired of hearing that they are the future of the country, when their future is mortgaged to them from the cradle. A girl is born today in Costa Rica and, instead of carrying a loaf of bread under her arm, she carries a signed promissory note with thousands of dollars in debt. We are going to dismortgage the future of these young people. We will build your tomorrow with a prosperous present full of opportunities.
Women, you are part of that incessant beating of the Homeland. We will not tolerate the harassment they suffer every day and in all spaces of society. It is not possible for women to be afraid of walking alone in the street, it is not possible for women to be afraid in their own home, in their own work, in a park, at a concert. That is why my first political commitment as president-elect will be to stop discrimination and harassment against all women in all areas of our country.
We owe older adults, the inextinct force of our nation, more than we could name because the benefits we enjoy today as a country are the fruit of their efforts. You will not be abandoned anymore, because you deserve a fair old age, you who with your work built the foundations of this your country.
To our original peoples, who happily today, for the first time in Costa Rican history, have the representation of an indigenous deputy, I want to say: You will be included! We will repair that historical debt that fills us with shame and that has separated us as if we were different, when in reality we are all Costa Ricans with common desires and hopes.
I assure the LGBTIQ population that we are not going to go backwards in the recognition of the rights that they have achieved throughout their struggles for equality and appreciation for diversity, struggles that I respect and that I guarantee will continue unscathed in their victories.
To the public universities, origin of much of the force that has moved the country and that, I have no doubt, will position us in unimagined places, I say: we respect your autonomy, but we also recognize that autonomy does not mean or allow waste.
It is an arduous task to forge the future of youth, which requires effectiveness and efficiency in the use of public resources.
To public employees I say that the responsibility of their positions carries the weight of giving the country the commitment and dedication to serve their fellow citizens and support them, but they know that abuse and exploitation will not be tolerated.
(IE: Bureaucracies will be held to much higher standards of SERVICE – how-did-we-do? surveys.)
To the private sector, the primary driving force behind our economy, I say: we will let you work. We will also remove the obstacles that have historically prevented entrepreneurs from taking the place they deserve as key players in the country’s development. Yes, we will let them work, but we also say to those businessmen who have lost the “north” of ethics: Do not corrupt our officials! We will not allow that! Don’t expect the government to give away to some what belongs to everyone: the private monopolies are over! The privileges of public policies to favor some at the expense of the majority are over.
To investors, the country is responsible for its debts, we have never failed to pay, we will do what we have to do to honor our obligations to our people, to our public employees and to our creditors.
To our unions, we remind you that the issue is not government or the private sector, but a fair but firm search for the well-being of all the people who work in the country. The forces of the opposition are also forces of the people. They are also that common heartbeat that unites us as a country. Let’s build bridges that recover the people’s so damaged trust in their political leaders. Let us show Costa Rica the greatest courage of all: the ability to sit at the table, look each other in the eye with transparency and reach consensus that will bring peace, tranquility and development to our nation.
I also have something to say to those who use our territory as a bridge to export and store drugs: consider yourself notified. Find another territory! We will not tolerate their presence in our homeland.
To the corrupt, to those who direct organized crime, to those who frighten our citizens in the streets, we will not give them respite.
If the State cannot guarantee the security of its inhabitants, we have failed as a country, and failure is not admissible for those who serve the Homeland with love.
To the international community, we remind you that our tradition is and will be pacifist.
In Costa Rica, thank God, there is not a single armed and trained soldier as such, we do not have a cannon, much less a war tank or a combat plane, nor do we have artillery or armored ships that sail our seas. We are not a military threat to anyone at all. And it is in fidelity to this pacifist and civilist tradition that we call on the powers of the world and other governments to make a real commitment to harmony, reason, peace and respect for human dignity.
Let us pray for the peaceful solution of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
To you, to all of you, I am writing, paraphrasing the poet T. S. Elliot, saying that what we often call the beginning is often the end and that to reach an end is often to begin again.
That is, the end of a government becomes our starting point.
With the fear of God, which I consider to be the basis for the wisdom of a ruler, I end by saying:
This is our time. We are working, deciding, improving.
Costa Rica, the best is yet to come!
May God bless you and may God bless Costa Rica.
May work and peace always live. Thank you very much.