Why get your Costa Rican residency when you can just do border runs to renew your visa stamp over and over again? Here are 5 reasons why.
1. You like hanging around the border crossings.
The primary border crossings are Peñas Blancas with Nicaragua and Paso Canoas with Panama, with other minor crossings available in more remote areas. These crossings involve waiting in line, bag searches, buying legal stamps, making photocopies and attaining entry and exit stamps on both sides.
Many people will come up to you offering to help you. They will only be helping themselves though, with some sort of scam. They will be persistent and annoying. Don’t forget to bring small bills in US dollars and in colones. Also, it’s not the safest place to be milling about.
While it might be fun and adventurous the first few times to cross the border by land, it’ll get old — FAST.
2. You like the uncertainty of how long your next tourist visa stamp will be valid for.
For tourists from many countries such as the USA, Canada, and most European countries, your entry to Costa Rica will be for UP TO 90 days. Not 90 days, but UP TO 90 days, depending on the discretion of the Costa Rican border official. This can be based on your answers to their questions, how many Costa Rica entry stamps you have in your passport, how many border runs you have done (they can easily see who is a perpetual tourist in the records), how you look (very subjective), and how the official is feeling that day.
Stamps marked 30 days or 45 days are not uncommon, especially as your passport becomes riddled with Costa Rica entry stamps.
3. You like having to pay for onward travel tickets that you won’t use.
To enter Costa Rica you may be asked for proof of onward travel. Maybe they didn’t ask you the last time, but as a perpetual tourist, you’re entering Costa Rica often, so you will be asked eventually. That’ll be another step to take, and it will cost you extra.
Being a perpetual tourist has costs that most people don’t consider — not the least of which is the border run itself. They see the cost of obtaining Costa Rican residency (and the stability that provides) but not the cost of always having one foot out of the country.
As a non-resident you can buy a house, but you won’t be able to get utilities in your name. This means either having someone else get the utility contract for you, or setting up a corporation just for that purpose, which is getting very expensive these days. For example, the new yearly Shareholder report requires a Firma Digital, which you can’t get as a non-resident. You’d need to designate a notary to do it for you. That’s another $500 a year.
Other added costs you’ll be subjected to include tourist prices at the national parks and other attractions.
4. You like not being covered by health insurance in Costa Rica without paying a fortune.
When you have residency in Costa Rica, you are enrolled in CCSS (Caja), which provides public health coverage. You can also opt for health insurance plans that are only open to residents. As a non-resident you can purchase international health insurance for expats. But the prices for those plans are high, and rising fast. Most people who opt to be perpetual tourists don’t get health insurance — bad idea don’t you think?
5. You definitely have no plans to stay in Costa Rica for very long.
With all the added costs and inconveniences, it’s clear that by doing border runs you don’t plan to stay in Costa Rica for long. If you’re planning to stay in Costa Rica for 6 months, or you come to Costa Rica 1 month a year, maybe residency is not for you. However, if you plan to make Costa Rica your home, obtaining residency is the way to go. Makes sense doesn’t it?
It’s only a matter of time, too, before the Costa Rican government cracks down on this loophole. Maybe they will start requiring proof of health insurance for all tourists, and sell it for those who arrive without insurance. This is a common practice in many other countries that accept tourists. One thing is certain: it won’t get easier to stay a perpetual tourist and do border runs, it will only get harder.