Costa Rica’s Top Legal Experts Unite Against Immigration Challenges

An avalanche of residency requests and limited resources are crippling the Immigration Department

In an unprecedented move, a remarkable team of highly acclaimed immigration lawyers from Costa Rica has united to talk about what has been identified as a rapidly escalating crisis in the Costa Rican Immigration Department also know as Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería Costa Rica

This extraordinary panel served as a symbol of hope and strength, demonstrating the impact of solidarity and professional expertise in overcoming challenges.

The group consented to participate in a discussion panel on a popular live program, which was broadcasted on the YouTube channel of Pepito Live Costa Rica.

This marked a first in recent history where the participants, committed to educating both existing and future expatriates in Costa Rica, agreed to tackle 10 critical questions presented by the host, all in English.

The discussion panel boasted a distinguished roster of legal luminaries from across Costa Rica:

Yves Pepito Malette, the host of the Pepito Live program broadcasted on YouTube, set the stage for a riveting discussion by highlighting the growing concerns among current and future expatriates about the perceived collapse of the system.

The first critical inquiry posed to the panel: « What exactly is happening at the Immigration Department of Costa Rica? » was addressed by lawyers Vanessa Leandro and Marcela Gurdian, who went to the heart of the issue.

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This panel, pooling decades of experience and insight, aimed to shed light on the realistic hurdles prospective residents face when navigating the path to obtaining legal residency in Costa Rica.

Lawyer Vanessa Leandro recalled the fiscal reform initiated in 2019, which significantly impacted immigration services, highlighting the government’s prohibition on new positions as a measure to curb the expansion of the governmental apparatus, a move critical at the time but now contributing to a significant understaffing issue.

Lawyer Marcela Gurdian concurred with her colleague, pointing out that the government is currently incapable of meeting the demand due to a lack of funds and resources. She emphasized that the nation was not ready to handle such challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic, describing the situation as the gravest crisis the government has faced in two decades.

The host, Yves Pepito Malette highlighted the overwhelming pressure on the immigration department, which is now grappling with nearly 250,000 refugee status claims. Additionally, there are thousands more applications for legal residency, noted Marcela Gurdian. « The government is at a point where it’s unable to even specify the number of pending residency applications, » she says.

« If they have so much work, then do they create more work for themselves by creating more delays and being petty about applications? »– Serge Lalonde, an expat who commented via the Pepito Live YouTube Channel

Both lawyers agreed that this understaffing has led to a bottleneck in processing residency applications, particularly in the ‘investors’ category, with wait times extending up to 18 months and more.

The Immigration Department’s vision of a team committed to an effective, evolutionary, and transparent management model seems to be a distant goal under the current circumstances.

In response, this assembly of top-tier lawyers is not only seeking solutions but also embarking on an information campaign to educate prospective movers and current residency seekers about the challenges ahead. They emphasized that while Costa Rica warmly welcomes foreigners, the current overload necessitates patience and understanding. The narrative goes beyond the immediate crisis, underscoring the essential role of immigrants in enhancing Costa Rica’s economic landscape.

During the show, many viewers congratulated the group of lawyers for taking this initiative.

« Thank you all for being here with us tonight. You all are so generous with your time and expertise. Pura Vida! »– Lisa Hunsicker​​, a viewer who commented via the Pepito Live YouTube Channel

Part of the solutions proposed by the group includes ensuring collaboration with qualified immigration lawyers and making certain that all necessary documents are properly submitted. These measures will help avoid any unwanted delays and facilitate a faster process for obtaining legal residency in Costa Rica.


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