Two Scams #41

If you are planning to move to Costa Rica, you should be aware that there are many people here that will try to take advantage of YOU! Here are two examples.

Look Out residency scams
If you are moving here, one of the first thing you will need to do is get your resident’s card. Or, you could say, your residency. It normally takes about a year and a half. It could be shorter if you end up being luck. It can be impacted by world events that might affect immigrations, like a pandemic.

Many lawyers—yes, lawyers can be dishonest—here will over charge you. One scam is telling you that you need to give them money for plane tickets to exit the country to keep for a number of years. WRONG! There is no such requirement.
This comes from the fact that when you visit Costa Rica, you must have a plane ticket showing that you are leaving within 90 days. Customs will ask you this question when you pass through on entering the country. This has nothing to do with you getting your residency. It has to do with your visa, which is only good for 90 days. When you move here you will hear of people making a border run. This border run is done to get a new visa for another 90 days. If your visa is good, you can drive legally using your U.S., Canadian or European drivers’ licenses. Many here will do the border run to keep their drivers license good until their residency is approved. Especially if they need to drive. Plus, you are legal to be in the country.

I have two reputable contacts for immigration work. Both will help you process your paperwork at a reasonable price and in a timely manner. As part of the service they provide, they will keep you informed of the progression on your case.

Laura B. Gutiérrez
Costa Rica Residency/Citizenship Specialist
San José, Costa Rica

ARCR in San Jose
Laura is the specialist I used. ARCR is well known here in country, and a number of my friends used that organization to get their residency. I am a member of this organization, as they provide a number of other services that are useful for expats, meaning those who are living outside their native country.

Property sales scams
The second scam that is very popular here now is selling land. Many people arrive here in Costa Rica to retire or start a business and wish to buy property.
There are a few things you should know. The indigenous tribes here own a lot of the land, and especially in the hills. Some bad lawyers will sell you land that you cannot get a title for because it is tribal property.
Related to this is the scam of selling beach property. A coastal strip of 50-meter is reserved for public use. No building or private structure can be built on it, and no individual or organization can own it. In Costa Rica almost 95% of beachfront property, also known as concession property, is governed by the Maritime Zone Law as well as other regulations.
Where is the maritime zone?
The first 200 meters, measured horizontally from the high tide line, defines the boundary of the maritime zone. The maritime zone includes islands, pinnacles of rock, mangroves, estuaries, and any small natural formation that overcomes the level of the ocean. This 200-meter area is divided into two zones, the Public Area, and the Restricted Area.
The Public Area, the first zone, is the first 50 meters measured horizontally from the high tide mark. Property within this zone is not available for ownership of any kind. No form of development is permitted within the Public Area except for construction approved by government entities. The area is deemed public since any individual wishing to utilize this area for enjoyment has the right to do so. In Costa Rica, there is no such thing as a completely private beach.
The Restricted Area, the second zone, is the 150-meter section inland from the end of the public zone. Laws governing this zone date back to the 1970s. Today, local government have control over use permits for this land, but if granted, these are often on a rental or limited-time basis.
In other words, do not let someone try to sell you beach front property. It is highly unlikely this is a legal action, and you might just be purchasing expensive, but in reality, worthless sheets of paper.
My suggestion for anyone planning to purchase land is to visit the area a number of times, and talk to as many nearby landowners as possible. Do your research on the internet too. Expats that have been through the process already might be able to recommend a good real estate person and good lawyer.

As the old saying goes: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Acquire as much information about the area where you hope to retire before you reach retirement. And don’t believe everything you are told. Do your own homework so you’ll know for yourself.