This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

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To visa or not to visa? That is the 90 day question.

In the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated that we (the people) have certain unalienable rights, such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I do not want to elaborate into what were considered people at that time, but just to make my point, those rights are very simple and straight forward.

On the other side of the pond, a few decades earlier Jean Jacques Rousseau aimed to determine whether there can be a legitimate political authority. He figured that man must enter into a Social Contract with others, whereby we, as a society, delegate to government the authority to enact the rules that will allow us to (in Jefferson’s terms) afford Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Government is formed with the purpose to protect and further the interest of the citizenry. In Costa Rica, we always thought that we were as enlightened as Jefferson, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Locke, etc. Which is why, the Constitutional Congress in 1949 added in section 50 of the Constitution a clause stating that the “Estate will procure the wellbeing of all inhabitants in the country through organizing and stimulating production and the most adequate distribution of wealth”.

The organization and stimulation of production sounds like economics to me. Economics is the allocation of resources in order to incentivize different sectors of the economy. This is not done just because, the purpose of this is to further people’s rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

So let’s talk about immigration now. First of all, I can guarantee you that nobody from the Immigration Department in Costa Rica has a degree in economics, nor does anybody from the Department of the Economy and Industry has a background in migration and human studies.

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Having said that, let’s look at an immigration phenomenon that has been going on in Costa Rica for a while, the perpetual tourist. People who go back and forth across borders in order to have a valid 90 visa in their passports. (Just as a note, I am not going to elaborate on the four categories for entry visas to Costa Rica, I am just using the visa exempt countries in the first group).

The Costa Rican government has been making it exponentially difficult for foreign nationals to function while in Costa Rica. Although, the current immigration law provides a significant number of options to stay in Costa Rica, it still needs to improve a lot. But, there are still a lot of foreigners who do not qualify for status. Current regulations make it extremely difficult for some people to be here. Therefore, they resolve by leaving the country every 90 days.

There have been people in Costa Rica who have been doing the 90 visa for ten years. That is just absurd. Let’s see the economics of it. Depending on where you are, on average, it will cost you $300USD to do a border crossing. Some people return on the same day which minimizes the cost of the trip, but plenty of people decide to stay for two or three days in Panama or Nicaragua, which increases the cost of the trip. But, for the sake of the argument, we will say that in average it costs $300 USD, and you need to do this four times a year. Therefore, it will cost you $1,200 USD a year to maintain the perpetual tourist status.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine exactly how many 90 day runners are out there. But just to give you some figures, at the border crossing in Paso Canoas 40,910 nationals from the US and Canada crossed the border to Panama, while 41,679 entered to Costa Rica. Please bear in mind that this is not exact science, there are hundreds of possible variables here. These figures do not include the others ports of entry to Panama and Nicaragua and others. But if we argue that most of these people are 90 day runners, we are talking about $40 million USD that are being invested on a yearly basis on the endeavor of crossing the border into Panama.

We know that all those perpetual tourist invest their money in the local economies where they reside. The beach towns of Tamarindo, Samara, Playas del Coco, Jacó, Sant Teresa, Dominical, Golfito, Puerto Viejo, and everything in between. They invest their money in paying rent, buying groceries, using cell phones, buying gas. There may be some people living out of a backpack, but there are plenty of others who own a home or a business and pay taxes and employ people, pay into the CAJA and do all other things that “legals” do. Money, does not discriminate between nationals and expats, legal or not legal. All those 40 million spent in crossing into Panama, could be spent in local  businesses.

Call me wacko, but it is in the best interest of the country and in furtherance of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to keep those 90 day runners in the country. On the other hand, what about their right to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Going back to the Costa Rican Constitution, Section 19 states that foreigners have the same rights as Costa Ricans. In conjunction with section 50, it seems to me that the Costa Rican government should enact policies that will promote the wellbeing of all inhabitants including foreigners. It is in the well being of foreigners not having to make a trip to Nicaragua or Panama every 90 days in order to be legal in Costa Rica, specially as there are plenty of elder foreigners to whom making a trip to the border represents a hardship. Please note that section 50 of the Constitution states inhabitants, not Costa Ricans, not citizens, not residents. Inhabitants refers to whoever is in the country.

In my opinion, it makes sense to further the wellbeing of all inhabitants (Costa Ricans or not) by allowing foreign nationals to stay in the country without having to leave the country every 90 days. It is good for the country, it is good for the expats.

If you are foreign national who has to leave the country every 90 days, please let me know. I may need your help to change policy. I need as many signatures as I can get in order to build a case in the Supreme Court. Send me an email to 90dayvisa@outlierlegal.com

 

Check out our interview with Dawn Drummer, Client Services Manager for Outlier Legal Services takes Corey’s call to give an overview of the very popular topic of immigration options for foreigners looking to live and work in Costa Rica. Dawn covers some of the residencies available and some not-so-well-known processes to apply for a variety of legal residency statuses.

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Setting a Budget; CR Cost of Living Comparison

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 Costa Rica News – So many people are looking to make their hard earned dollars go further and are moving out of their home countries living abroad.  One of the areas drawing a large number of expats is Central America.  Most people do not have the ability to live themselves in the various countries before choosing one to call home.  The biggest question that people looking to move overseas asks “What is it going to cost me to live there?”

One of our readers submitted this to us today and it has incredible information about the cost of living in costa rica cost of living 1Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Tricia lived in multiple places and these were her findings.

Before you go peeking at our expense chart below, I need to make a few statements:

* This is OUR full disclosure cost breakdown of everything we spent money on based on the way WE live our lives.

* Our goal for a total monthly budget is $1,800 for living expenses ONLY.  Our income is higher but this amount is what we wanted to see if we could live with so that the extra could be set aside for savings toward further traveling.

* Our monthly rental goal with ALL utilities including WiFi is $800. We rented many different types of property from 1 bedroom/1 bathroom to 2 bedroom/2 bathroom; from 425 square feet to 1,200 square feet; high rise to apartment attached to a house, to single family home; from in town to rural to ocean front. We know we paid higher rents because it was only for one month. We also know that when we’re ready to rent for a year, our monthly rate will either decrease substantially or we will get a lot more for our money. Thus, keeping the rent within our budgeted goal.

* Phone costs are averaged based on what we actually spent over a 3 month period including initial purchase of SIM card, minutes, and data for both of us and any subsequent purchases of minutes/data. NOTE: we have only been Ecuador for 5 weeks and the line item shows the average of what we’ve purchased to date with 1.5 months remaining. We own our own unlocked iPhones.

* As we must be out and about much more than we would if we lived long term somewhere, we are eating out more than our “normal” 6-7 times, and are out socializing and meeting people to get a truer feel for each area. Thus, the dollars in meals below reflects eating out on average between 15-20 times a month and the “drinks only” will eventually be incorporated into our Entertainment budget. Where we ate was either typical fare or moderate priced. On a rare occasion, we went out for a special meal that was still well below US prices.

* We have NO car so there is nothing in this budget to indicate each countries cost of gas, which varies considerably at the moment.

* Currently, we are self-insured and pay everything out of pocket.  So only the true consistent item of Dental Cleaning was included and averaged over each 3 months (every 3 months for me; every 6 months for Mike)  We do have traveler’s insurance for catastrophic until we establish residency somewhere. Once residency established, a budget line item for medical/dental/vision will be made.

* Our meals at home became very simple and consistent. So that with what we bought at the grocery store being pretty similar in each location.  Groceries include wine & beer.  I don’t get into what’s more or less expensive in each country because it becomes a moot point when looking at the overall grocery budget.  Same for the cost of wine & beer in local establishments.

* Our One-Time Expenses are just that. Medical included my annual female checkups, swimmer’s ear in CR for Mike, and a banged up shoulder in Salinas, EC for Mike.  In my blog posts I breakdown the costs for each expenditure at the time we had to make them and won’t do that again here.  You may go back and read my blog posts for those individual occurrences. Dental included my new partial (1 every 15 years) and a new cap & veneer for Mike’s 2 front teeth. Tours included our actual time being a tourist but we will not be doing those on a consistent basis but will incorporate those costs in entertainment. Hotels & Transportation is the cost incurred while getting to and from an airport or when taking a side trip which has occurred every 3 months and will not be part of our usual agenda once we live somewhere full time.

See Full Detailed Cost of Living Comparison Here

So, with all of the above said, you can see, for actual day to day living expenses we spent a total of $5,521 in costa rica cost of living 2Panama for an average monthly of $1,840; a total of $5,387 in Costa Rica for an average of $1,796. And, so far, Salinas, EC is showing it was quite expensive.

A few specific clarifications to help you understand the spending patterns:

*Gorgona, PA: Our apartment had a death trap of a kitchen, so we ate out often (25x). Thus, there is no separate amount in Drinks Only because we always had our drinks where we ate.

*Tronadora, CR: We have nothing in Entertainment because all of our Entertainment was actually “free”. We would go with friends to the Tabacon hot spring river with drinks & snacks and sit for hours in the steam for FREE! We also did not get any “medicinal” massages that we love so much that are included as Entertainment in other locations.

*Grecia: Here too when we went out for drinks, we ate.

*Salinas: Can’t put a finger on it as to why groceries were so much more except that everything was always just a bit more. A dollar here, a dollar there. Wine & beer were definitely more for actually less quality.

Each location presented its own challenges from awkward housing with deficient kitchens (the term “fully furnished” is very loosely used), too few choices for eating out, to too remote of a location. In ALL cases, we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt based on the data we accumulated, that we could make the necessary adjustments to keep within our desired budget of $1,800/month including medical once we are established and NOT diminish our lifestyle.

By Tricia Lyman

Any comments or questions can be emailed to Tricia directly at Tricia@TriciaLyman.com or visit her blog at http://www.lymantricia.blogspot.com/

Do I Need to Speak Spanish to Teach in CR?

 Costa Rica Teaching News - One of the more intimidating aspects of teaching English abroad is the language barrier. Without basic elements of the local language, things like buying groceries, ordering food in a restaurant and securing a date for Friday night can be tricky. This problem, however, should not translate to the ESL classroom.

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The Spanish question is one of the most common I receive. For those that don’t have experience teaching English as a second language, it is a natural thought process. The concept of a student, who doesn’t speak English, learning from a teacher, who doesn’t speak their language, certainly looks challenging on the surface. With a change in perspective, though, we can see why this is actually the ideal situation.

The best method to learn a language is to be totally and completely immersed in that language. This is why many non-Spanish speakers arrive to Costa Rica and are easily able to pick up at least the very basic elements. When you live here, you are forced to interact in Spanish. For Costa Ricans, this full immersion only exists in their ESL classroom.

One of the very first things your TESOL instructor will tell you is that the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom. There are many reasons for this, but the most important being that in order to learn, improve, or perfect a language, one must be able to also think in that language. If the effort is made to take the students’ native tongue out of the equation, the learning ability is increased immensely.

Not being able to translate for students is a constant worry for potential teachers. This is, of course, both a non-issue and a big ESL ‘no-no’. While translation may help a student understand a word or two, it is not a recognized learning technique. While also disrupting the target language focus, translation simply doesn’t work based on the logistics of the language: English does not function the same as Spanish.

This is a common point of perplexity for many. I am routinely asked by English learners and native Spanish speakers how it is I expect them to learn English without translation. My simple answer to this query is: What language was Spanish translated from for you to learn?

We all learn our native language without translation. No native English speaker learned English via translation from another language. Why should learning a second, third or fourth language be any different?

This is the challenge for ESL instructors. Students will ask. They will beg. But the answer needs to be ‘no’. Translation is any easy way out for many awkward moments in the classroom. It’s not easy to stay the course when there are ten confused faces staring at you with no idea what you’ve just said. What separates the good from great ESL instructors, though, are those that can get any message across without translating.

Do you need to speak Spanish to teach English in Costa Rica? You will need to learn at least some to live in Costa Rica. To teach English in Costa Rica not only do you not need to speak Spanish, you shouldn’t even try.

This article was published in The Costa Rican Times 

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email andrew@globaltesolcostarica.com

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

This Week in Costa Rica is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, expressed or implied.  This Week in Costa Rica is produced by Podfly Productions, LLC and broadcast with permission by the Overseas Radio Network.