Leaving the Country
Any tourist who has stayed in Costa Rica more than 30 days with just a tourist
card will need an exit visa or visa de salida to leave the country.
Likewise, foreigners who entered Costa Rica using just a passport and overstayed
the maximum permitted time of 90 days, will also have to get an exit visa.
Costa Rican citizens, retirees and permanent residents are required to
get an exit visa and pensión alimenticia stamps to prove to prove they have
not left dependent children behind.
Everyone has to pay an exit tax of $26 at the airport. You can avoid a
lot of hassles and lines at the airport if you pay before leaving. You may do
so at the Bancrédito. Take your documents with you, passport or cédula,
and the cashier will tell you the amount.
Children’s Exit Visas
Children under 18, including infants, who remain in Costa Rica for more
than 30 days are subject to the country’s child welfare laws and will not
be permitted to leave the country unless both parents request permission
from the National Child Welfare Agency or Patronato Nacional de Infancia
(PANI) (Calle 19 and Avenida 6). This can pose a real problem for a single
parent traveling with children who overstay the permitted 90 days. One
parent or guardian cannot get exit papers without written permission from
the non-accompanying other parent. A Costa Rican Consul in the child’s
home country must notarize this document.
If you don’t adhere to this procedure, your child cannot leave the
country. When you go to the airport you have to take your child to a special
window where an official form PANI checks to see if the child can be taken
out of the country. A travel agent or lawyer may be able to get permission
from the PANI if given the child’s passport and two extra Costa Rican-sized
If your child was born in Costa Rica, the child is automatically a Costa
Rican citizen. To exit the country, the child will need an exit permit from
the Costa Rican Immigration department if he or she is a minor. The child
must have the permission of both parents to leave the country. This can
be annoying if the child has to travel a lot with one parent. However, the
parents can fill out a special permanent permission form whereby the child
can leave the country with either parent as many times as necessary until
the child is no longer a minor (18). My wife and I did this to make it easier
for our son to travel.
Costa Rica’s child protection laws can be a real pain in the neck.
However, in some cases they can work to your advantage and enable you
to stay in the country. All you have to do is have the cooperation of your
child’s mother or father.
If you support minor children, you cannot be deported from the country
under most circumstances. If a mother wishes, she can ask for an impedimento
de salida, preventing the father from leaving the country. If the impedimento
is served, then the only way to leave the country is to pay the equivalent of
13 months’ pensión (child support) in advance. Although I don’t recommend
using this method, some foreigners remain in the country indefinitely this
way whether they really support their child or not. Your attorney can explain
how to use this law to protract your stay in the country.
Here is one resident’s experience on leaving the country with minor
children: “I am not sure about a non-citizen resident, but for citizens it’s
just a matter of going down to Immigration with both parents and child
and signing a form. Probably better to do this, just in case. The child will
need a photograph too, which can be taken there. There are two types of
permissions, temporary and permanent. The temporary is only good for
certain period of time, say one or three months. It may even only be good
for one departure. A permanent one is just that, permanent. The whole idea
behind it is to prevent abductions, so if you go with a permanent, it might be
a good idea to keep the permission papers separate from the child’s passport.
When we went, the person working there said that about 75 percent go with
a permanent as opposed to the temporary.”
By the way, paternity laws are very strict in Costa Rica. If a mother asks
for a DNA test and it is positive, the father pays for the test; if it is negative,
the mother pays for it. The tests are not cheap, but there is a long waiting
list of about three months for these tests.
The Patronato Nacional de Infancia handles adoptions in Costa Rica.
This process can take a couple of years even for a newborn or child if you
satisfy all of the requirements. It is easier and faster if you adopt a child
rather than a newborn.
If you are an American and your father children in Costa Rica, they
will be eligible for your Social Security benefits. The U.S. Social Security
Administration (SSA) seems to define “natural children” as distinguished from
adoptive children. Whether they are born out of wedlock is not an issue.
According to the SSA at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10085.
html, “Within a family, a child may receive up to one-half of the parent’s full
retirement or disability benefit, or 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic
Social Security benefit. However, there is a limit to the amount of money that
can be paid to a family. The family maximum payment is determined as part of
every Social Security benefit computation and can be from 150 to 180 percent
of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family
members exceeds this limit, each person’s benefit is reduced proportionately
(except the parent’s) until the total equals the maximum allowable amount.”