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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, April 27, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 81     E-mail us
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Expat's guide for bringing foreign spouse to U.S.
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Most people have heard the Costa Rican dream story.  A tourist comes for vacation, falls in love with Costa Rica and/or a Costa Rican, goes back home and sells everything or ships it down here to become an expat.  This usually applies more to men than to women. In many cases older men find younger Costa Rican women, some with children from former relationships.

In many cases the Costa Rican counterpart, whether it be a wife or a husband, does not want to live here but wants to live in the United States and, most importantly, wants to be a U. S. citizen.  Some even believe it to something of a prize they need to win to be happy and constantly pressure the expat to repatriate — go back to the United States to live — so they can get their citizenship.

Getting married by itself does not give a Costa Rican wife or husband U. S. citizenship. This is true for both expats and Costa Ricans who want citizenship in either country. Many expats do not want to go back to the United States, but some concede to do so for their new spouse.

The process for expats who have decided to move back to the United States and get their Costa Rican spouse residency and eventually U. S. citizenship is not overly complicated if one knows how to do it.  However, putting everything down on paper and distilling it into a cheat sheet for expats who have made the big decision to move back took some doing. 

In a nutshell, the process goes like this:

1. Applying for permanent residency.

2. Obtaining permanent residency.

3. Moving to and staying in the United States for the time period required to be eligible for citizenship.

4. Applying for naturalization, completing all requirements for the naturalization process, and obtaining citizenship.

5. Requesting citizenship for children

Applying for permanent residency

In order to apply for permanent residency, U. S. citizens are required to file a petition for their relatives. According to the U. S. Embassy’s Web site, the petition process for expats who have Costa Rican residency differs from expats who do not have it.

Expats with Costa Rican residency:

• Expats who have lived in the country for at least 6 months and have already obtained Costa Rican residency can fill out I-130 Petition for Alien Relative at the U. S. Embassy in Pavas on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 1:30 p.m. The petition costs $355. The embassy sends all petitions to U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

• Once the Citizenship and Immigration Services approves a petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center, which may contact the applicant if additional documentation is required. Once approved by the visa center, the petition will be sent back to the U. S. Embassy. No information is available as to how long this process takes.

• The embassy then contacts the expat for presenting their U. S. birth certificate and the document that proves their relationship to the Costa Rican relative, whether it is a marriage certificate (issued by the Registro Civil if the wedding took place in Costa Rica) or the birth certificate of their children.

• The expat must also provide documents that prove termination of any previous marriages by divorce or death.

• The embassy also requires proof of legitimate marriage relationship — provided by answering questions and showing family pictures.

• A medical exam ordered by the Embassy is required for the foreign spouse, as well as other requirements, including police records. This exam can cost around $250.

• Any documents in Spanish must be translated into English.

After all requirements have been filed, an interview is scheduled for the spouse, who should bring an I-864 affidavit of support that proves the expat has sufficient income to support the spouse without public benefits.

Expats without Costa Rican residency:

According to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site, expats who do not have Costa Rican residency must file the I-130 petition in the United States, at the citizenship office closest to their hometown.

After approval, the Citizenship and Immigration Services sends the petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center to determine if a visa number is available immediately for the relative. Numbers are assigned immediately to spouses and unmarried children under 21. Married children will have to wait to get a visa number, but they can check its status in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.

Applicants should be aware that if permanent residency is granted before their second wedding anniversary, the residency will have conditional status, which means the couple must prove they have a legitimate relationship for two years after obtaining conditional residency. The couple must apply for removing the conditions on the residency by gathering the following documents:

•Filling out form I-751 (Petition to Remove Residency Conditions),

• Submitting a copy of the permanent residency card, showing evidence of their relationship (i.e. leases or property deeds that show co-dwelling/co-ownership, birth certificates of children).

Failure to apply for this procedure results in losing all residency rights.

U. S. citizens can obtain unlimited permanent residency for spouses and unmarried children under 21, and limited permanent residency for
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unmarried children’s minor offspring and married children, their spouses and minor offspring.

Obtaining permanent residency

The U. S. Embassy’s Web site states that after filing the I-130 petition, while waiting for  approval from the Citizenship and Immigration Services, foreign spouses and children can obtain a K-3 visa and travel to the United States to become permanent residents through an adjustment of status, but this process is not immediate.

To apply for the K-3 visa, the following documents must be sent by mail to the United States Department of Homeland Security:

• Form I-129,

• a copy of Form I-797 that states the I-130 petition was received by Citizenship and Immigration Services,

• additional forms requested in I-129 and

• a fee of $400.

While waiting for approval, if the foreign relatives wish to travel abroad, they need to request advance permission from the Citizenship and Immigration Services prior to traveling. Otherwise, they will abandon their visa applications and will not be allowed to return to the United States.

Moving to and staying in the United States for the time period required by the Citizenship and Immigration Services to be eligible for citizenship.

The Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site states that foreign spouses may apply for citizenship after remaining in the United States for three years, during which they are not allowed to leave the country for more than 6 months at a time.

No information was available on the time period minor children must remain in the country before applying for naturalization.

Applying for naturalization, completing all requirements for the naturalization process, and obtaining citizenship.

Non-citizen spouses need to meet the following requirements:

• Continuous residence in the United States for three years prior to applying,

• English language proficiency,

• Knowledge of United States history and civics,

• Good moral character,

• Adherence to United States Constitution principles,

• A positive outlook of the United States.

• Filling out Form N-400 along with a fee of $675 by check or money order (application $595, fingerprints $80) and sending it to the nearest Citizenship and Immigration Services office. Fees are non-refundable.

Even though no specific time frame was given for obtaining citizenship, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site claims the bureau has been trying to maximize efforts and complete the process in six months.

If approved, the immigration services will schedule an interview, right after which the applicant can attend the oath ceremony and obtain citizenship. If the applicant requests to attend the ceremony at a later date, he or she will have to make sure they do not miss the appointment. Otherwise the immigration services will close the case and dismiss the process.

If the application for citizenship is denied for lack of requirements and not eligibility violations, the foreigner may re-apply as many times as necessary until naturalization is granted.

Requesting citizenship for children

To obtain citizenship for youngsters, parents must file N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship, along with 2 photographs of the child, additional documentation to verify eligibility and a fee.

For adopted children, parents must file Form N-643, and when the children are older than 18, parents fill out Form N-400.

Once naturalized, all applicants receive a U. S. passport and all the rights of a United States citizen.

For more information about the citizenship process, visit the Guide to Naturalization.

While helpful, this detailed account of facts and steps will not make the actual process less painstaking, but it will definitely save precious time otherwise spent gathering all relevant information.  Some expats that have made the big decision to move back to the United States to make their spouse happy may just decide to stay in Costa Rica after reading this article.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 81

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Costa Rican health officials:
Eyes open, fingers crossed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Costa Rican health officials are keeping an eye on 20 persons who have flu-like symptoms, but most of them have been cleared by lab testing.

The concern is swine flu that is suspected to have killed more than 100 people in three Mexican cities and sickened at least eight people in the border states of California and Texas in the United States. The virus may have also spread to New York and Kansas. There are reports that the virus may have reached Europe and Canada, too.

Costa Rica's health system is centered around its public hospitals and workers there have been outfitted with protective clothing. So have Cruz Roja ambulance attendants in some cases.

Most health officials worldwide think it is likely that the disease will spread to all countries.

The Obama administration declared a public health emergency to mobilize federal and state resources to combat the infectious viral illness.

The World Health Organization has declared swine flu a public health emergency of international concern. Keiji Fukuda, World Health assistant director-general spoke with reporters via teleconference from Geneva:

"We have asked all countries to increase their surveillance and their watchfulness so we can detect as quickly as possible how this virus may or may not be spreading," said Fukuda.

Fukuda says the swine flu viruses detected in the United States and Mexico appear similar, despite the fact that symptoms reported in Mexico have been far more severe than in the United States. Mexico has recorded dozens of deaths from flu-like disease in recent days, although it is not clear whether swine flu was to blame in all cases.

Fukuda says this particular strain of swine flu could become more or less virulent over time.

"Influenza viruses are very prone to changing," he said. "They mutate easily. So when viruses evolve, they can become more dangerous for people — that is, to cause more serious disease. Or they are also able to mutate so they cause less serious disease."

Moments after he spoke, U.S. officials declared a public health emergency in response to at least 20 known cases in five states. Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control say they expect to see more cases with possibly stronger symptoms in the future.

At a White House briefing, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security secretary, said the federal government is mobilizing to confront the health threat, including providing states access to millions of doses of stockpiled anti-viral treatments.

She appealed to the public for help.

"The government cannot solve this alone," said Janet Napolitano. "We need everybody in the United States to take some responsibility. If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands. Take all of those reasonable measures that will help us militate and contain how many people actually get sick."

Fukuda said that if there is good news, it is that the international community is far better equipped today than in previous years to combat infectious disease in a coordinated way.

"I believe the world is much, much better prepared than we have ever been for dealing with this kind of situation," said Fukuda. "In the past five years, countries have worked very hard to assess the threat of avian influenza. They have worked very hard on pandemic preparedness planning, and we have new tools. We have new surveillance. We have stockpiles of anti-viral drugs in case of a pandemic situation."

Those international preparations are being put to the test. Canada became the third country to confirm swine flu cases, with several people suffering mild cases of the illness in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Other possible cases are under investigation in France and New Zealand.

Costa Rican officials also urge individuals to wash their hands throughly. There have been no prohibitions placed on travel or on large public gatherings.

But in Mexico, officials there have closed schools in three states for today and urged persons with flu symptoms to stay home from school or work. Mexico City, according to news reporters, was a ghost town Sunday and some residents have taken to wearing surgical masks.

Imported animals face
examinations for viruses

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal is on alert to prevent the importation of pigs and chickens that might exhibit signs of a virus.

The service, part of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería, maintains frontier posts with veterinarians who check incoming animals. It said it was beefing up the staffing.

The service also assured Costa Ricans that local animals are free of flu-like diseases and that they still could be eaten safely.

Driver in bicycle deaths
left an important clue

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers did not have to call in Sherlock Holmes to find a suspect in the death of two bicyclists early Sunday.

The accident happened in front of a bar in the Santa Rosa section of Limón Centro. Dead at the scene was a 49-year-old man identified by the last names of Mejía Arriola. A companion died at the hospital.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the accident fled, but when police arrived they found the license plate of a vehicle on the road.

Conveniently they found the suspect vehicle parked at another nearby bar and arrested a woman with the last name of Estrada.

Traffic police watchdog
seeks citizen complaints

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Empowered by the new traffic law, the Departamento de Inspección Policial is seeking reports of wrongdoing by traffic policemen.

The complaints can be presented in person at the office in the Obras Pública y Transportes complex in Plaza Víquez or via fax to 2257-5247. Motorists can talk to a live person at 2523-2016.

The new law created the department exclusively for following up on citizen complaints, although officials said the unit will be mounting its own efforts to catch officers who stray.

Also more people think of bribes when they hear about traffic officers, Policía de Tránsito, the new inspection unit said that physical aggression, inappropriate language and other transgressions also will be investigated.

Officials will want motorists who complain to appear at a hearing and to bring any witnesses to the alleged act. They urged citizens to write down the identification number of offending officers or the license plate number of the police vehicle.

The inspection service promises that most complaints will be resolved in 30 days or less, officials said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 81

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They're getting serious
about the Heredia line

Rail workers are redoing most of the trackage on the new Heredia line. Wooden ties have been yanked out by the machine at right seen passing over the Avenida 7 bridge, and new concrete ties have been installed as well as new ballast or crushed rock around the ties and rails.

Meanwhile, rail officials are going down the track enforcing a law that requires a right-of-way cleared on either side of the center line by 6.7 meters. That's about 22 feet, and at one location, inspectors halted construction of a building that they said would be closer than the distance allowed.

Workers report that the line almost is ready for passenger service, although officials have not given an exact starting date.
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Kaufman's first project will be 500 senior units in Santa Ana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Henry Kaufman's first project in Costa Rica will be a 500-unit senior living complex in Santa Ana not far from the Cruz Roja building and just four blocks from the commercial center.

Kaufman, a Wall Street legend, has been in Costa Rica hearing real estate proposals. But the $60 million senior living project is fully permited and ready to go. Associates say the ground breaking on the seven-hectare (17-acre) tract may be as soon as July.

Kaufman, 84, is anxious to become a part-time Costa Rica resident, sharing his time between here and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he has purchased about a third of the downtown area.

Kaufman is high on Costa Rica, noting that the climate is perfect, the standard of living is high, the cost of living is low and there are no simmering social protests. But he said he believes the country is not promoting itself to the extent that it should be.

Kaufman is an expert at locating hidden value. He made millions in Wall Street by recognizing undervalued bonds.  He has such a reputation that the Spanish language newspapers sought him out for his views on the economy.

He is pretty blunt. Despite his career as one of nine interdealer bond brokers on the floor of the New York Stock exchange, he is out of stocks and bonds, he told a reporter from El Financiero.

He has his reasons. At the current interest rates, the return
on bonds is not worth the risk, and the current economic situation makes it impossible to know the true value of a company, he said.

Kaufman said he envisions something like the Del Webb Sun City adult living concept in Santa Ana. One of each unit's occupants will have to be 55 or over and children will just be visitors, an associate noted.

Kaufman said in an earlier story that senior retirement communities, assisted living and even nursing care will propel the growth of Costa Rica to double digit gross national product during the next 20 years. But he also said that during his visit here he met with representatives of other projects that he will consider. He left today.

Kaufman styles himself as a visionary, but in his conversation Saturday at an Escazú home some nostalgia could be detected and a little anger at the financial managers who have damaged the U.S. economy.

They have no discipline and no responsibility, he said. Kaufman noted that when he had his own firm starting in 1958, the owners were partners. There were no corporate shields to hide behind. He is certain that interest rates are headed upwards, in part because of government spending.

Kaufman is no stranger to tough times. He grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, which was hard hit in the Great Depression. He concedes that may be what attracted him to Tulsa where tall office buildings were standing vacant because the oil wealth had moved to Houston, Texas.

Now his eye is on Santa Ana where he hopes to duplicate his financial successes.

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Despite sitting ducks, some bandits adopt creative methods
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Businesses always have been sitting ducks for robbers.

As long as there have been liquor stores, there have been crooks to rob them. The same is true with taxi drivers. Only a few are using the protective shields that are standard in other countries.

Four bandits held up a liquor store in Los Cuadros, Goicoechea, Saturday night, and three men killed a taxi driver early Sunday in Desamparados.

But the crooks are branching out. Home invasions appear to be up, according to informal reports. So are business invasions.

Enterprising crooks have found that they can rob a restaurant and take the money and wallets from the customers, too. That happened at Rock 'N Roll Pollo in Santa Ana two weeks ago, according to Roy Chavarría, head of the Fuerza Pública delegación there. He said four persons entered about midnight and by the time police arrived they had fled after robbing the customers, too.

Informal reports say that a bar on Avenida 9 in San José was the scene of similar activity over the weekend, except that bandits wounded the operator.  An establishment that caters to tourists nearby on the same street was a target more than a week ago.

Bandits did not fare well in Los Cuadros at the El Pueblo liquor store this weekend. The store owner engaged them in a firefight, and two intruders are believed to have been killed. A third suffered bullet wounds As did the operator.

Chavarria in Santa Ana said that geography plays a role. That community is near Alajuelita and Pavas, both areas that have more than their fair share of criminals. Chavarria estimated that his officers respond to from 30 to 40 robberies a month in just Santa Ana.

Customers are getting nervous, too. A false report circulating on the Internet claimed that bandits held up
Bacchus restaurant. Chavarria said that what happened Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. was that men in a car fired shots at the restaurant guard and wounded him twice. Police believe the motive for the attack was to take the firearm of the private security guard. Locals may have confused this case with that of Rock 'n Roll Pollo, which is nearby.

An informal report from the Pacific coast gives accounts of two home invasions there that were not confirmed by police. The reader cited cases in Nosara and Nosara over the last two weeks.

Police have confirmed some home invasions along the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. A Dutch expat, 85, who lived in Costa Rica for 20 years died in San Martín de Santa Teresa de Cóbano Wednesday when bandits invaded his home and shot him.

Another report said that some invasions took place in Sámara this month.

Home invasions are not difficult technically. Sometimes crooks wait until an occupant drives up and opens the gate to the dwelling's parking area. Other times they use a car jack or other device to simply break the lock on the porton. Others take their cue from Fuerza Pública officers who frequently are seen on television conducting a raid. They attach a chain to a front gate, rip it from its hinges and then use a battering ram to quickly break down other gates and doors.

Bars and restaurants are particularly vulnerable because they want people to enter. And one security worker can be overpowered by a bandit who gets the drop on him.

Óscar Arias Sánchez promised rapid action on crime as part of his election platform. The administration seems more intent on reducing legal gun ownership. A proposal to do that has been promised to the legislature this week.
Other measures have been bogged down by lack of resource or mixed views on how wiretapping should be done.

Citizens are beginning to look to the February 2010 presidential elections with the hope that a candidate tough on crime will emerge.

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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


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World Bank will earmark
$100 billion for poor lands

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The major high income and developing countries that set policy for the 185 member-nation World Bank agreed in Washington Sunday that the bank should boost its lending to help poor countries adversely affected by the global economic slowdown.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the bank will boost its lending by $100 billion during the next three years, noting that the economic crisis has forced as many as 90 million more people into extreme poverty.

"There is a widespread recognition that the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis," said Robert Zoellick. "Poor people will suffer the most. And we must continue to act in real time to prevent a human catastrophe."

The 24-member World Bank steering committee, called the development committee, was headed by Mexico's finance minister, Agustin Carstens.

"The financial crisis is turning into a human and development calamity," said Carstens. "Many people have already been driven into absolute poverty."

The World Bank is providing Mexico with $200 million in loans to help it deal with the recent swine flu outbreak.

Earlier, the steering committee for the International Monetary Fund announced that it is implementing recommendations of the leaders of major advanced and developing economies, the G-20, giving the fund more resources to help member nations in financial distress.

The World Bank and the Monetary Fund are owned by their 185 member nations. The fund is also being assigned a strengthened role to monitor financial markets - a move intended to forestall further financial crises.

Correa an easy winner
in Ecuadorian election

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rafael Correa appears to have won the presidency again in Ecuador with 51 percent of the popular vote, based on projections, said the daily newspaper El Comercial in its Monday edition.  The victory was not unexpected, and Correa claimed victory just a few minutes after the polls closed.

His closest opponent, Lucio Gutiérrez, appears to have gotten just 29 percent of the vote.

Correa's party, Movimiento País, got 61 seats in the legislative assembly. That just two less than a majority. However, according to El Comercial, some six seats allocated to citizens living outside the country have yet to be distributed, and it seems likely that Movimiento País will take at least two of these.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 81

Latin American news digest
Long-time tourism figure
will manage Holiday Inn

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

William Rodríguez López has been named general manger of the Aurola Holiday Inn in San Jose's downtown.

Rodríguez, 59, has a long career in tourism and has been manager of promotion for the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. He also was a president of the Cámera Nacional de Turismo.

An announcement from the hotel said that one goal will be to obtain a sustainable tourism certificate. Part of this goal will be to reduce fuel consumption. A hotel announcement said that the business is well on the way of handling solid waste.

Residents upset by gun play
in neighborhood in Pavas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Dominican national is being held in the shooting of a 33-year-old man in Loma del Río in Pavas.

The victim, with the last name of Ugalde, was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the body. The presumed assailant, identified by the last names of Amaro Lantigue, took refuge in a home nearby to avoid a group of some 25 residents who were moving against him.

Police said they managed to talk him out of the home and also confiscated a firearm.

Just another work-at-home scheme

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents detained a 20-year-old woman with three minor children in Volio de Bribri Thursday and confiscated cocaine ready for sale, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents said the woman explained she was a single mother without any other way to support her children.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details