112. Are We Illegal?!

Thursday 3/2- It's been a very uneventful week for us. Ramie’s task this week has been to find out the status of our DIMEX (resident ID card). Our initial appointment was at the end of January and we were told that it typically takes 4-6 weeks for the approval to be processed and the card sent. At that appointment we received our paperwork and a mail tracking number which becomes active only after Immigration approves your status and officially sends the card to the post office that you choose to receive it at.

Unfortunately we still have not heard if the approval has gone through. Ramie has been keeping in touch with Laura (our contact that helped us at our DIMEX appointment) over the past week to find out what the hold up might be. Laura checked with the people that she knows at immigration and found out that the hold up is because their printer was broken. It could take 8-10 weeks to get the card now! Yep, you heard that right… Costa Rica only has one printer for the DIMEX cards! What I should be saying is “Typical Government!” hahaha. The big problem here is that we are now actually illegal to drive here. Reciprocity on a foreign drivers license is tied to that Visa stamp in your passport, and since we are now technically legal residents (despite not having our card) we didn’t have to go on our border run to remain in Costa Rica legally. So, our last visa stamp expired Feb. 22, even though we’re legal to be here, our license is now “expired”. 

Dana is very excited for her Pulmerias and wanted to show you one that just started to open

When you arrive in the country as a tourist you are given a stamp in your passport with a certain number of days that it's valid for. Typically it's 90 days (max), but it's ultimately up to the immigration officer and he can give you less if he chooses to. As a tourist, to drive legally in Costa Rica you must to have a valid foreign driver's license and a valid visa stamp.

Since we have applied for residency and we have been approved, we now have a Costa Rican ID number tied to our US passports, we are in the immigration system as “approved for residency” and technically do not have to leave the country to renew our visa stamp to remain here. The problem lies only if you choose to drive. Huh? Yeah, we know, that makes absolutely no sense! So, at the end of the day, the people that have been approved for residency and don't drive, don't have to leave the country to do a border run any more. Because we choose to drive, we must have a valid visa stamp, because you know that makes total sense right? Yeah, it doesn't to us either, but that's the rule.

So, you’re probably wondering why we don’t just do another border run to get a valid stamp. Well, that would be because of Costa Rica’s OTHER rules when it comes to passport stamps….

Now that we have had our DIMEX appointment, we are in a different category in the immigration system than we were before. As we’ve probably mentioned before, it’s not uncommon here for one hand of the government to change their rules without talking to the other hands of the government. A newly passed law states that if you are a legal resident (which we are now) you will no longer receive a stamp your passports when entering the country. At this point we couldn't do a border run to be legal even if we wanted to because they won’t give us that stamp, but we also technically can’t drive since the last one that we do have is expired. So you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. If it’s not already confusing enough, there is yet another wrench thrown into this mess… Once we have our physical DIMEX card, we can then start the process to get a Costa Rica drivers license. But—we need that card and the printer is currently broken. The other catch to getting your drivers license (after you have the card in hand) is that the damn visa stamp (you know, the one causing us all of this trouble) must actually be expired by at least 1 day. Yes, you are literally forced to be illegal to drive in order to go to the appointment to get your drivers license. Are you all keeping up with this craziness? Yeah, me neither!!

If your head isn't spinning from THAT mess I think you would probably survive a move to Costa Rica!!

Anyway, back to: Where the heck is our DIMEX card at anyway? Like I said Ramie has been diligently researching all of these rules and how to find out where things are at, and while he was trying to track our status he found a number for a contact in the immigration department that you can actually reach out to after a certain number of weeks has passed. He reached out to them about a week ago and today, he finally got a message back from them: Your DIMEX has been processed! About 2 hours later Ramie received an email with our virtual DIMEX cards. We now have a virtual copy of our official Costa Rica ID cards and no longer need to use our US passports as our form of ID or carry them with us pretty much everywhere we go. This also means that we get to use the national/resident line at the airport! For me, that’s probably one of the best perks about this. Instead of being stuck in the immigration line at the airport which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours or more (and we’ve stood in that line for more than 2 hours more than a handful of times) we get to use the “short” line that the locals use and breeze right through!

Finally, we are almost done with the residency process, only two more appointments to go!! The next step is to get an appointment for the homologation of our US drivers license. Basically, what that means is since we have a valid driver's license in another country they will honor it and we don't have to go through all of the exams like you would when getting a new license. Getting these homologation appointments is very difficult since they only offer a limited number of them. You can only go to this appointment if you already have your DIMEX card. Ramie found two open appointments in the middle of March and took the risk and booked them even though we don’t have our actual cards yet. We are still doing some research to see if the virtual cards will be sufficient or if we need the physical cards. If we discover that we need the physical cards and don’t have them in time we will just skip the appointment and look for the next available appointments.  

Here is that same flower fully open

We still have a couple of things that we have to do prior to the appointment (and in addition to the 2 steps that I just said we had left) is to have a “medical exam” to say we are fit for driving, and have our MN licenses officially translated to Spanish. It looks like Ramie has some more homework to do so we have it all ready to go for our upcoming appointment. Someday we’ll be done with all of this official paperwork stuff!!

Friday 3/3- We haven't spent any time with Loren and Nancy for quite a while, so we made plans to have dinner and catch up with them today after I was finished working. Ramie decided to make his coffee cake that he is so proud of perfecting for dessert so he spent the morning baking. We hung out for a few hours and ate a delicious meal Nancy prepared. Loren couldn't get enough of the coffee cake and went back for seconds so we gave them most of the leftovers and then called it a night.

Tuesday 3/7- Rain! It's raining! After the last rainy season I never thought I would say I'm happy to see rain again but this time of year what a nice relief it is! Today is the first real rain we’ve gotten since January and boy was it needed. We only got 1.3” (yeah, that sounds like a lot for those of you back in the US, but it’s really only a drizzle compared to what we’re used to here) but it was enough to wash the dust off of everything. It's amazing how everything including the plants look so brown with dust and you don’t really even notice that it was so dingy until it’s been cleaned off. The trees are now bright green, the grass got a good watering and isn’t so dry any more, and overall everything just looks so much better.

Saturday 3/11- Work, work work! That's all I’ve been doing 7 days a week and I think I need a break! Ramie’s coworker at the animal sanctuary told us that her husband's band Mojo Daddy is playing at different places nearby every weekend this month. Tonight is the first gig and they are playing at Whale Tail Brewery. We made plans with Geoff and Tracy to go out for an evening of live music, food and drinks. The band was scheduled to start at 6 so we decided to get there early in the hopes of getting a good table. We arrived at 5 and were asked if we had reservations. Huh? I didn't see anything on the Facebook advertisements about needing a reservation! Since we didn’t have one, they wouldn’t let us in. Well that sucks! We were really looking forward to listening to some good ole rock music covers.

Now that we’re all dressed up and out in town, where do we go? We talked about a couple other places that have been known for having music on the weekends but decided that we wanted to check out the new Uvita Gastropark that I had seen advertised. It was just a short drive down the road from the brewery and looked like it would be an interesting place. This “gastropark” was made up of 7 different establishments set in a U shape around a central courtyard/seating area. 6 of these establishments were made out of shipping containers, and the 7th is an old VW bus. 5 of the containers are each a different restaurant, 1 is a bar, and the VW is a Coffee and Smoothie shop. Each of the restaurants had a different theme, so depending on what you’re craving, you should be able to find something that peaks your interest. We also found out that they have a stage and live music tonight. I guess that worked out well for us. We found a nice picnic table and the guys went to get us some drinks. It didn't take us long to discuss what we wanted to eat and decided on the Texas BBQ! The guys went and placed our orders and we enjoyed our drinks and live music while we waited. The food came out quickly and was OMG it was DELICIOUS! Good BBQ is so hard to find here and we found a good one! We enjoyed every last bite of our meal, enjoyed the music and company with good friends before calling it a night around 9:30 (which is actually late for us, hahaha!) 

Tracy and I made the FB page of a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago, today the whole group of us made it onto the Instagram for the BBQ restaurant!!

Sunday 3/12, Monday 3/13- We’ve been getting more rain overnight lately which is not at all normal during the this time of year here when it's normally very hot and dry. I’m not complaining but it is the talk of the town lately, which really shows how rare it is. We’ve also been dealing with a lot of very irritating power outages. It blinks out just long enough to shut off my computer monitors while I’m working or the TV while we’re watching our show in the evening. The most irritating part is with the TV; you only just get it restarted (these smart TVs take forever to reboot!) it and out it goes again. Some nights it happens so often that we just give up and go to bed early instead of trying to restart the TV again & again. As dumb as it sounds, I think we may need a battery backup just for the TV so that it doesn’t knock it out over and over again while we’re watching. We already have a battery back up for our internet so that while I'm working, if the power goes out, we still have internet and I don’t get disconnected. Let me tell you that has been a life saver, there is no way I would get anything done if the internet blinked out every time the power goes out! The power grid is so unstable here. Ramie mentions regularly that he doesn’t see many substations which likely is the main cause of why this happens. This is one of the downside to living in paradise! I guess eventually you just learn to live with the quirks!

Pura Vida!


  1. 🥰🥰I love hearing your adventures. What an amazing life you have created.


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