In a highly unusual and impactful statement made during a live YouTube broadcast, immigration expert and attorney Marcela Gurdian openly criticized what she characterized as the extremely disordered state of services provided by staff and authorities within Costa Rica’s top Immigration Department.
The General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners is the governmental body responsible for implementing migration policies, overseeing the entry and exit of individuals into the national territory, and facilitating the integration of foreign nationals into Costa Rican society.
Never seen in 25 years
Marcela Gurdian, who manages a widely renowned and reputable network of Immigration Expert offices throughout Costa Rica dedicated to assisting new expats in obtaining legal residency, expressed that she has never encountered a situation as tumultuous as the one currently prevailing within the country’s Immigration Department.
The vision outlined on the institution’s website is said to be proficient, adaptable, with a transparent management approach. However, based on Marcela Gurdian’s declaration, « that is not happening in a way that i have never seen in my 25 years of experience as a lawyer. »
Listen to Marcela Gurdian express her discontent with Immigration in this audio clip from Pepito Live
Marcela is not putting the blame on the Immigration Department employees, who are working very hard, she says. But the service is understaffed, and since the pandemic, they are literally overwhelmed thousands of demands. The support budget does not seem to be there to hire more staff, so the system is failing, she says.
As a matter of fact, Marcela Gurdian mentions having filed dozens of complaints with the La Defensoría de los Habitantes de la República (Office of the Ombudsman), a supervisory body that is part of the Legislative Branch.
« I am doing so free of charge on behalf of my clients, » she says. The delays created by the government are putting undue personal and financial pressure on people who hope to make Costa Rica their adopted country.
What is the role of the Office of the Ombudsman?
The purpose of the Office of the Ombudsman is to ensure that the activities of the public sector comply with the legal framework and moral standards, in such a way that the rights and interests of the inhabitants are always protected. Their role is to oversee the actions and omissions of the public sector and intervene on behalf of the people when needed.
During the open-line program called « Pepito Live » broadcasted on YouTube, the attorney has presented several real-life examples of what she considers is creating chaos in the service:
Example 1: Immigration is supposed to check residency files only once and request whatever is pending, but they do not follow this rule and keep asking for documents from applicants. This behavior causes undue delays in the process.
Example 2: If Immigration makes a mistake in a residency file, the foreigner must write a letter explaining the mistake. The average time to receive a response from Immigration, even if the mistake is theirs (immigration), is 8 months.
Example 3: If a file is initiated incompletely, Immigration takes into consideration the completion date of the file, not the initial date it was submitted.
Example 4: Due to delays in processing investors’ residencies, Immigration made the decision in 2023 to prioritize checking new applications that were submitted with all the necessary documents within a short timeframe (4 months). Old applications were left pending without approval.
Example 5: No one is available at Immigration to discuss specific cases or help with files that have been in process for a long time, or provide assistance when they make a mistake.
It’s a matter of time and patience
Even though the immigration attorney, Marcela Gurdian, was very critical of the system during the « Pepito Live » program, she also wanted to reassure the people that the government of Costa Rica is an open country in terms of immigration.
« If a foreigner has a complete residency file and has no criminal record, ‘Residency in Costa Rica will be approved; it’s a matter of time and patience, » assures Marcela Gurdian.
Broadcasted on Pepito Live on YouTube
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