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Thread: Traveling through Costa Rica?

  1. #1
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    Traveling through Costa Rica?

    My girlfriend is a resident of Panama, but has a US passport. This coming tuesday she will take a bus to SJ, and fly to the US on Wednesday. The return trip will fly into SJ, and she will take a taxi to the bus terminal, then get on the first bus back to Panama.

    Is she likely to have any problems with immigration, such as needing to have proof of a return ticket back to US instead of Panama? Will a bus ticket to Panama suffice as proof of onward travel? Could she just say she will be buying a bus ticket when she reaches the terminal, as she won't know which bus she will be able to connect with? She is not in the best of health.

    As a thought, when she originally checks into CR at Paso Canoas, she could get her passport stamped for a 90 day visit. Does she need to stamp out of CR when she goes to the airport? If not, when she returns, her passport will show her as already being in CR, so she would only need to stamp back into Panama when she gets back to Paso Canoas.
    Last edited by oldtimer; 09-04-2016 at 08:03 PM. Reason: more

  2. #2
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    If your girlfriend has a U.S. Passport, then she is almost certainly a U.S. Citizen. There are exceptions, but they are rare. As a U.S. Citizen, your girlfriend benefits from a lot of "leniency" and "benefit of the doubt." U.S. Citizens are not often accused of trying to "Sneak Into" the USA, Costa Rica, or Panama.

    The bus ticket back to Panama, at the end of her trip, should be sufficient. There is no "Stamp Out" procedure for her when she leaves Costa Rica. An "Entry Stamp" is not a Visa... It doesn't have to be "Stamped Out."

    Just saying that you have a bus ticket usually won't satisfy the Panamanian Goose-Steppers. Your girlfriend will need an actual ticket or receipt.

    The biggest issue in this type of scenario is Panamanian Immigration. The Panamanian Immigration authorities are notorious Dick-Heads, when it comes to Immigration Control. Don't expect any difficulties with Costa Rican Immigration, as long as your paperwork is in order.


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    If your girlfriend is a non-citizen U.S. National, the situation is slightly different. This situation does often apply to people born in Panama. However, for a non-citizen national moving between the USA, Costa Rica, and Panama, the difference is practically insignificant.


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    If you are a U.S. Citizen, then you are also a U.S. National. However, if you are a U.S. National, then you are not automatically a U.S. Citizen.

    I won't go into all of the subtle differences between Nationality and Citizenship here, but most of them are political. For example, non-citizen nationals don't have automatic voting rights or the right to hold public office, and may not be eligible for certain governmental programs. Nationality falls between Citizenship and Residency, but is generally closer to Citizenship than it is to Residency.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 09-05-2016 at 01:49 AM.

  3. #3
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    her passport will show her as already being in CR, so she would only need to stamp back into Panama when she gets back to Paso Canoas
    Clarification on this point...

    In today's world, you are "Stamped Out", so to speak, when you leave Costa Rica. There is no physical stamp placed in your Passport, but the Costa Rican Immigration system does log your exit from CR. The physical stamp is primarily for the benefit of the "Officer on the Street." As far as Costa Rican Immigration is concerned, your "Entry Stamp" or "Landing Permission" is an electronic entry on a computer. The physical stamp is simply a formality. In fact... a few years ago, Costa Rica experimented with computer-generated stamps. It didn't last very long. The government soon said, "Why Bother? We have the person's entire Immigration history recorded in an electronic database." Thus ended the brief life of the computer-generated entry stamp.

    Costa Rica's Immigration system is also integrated with the USA's Immigration system. Technically, a Costa Rican Immigration Officer can access your entire criminal/police record in the USA, right there in the SJO Immigration area. However, the laws addressing the use of this data have not yet been fully implemented. We are in the process of finalizing the legal procedures and international rules regarding the use of this data, and hope to have Costa Rica participating in the Trusted Traveler/Global Entry program by the end of 2017.

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