October 5th, 2012 – There has been a lot of confusion amongst the expat community this week regarding changes implemented by the banks here, which now require foreigners to have a “mysterious” card called DIMEX. The fact is, if you have a cedula, you probably already have one.
Take a look at your cedula. First, your cedula should have 12 digits. If you have 12 digits exactly, you’re off to a great start.
Now, look at the bottom of your cedula. If it reads Documento de Identidad Migratoria para Extranjeros – congratulations, you have a DIMEX card.
So, why the uproar? Well, a few reasons. Some failed reporting by other media outlets caused quite a bit of confusion, leading people to believe this was either a “new” or “additional” card or document. The fact is, all of the cedulas issued in at least the 2 years, or perhaps longer, are likely “DIMEX” cedulas. DIMEX is the acronym for the words you (hopefully) see at the bottom of your cedula: Documento de Identidad Migratoria para Extranjeros. The only other requirement is that the cedula number is exactly 12 digits – some older ones were longer.
What is being phased out, and which few of you probably have, are some older forms of residency permits that were attached to your passport page or given as a booklet. Some immigrants from neighboring countries still carry some of these, as well as some students and refugees. These are what are being phased out and will no longer be allowed for most banking transactions.
The other reason for the uproar is that this will affect those of you who reside here on “tourist” visas as “perpetual” tourists.
So, lets outline some basic facts:
Now, let’s move on to some more specific concerns.
First, speaking via phone with Inside Costa Rica, a representative of the Central Bank said that the directive issued by the Central Bank to the nation’s commercial banks only requires a DIMEX cedula for SINPE transactions. The Central Bank has issued no other prohibitions on other types of banking transactions for those without DIMEX cedulas, including international wire transfers or other banking business.
However, many banks have now taken their own prerogative to require DIMEX standard cedulas for many other types of banking business – including opening accounts. These are the banks’ own rules, not stipulated by the Central Bank or legislation.
Inside Costa Rica received some reports from readers that they have had bank accounts completely frozen this week because they were unable to provide a DIMEX card (although, perhaps they were confused that the DIMEX card may actually be their cedula).
Inside Costa Rica spoke with a representative of Banco Costa Rica (BCR) this morning, who said in fact they are not freezing any existing bank accounts – even those opened with passports by those without DIMEX cedulas. However, customers wanting to open a new account will now be required to have DIMEX cedulas, and existing customers without DIMEX cedula numbers will no longer be able to perform SINPE transfers.
For those of you who may have already had bank accounts opened under passport numbers or other identity documents, but later received residency and a DIMEX cedula number, you should go to your bank and have the identification number of your account changed to your cedula number.
The regulations are not supposed to affect bank accounts in the names of S.A’s or Limitadas. However, again, individual banks at their discretion may begin to require DIMEX cedulas from those who control company accounts – though it is not stipulated in regulation.
Some banks, may, at their own policy level, decide now or in the near future to begin freezing and/or closing accounts of those who do not have a cedula, such as those residing here on tourist visas and performing their banking using their passports.
So, the bottom line, the most affected group of people will be perpetual tourists. The only forms if identification accepted for SINPE transfers as of October 1st are Costa Rican cedulas, DIMEX cedulas, Cedula Juridicas (S.A.’s) and “DIDI”, which is reserved for diplomats.
Many banks may begin, at their discretion, to require DIMEX-standard cedulas of foreigners for other types of transactions as well, including opening and/or maintaining accounts, although this is not stipulated by the Central Bank.
If you are a legal resident but your cedula isn’t of the DIMEX standard, you may request one at Banco Costa Rica or by calling 900-00-DIMEX. The cost of the call is 300 colones.