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20 years

Cuban man ‘trapped’ in Costa Rica airport for seventh day

Yorvanky Perez de Piña has been living in the Juan Santamaria Airport since last Thursday. (File photo).

Yorvanky Perez de Piña has been living in the Juan Santamaria Airport since last Thursday. (File photo).

May 1st, 2014 ( Today marks the seventh day that a Cuban man has been “trapped” in San José’s Juan Santamaria International Airport.


Yorvanky Perez de Piña, who has been living in Costa Rica since early 2012, arrived at the airport last Thursday from Havana, where he had spent six months caring for his ill mother, but was refused entry into the country, attorney Eduardo Flores told the EFE news agency earlier this week.


Perez has a provisional refugee ID card and a work permit but both are expired, his lawyer said, adding that Perez had never requested permanent residence despite the fact that he has been married to a Costa Rican woman since April 2012.


“I’m not intending to convert his mistakes into rights, but would rather see that the political constitution is respected, his human rights, the right to a family and his marriage,” Flores said.


Last Friday, Flores along with Perez’s Costa Rican wife, filed a writ of habeas corpus aimed at getting his client released, after which the constitutional court ordered authorities to provide Perez with food and facilities for his personal hygiene and to not deport him while the matter is being resolved.


“I have a room, and they take me out for one hour in the morning and one [hour] in the afternoon,” Perez said of his living conditions in the airport.  The airline on which he traveled is reportedly supplying Perez with food.

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  • SirVivor

    Ridiculous! Let him go home to his Costa Rica home while the paperwork is processed.

    • DaveP

      Why, the dummy didn’t even apply for residency. Why reward him for being lazy and stupid?

      • SirVivor

        So fine him, but don’t incarcerate him at public expense for his stupidity.

        • DaveP

          If you show up to Canada or the US with an expired Visa they send you back to where you came from, at your expense. I would think they should be handling it exactly the same here. They also give a huge fine to the airline for letting a person travel to a country with a expired Visa.

          • SirVivor


          • SDPUS

            Who says USA or Canadian policy is the right policy. That is a very ethnocentric view.

          • Ben

            Don´t compare Costa Rica with North America. North America hates Latin America.

    • Ben

      Your right.

  • expatin paradise

    Another case of entry by fraud. He came in as a refugee, but travels freely to and from Cuba? Is his “marriage” similarly fraudulent? Without a visa or current papers, he has no right to be here.

    • disgusted

      You make a good point .. Refugees are afraid to travel where they escaped from. He found a Costarricense for marriage is a short time as well. Still, I would send him to his wife and do the investigation or send him to the retention center to sort this out. Knowing how things work here this will be a long drawn out process anyway or until his money runs out and no attorney. .

      • expatin paradise

        Or he could return to Cuba while they sort things out – unless he’s too afraid.

        The “refugee” status is just another way of accessing a better living standard. If he were in trouble with the Cuban government, they would have arrested him on his last arrival in Havana – his documents would have been flagged. If the airline let him board in Havana without valid CR documents, he must have Cuban documents that would allow him re-entry there.

  • Ken Morris

    Interestingly strong reactions, especially considering that they come from folks whose countrymen often bend the immigration law for years as “perpetual tourists,” although probably the commentators aren’t of this ilk and in fairness this guy’s story is different.

    We can probably forget the fraudulent marriage charge. Although it is suspicious that he married a tica so quickly, she at least knows him and is involved in his case now. When it’s truly a bogus marriage, the spouses frequently don’t even know each other. Also, we don’t know whether he visited prior to moving here, whether she visited Cuba, etc.

    The relevance of the experation of his ID probably depends upon when it expired. If he really spent six months caring for a sick mother, he may not have expected his departure to continue that long.

    However, the refugee status coupled with the return visit to Cuba does raise more than an eyebrow. You would think that anyone who is a legitimate refugee wouldn’t be able to return home so easily. Yet, his circumstances may have changed in Cuba, and even if he was wrongly granted provisional refugee status, that was a decision made by immigration authorities and not necessarily his fault.

    In all, this is probably why courts exist. Things look pretty fishy, but then again the facts aren’t clear enough for outsiders to know what’s really going on. This is one for the courts.

    • SDPUS

      That is a voice of reason and logic Ken. Nice analysis. I agree, let the facts be brought forward, before hastily jumping to conclusions.

    • Lav

      Not all of us fall into any resident category. I am young (no pension, nor am I retired), I am married to a North American (who works over seas), we have no desire to own a business here, or buy an over priced home. I would never stick any sort of large deposit in a bank here… So that leaves us with perpetual tourism.

      If Costa Rica would make it easier and had a category for people like us (and cheaper CAJA payments for non-permanent under 55′ers) then I would gladly apply for some type of residency. Till that happens I will continue to take my money, and spend it in another country, every 90 days.

      • DaveP

        Ken’s slightly suggested that being a perpetual tourist is slightly outside the law or a grey area, is not correct. Thats the current system and just as long as you leave 90 days you are totally legit regardless of the length of time you do it.

        • Lav

          Well a woman in Liberia was just given a 90 day stamp with the “aduana la anexion bonificado”. She has 90 days to apply for residency or she is done.

          • turbooperator

            Well somebody is confused. Aduanas y migracion are different agencies. All that quote means is that they have used up their import tax exemption for 90 days.

          • DaveP

            Nah, I saw that one on Facebook. She just misunderstood, they gave her a stamp saying she used her 6 month duty free exception. She clearly doesn’t understand spanish very well.

        • Ken Morris

          I beg to differ about perpetual tourism being “totally legit.” Just look up the word “tourist” in a dictionary. No way can the definition be stretched to include residents.

          Where your legal theory is correct is that as long as foreigners continue to receive a visa stamp, they are not illegally in the country during the duration of the visas. When foreigners continue to receive updated visa stamps on time, they continue to be in Costa Rica legally, and it doesn’t matter how many years or decades the process is repeated.

          However, they are legally inside the country as tourists, not residents, and this has ramifications. Specifically, they can be kicked out at any point. There need be no due process and there is no right to appeal. Similarly, the immigration authorities are under no legal obligation to renew a perpetual tourist’s visa, and they sometimes don’t. Thus, it’s not actually a category of legal residency, even though it often operates as one in a de facto manner.

          My guess is that perpetual tourism has arisen largely because immigration has its hands full with more serious issues (like tens of thousands of illegal Nicas and others), there are only perhaps 35,000 or so perpetual tourists, and most of those cause no problems. Thus, even though immigration periodically floats policy reforms that would clarify this gray area (like limiting visa renewals to one), the reforms have yet to be passed. I suspect that the main reason is that it’s a low priority issue.

          However, at the end of the day, tourists are tourists, not residents, and no stretch of the term “tourist” will ever be extensive enough to include “resident.” Perpetual tourism is therefore a gray area and not “totally legit.”

          • DaveP

            Well said, sorry I didn’t mean my last comment to sound rude. I got slightly out of context relative to the article.
            Anyhow, I agree with your response, and hope the next government reforms the process.

          • Ken Morris

            Thanks, amigo. Some people get hotheaded about this issue (both ways). I don’t think I’m one of them and am glad you’re not either.

            I’m betting that the next government will also have bigger fish to fry than this, though it seems to me that the director of migración has some leeway to address this issue. I remain deeply disappointed in Zamora for not having done so, despite some initial forays, and can’t for the life of me understand why he was promoted in the Chinchilla administration after having essentially failed as director of immigration. (And as minister of security, Chinchilla basically gave him a blank check, which anyone could have filled out and done something.)

            One hypothesis is that some perpetual tourists throw around enough money in the right places to prevent any action on this issue. I don’t know this to be true, but if it were it would explain the inaction.

            Anyway, yes, clarity in the law and its application is in everybody’s interest, even the perpetual tourists’. They don’t know when they will be singled out for hassles either.

            Also, like in Lav’s situation, I think there’s a real need to regularize (a better term than legalize perhaps) residents who don’t fit easily into an existing category.

            But I bet the Solís administration has far more pressing things to address. It would be nice though if the new immigration director attended to this.

      • Ken Morris

        IMO, Lav, it is a mistake for Costa Rica immigration not to have residency categories for people like you. To my mind, smart immigration policies would seek to attract the young and able, since these are the very immigrants who make a contribution to the society as well as the ones who are most likely to learn the language and otherwise fit in. Costa Rica’s immigration policies now basically favor the old and the rich (together with the young and the poor, often after they have “anchor babies” here) and I think that’s shortsighted.

        However, the policies are what they are now, and it strikes me as a stretch to argue that you are forced to be a perpetual tourist because there isn’t a category for you. To make this kind of argument, you have to first assume that you have the right to live in a foreign country regardless of whether it wants you, and it’s up to the foreign country to make it easy for you to do so legally. I can think of no theory of the state or human rights document that would substantiate this right.

        I also wonder about your hesitance to deposit money in a local bank. There is, as you allude to, a residency category in which you could qualify, assuming you have the money, namely rentista. My opinion is that the recent increase in the amount required to become a rentista was wrongheaded. Once again, it amounted to Tico lawmakers acting on the belief that foreigners are only good for their money, rather than appreciating that immigrant of more modest but still solvent means often make the greatest contributions (while the wealthy are sometimes just parasites). However, the law is what it is now and Costa Rica had the right to pass it. My concern though would be that if you have the money but simply don’t trust the banks with it, why would you live here in the first place? If faith in the country’s financial sector is your concern, it would seem to me that you’d be better off living in a country where you had more faith. At the same time, I’m not sure that any society benefits from immigrants who are unwilling to shoulder the risks and responsibilities of residency along with enjoying whatever the benefits are that attract them.

        I don’t know your situation and don’t want to come across too strong. There are lots of situations in which IMO perpetual tourism makes temporary sense, and while DaveP is simply wrong about it being totally legit, it’s obviously tolerated and not illegal as long as a foreigner continues to successfully receive the visa stamps, which can happen for many, many years. I also agree that Costa Rica’s failure to have an easier residency category for you is shortsighted. Even so, it is a sovereign country and as such has the right to have whatever immigration laws it wants, even boneheaded ones.

  • Ben

    Costa Rica is at the point of not making any sense. I know people that have waited 3 years for papers to work in country. Now Costa Rica is saying they want families to be divided. I think Costa Rica is going to be like South Africa soon 25% unemployment and more coruption. Good luck to everyone that invests in Costa Rica you might lose everything.

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