Mildred and our Cédulas

November 14, 2011. Six months and ten days after submitting the application for permission to reside in Costa Rica as retired foreign nationals, we received our temporary Costarican identification cards. The actual approval of our application took exactly five month. The intervening weeks were necessary for auxiliary paperwork.


This is a much bigger deal than the words ‘card’ or ‘temporary’ might indicate. First of all, this ID or cédula is a fully laminated, highly official government issue document. It’s not one of those wimpy little cardboard thingy, prone to wrinkle, fade and rip. Rather, it’s equivalent to a German Personalausweis or a Texas driver’s license. A biometrically imprinted, plastic enclosed, stiff and durable identification device with a hologram. A hologram, ok? 


And ‘temporary’ refers to a two-year lifespan, after which we’re required to either renew or ship out. This is a big deal!

Cédula with sleeve cover

It required meticulous preparations and great dedication to detail to assemble all the necessary documents before we returned to Costa Rica earlier this year. Equally as important, it necessitated an intimate knowledge of the bureaucratic ins and outs – and trust me, this beautiful country has plenty of bureaucratic twists and turns – of our immigration lawyer, Abogada y Notaria Mónika Valerio de Ford, who shepherded our journey toward residency status as pensionados, or retired old fogies.


Our trip to the Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía, Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, República de Costa Rica, in San José was the conclusion to several months of preparation and waiting. It will simplify many everyday transactions, where hitherto we would’ve been required to not only show a passport, but hand over a copy of the passport data page. Aside from those practical considerations, our cédulas also changed something more profound for us. We’re no longer mere tourists. We have committed to become part of our community here in Atenas, which makes us very happy and smily.


Part of the process of acquiring residency is mandatory participation in the National Health Care System,  CCSS, usually referred to as CAJA. This card neither possesses a hologram, nor is it laminated. I will have to do that myself soonest – otherwise it’s never going to survive till it’s expiration date in 2016. There is an interesting little tidbit relating to my CAJA card. You might’ve noticed the term ‘voluntario’ in the lower right quadrant. That is our participation ‘category’ within the social security system. It implies that we had a choice about either being part of National Health or receiving medical treatment privately. Well, not really. The voluntary participation is mandated by residency laws and one doesn’t actually have a say in the matter.  The fees, which are graduated according to pension or income, have to stretch to cover everybody seeking treatment, irrespective of their ability to pay. So we hope that our fairly stiff monthly contribution, will help someone who really needs it. Even if we should elect to continue to go to private physicians, CAJA provides great, low cost pharmacy services and the CAJA clinic is located just down the hill from us, a short 3 min. trip in an emergency, can’t beat that!

I’ll leave you with a heartfelt ‘Pura Vida’ and a view over our town of Atenas.

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