Gringa vs. Immigration
One day I received an email from our local program director, telling me I needed to come to the IFSA office because there were some complications with my Immigration process. Two weeks before she had taken all of our passports to begin the immigration business of applying and obtaining our student visas. During one of the informative lectures she had previously given us, she had asked if we all had 90 days on our tourist visa stamp. I had no reason to believe that mine was not the normal 90 days like everyone else’s, so I had said yes. When they took all the passports they realized that mine read only 30 days, and we were now five weeks into the program. So I was essentially an illegal immigrant.
This little problem of mine needed to be corrected right away, so they told me I needed to leave the country the coming weekend, traveling either to Panama or Nicaragua for 72 hours. This would allow my passport to be stamped once again with a tourist visa when I re-entered Costa Rica. Just the weekend before, one of my friends had asked if I wanted to go to Panama with them, but I turned them down because I had not planned on leaving Costa Rica during my study abroad time here; I did not want any extra complications. Out of the whole group I was the only one who did not want to leave Costa Rica at any point, and of course I was the only one being forced to.
In the end the trip became difficult to plan since I would have gone by myself, so I was given an alternative. There was a fine of $100, and then my visa would be back on track. This option was much better for me personally, since the trip to either country would have easily ended up costing more.
Apparently I am the first student in the Costa Rica program to have had this problem, so I would advise paying attention when Customs is stamping one’s passport. A Costa Rican tourist visa could be 15, 30, or 90 days, depending on the whim of the customs official.