By Allan Wall, September 2, 2020
Costa Rica is a Central American country located between Nicaragua on the north and Panama on its southeast.
The country is known for its prosperity, stability, and democracy. Its 2018 inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (HDI), at 0.639, is the highest in Central America.
(Full Disclosure: Costa Rica is also the homeland of the parents of Izzy Lyman, US INC’s fearless Executive Director.)
Regarding tourism, Costa Rica is Central America’s most-visited country. American tourists form the largest contingent. In 2018, one and a quarter million Americans visited Costa Rica. Some Americans liked Costa Rica so much that they took up permanent residence there. The country has an estimated 70,000 American residents.
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Costa Rican government decided not to take chances, and closed down its borders to Americans and other foreigners entering the country. The goal was to protect the Ticos from the coronavirus which had gotten started in the U.S. before it did in Latin America.
This was a big hit for the country, as tourism is an important part of its economy.
The government deemed a shutdown necessary at the time. But it can’t last indefinitely. So they are easing back into allowing foreign tourism.
On August 1st, Costa Rica started accepting Canadians and Europeans from the Schengen zone.
As of September 1st, Costa Rica is letting Americans in again.
But not so fast. It depends on where those Americans are from.
Even the American mainstream media has noticed.
A September 1st article on Jeff Bezos’ website, excuse me, I mean the Washington Post, reported that “In March, Costa Rica imposed strict land and air border closures, effectively shutting U.S. travelers out of the small Central American nation.”
Costa Rica has the right to manage its own immigration policy. I’m sure they love to have American money injected into their country, but back in March, Costa Rica’s leaders deemed it more important to protect its people’s health from coronavirus-infected Americans.
Beginning in waves this September, however, residents of 11 states and D.C. will be allowed to visit Costa Rica once again, with a negative coronavirus test result in hand.
So which states are those?
Beginning Sept. 1, Americans with a valid state ID proving their residency in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, or D.C. can enter Costa Rica under the new terms.
Beginning Sept. 15, Americans with valid state IDs for Colorado, Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania will also be permitted to enter under the new rules.
So why those states?
According to Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura (in office since July 8th of this year), it’s because those states “currently have an epidemiological condition similar or lower levels of contagion to those of Costa Rica.”
But what if travelers from an approved state pass through the airport of an unapproved state? That’s acceptable as long as they don’t leave the airport while waiting for their flight.
Costa Rica appears to be the first destination allowing Americans to visit based on their home state, and the tourism board says the list of authorized regions is being “revised periodically.”
What about private flights from the United States? As of September 1st, they are allowed, as they account for a much lower quantity than airline flights.
But I bet they will be paying attention to all arrivals and modify their policy if necessary.
Tourism Minister Segura says that Costa Rica’s American entry policy could “protect people’s health, and at the same time, the jobs that we hope to recover.”
Imagine that, a government official looking out for the health and well-being of his people.
We ought to respect the right of Costa Rica to manage its immigration system in its own national interest.
In fact, that principle ought to apply to any country, even the U.S.A.!
Allan Wall, a native of Oklahoma, is bilingual (Spanish).
He writes frequently about immigration and Latin America.