What is a border run? by Chris
We had heard about "border runs" from other missionaries that have served in Costa Rica or are currently serving here. I had also read some info online that other folks have posted about "border runs" ahead of having to actually do one myself. Jack, Michael, and I came to Costa Rica ahead of Karen and Anna. Karen and Anna stayed in Puerto Rico to wrap up our mission site in Aguada and help Katelyn get settled into her place in San Juan near her school, University of the Sacred Heart, or Sagrado Corazon in Spanish. Jack, Michael, and I arrived in Costa Rica on the fifth of November, 2021. If you add 90 days to that date in Google (much faster than counting the days on a calendar) you get February 3, 2022. Costa Rica welcomes people for tourism very openly with a 90-day tourist visa. We entered on November 5th with a 90-day tourist visa which meant that we needed to depart by February 3, 2022.
I have been studying up on what is needed to secure a religious resident visa here in Costa Rica. A few other missionaries here are pursuing their religious resident visas and I have been taking notes and plan to do the same thing a little later this year when we can finally assemble all the needed documentation. Once we apply for the religious resident visa, we no longer need to leave the country every 90 days but until we apply for it, we still need to leave and re-enter every 90 days. So, leading up to the 3rd of February, we needed to get PCR Covid tests. We were blessed to learn that there is an approved laboratory nearby and we were able to get the tests done on January 31st and the results came in on February 1st in the morning. I spent the morning getting the other documents required to head to the border. There is a QR code health declaration needed by Costa Rica that I needed to fill out as well as booking flights back to the U.S. (which are fully refundable up to 24 hours from purchase, Thank You, Jesus!). Once all of this was assembled, we hopped in the car and headed up towards the border.
|This is a sign by the side of the road in Los Chiles|
There are 5 approved immigration land crossings in Costa Rica and we happen to live within one hour of one of them, which is in a town called Las Tablillas. This is one of only 2 approved crossings to Nicaragua so we are very fortunate as the other one is about 4 hours away. When we arrived we were surprised to find that it is basically at the end of the highway that we live near. You pass up a rather large town called Los Chiles and it is about 3-4 miles further down the road. There is not much there but a bus stop and a place to pull off the road and to head into the immigration compound. The road is barricaded to prevent cars from crossing. Karen and Anna went with us and stayed in the car to wait for us.
|The boys and I headed across with our passports and paperwork|
The first step is to wash your hands before entering the building. Then we headed in to pay 7,000 colones (about $10 USD) each in exit fees. After paying that, we went to the immigration office to get our passports stamped saying that we are exiting Costa Rica. We then walked out and walked about a quarter of a mile across the border to Nicaragua.
Upon entering, they asked if we had filled out a "solicitude" which was a step I was not aware of. It is basically a "heads up" to Nicaragua saying that we are wanting to come to visit. We were supposed to fill this out online about seven days ahead of time. It was very apparent to the immigration officer that I was not aware of this step. He appeared to be relieved that we spoke Spanish and checked our passports and our Covid tests to see if they were negative. After this, he told us to walk over to the immigration office and they would take care of the next step. When we headed in, the place was pretty deserted but appeared to be very new and very nice. An immigration officer explained that since we did not fill out the solicitude, they would fill it out for us and that we needed to wait about twenty minutes for this to happen.
|Karen took this photo from the car of us walking across the border|
He called me when he was ready for the next step. I had to pay about $20 U.S. dollars total for entry and exit fees and then he gave me a receipt and stamped our passports and we were on our way back to Costa Rica. Upon entering there was a quick health check and then we washed our hands again and went back inside the immigration office to get our passport stamped again. I was asked a few questions and then we received the stamps and were welcomed to Costa Rica again. The whole process took a little more than an hour and the most expensive part was the PCR Covid test. Karen and Anna were surprised at how quick we were back. We drove the hour back to Santa Rosa and the whole process was done and we had another 90 days to stay in Costa Rica.
So, that is what is referred to as a "border run" by folks here in Costa Rica.
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