10 February 2016

The Great Atenas Wed-In

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever envision being the wedding planner for more than 70 couples!

This all started as a way to work around the discriminatory practices of CAJA (Costa Rica's socialized medical system) toward foreign residents. First of all, it important to state that all resident expats are required by law to belong to the CAJA and pay a monthly affiliation fee. Every time an expat couple has to renew their residency, they also have renew their affiliation with the CAJA, and the dependent spouse has to prove once again they are still married. The proof has to be in the form and a new certified copy of the original Marriage Certificate and this certificate has to be sent to the Secretary of State where they were married to obtain the Apostille guaranteeing it's authenticity. When the certificate is presented as proof, it can't be more than 30 days since it's certification. This is very difficult for U.S. Citizens to pull it off in a 30 day window, and it is almost impossible for many expats from other countries around the world. The cost of this document and courier fees could easily exceed $100 USD,

Citizens of Costa Rica, also have to prove to the CAJA that they are married and eligible for dependent benefits. The difference for a Costa Rican is that they can order a certified copy of their marriage certificate online, and then they can pick it up at a convenient government office for the cost of about $0.10 USD.

So, it was time to find a permanent solution to this problem. We contacted an attorney here that has always been an advocate for the expat community. He researched the problem and confirmed the discriminatory practices. He agreed to accept the case pro bono, and he will be filing law suits with the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court to get the CAJA policy changed for the expats' benefit.

But before we can get a ruling, we decided to go ahead and re-marry each other so we can get the marriage registered here in Costa Rica's national registry. We had no idea when we invited a few friends to join us in renewing our vows, that so many couples would jump on this bandwagon. We now have more than 70 couples registered to get re-married in our Central Park, this Sunday, St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 2016.

If you're not doing anything, come out to the park and watch. It promises to be an historic event with a party at our place afterward.


  1. Hi, Pat. Unfortunately we didn't hear about the Wed-In until it hit the news. My husband and I have temporary residency since 2013. Due to a clerical error when issuing the cedula for him, he had to renew last May. I'm due for renewal this June. I am his dependent spouse in the CAJA, so I'm thinking this law will apply to me, but there have been no rumblings about this in Guanacaste where we live. When did this law take effect, please? There are numerous immigration attorneys in Coco but no one has publicized any of this, so we are in a quandary. Any information you can provide would be most welcomed.

    1. Arlene, contact www.outlierlegal.com I hear they may be planning another wedding event.