Embassy of the United States of America
AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES NEWSLETTER FALL 2013
Welcome Chargé D’Affaires, Gonzalo Gallegos!
We are really offering a welcome-back to Chargé d ’Affaires Gonzalo Gallegos as he begins his second tour in Costa Rica! Chargé Gallegos brings a wealth of experience from Latin America, Europe, the South Central Asia, and Washington D.C. to help lead the U.S. Mission in Costa Rica. He will remain as the U.S.’s top diplomat in Costa Rica until an Ambassador is nominated by President Obama and approved by Congress. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew departed Costa Rica in June of this year.
Residing In Costa Rica
Thinking about staying in Costa Rica long-term? Check out a new section of our website called Residing in Costa Rica. We have included resources and links to pertinent information as you navigate the complicated Costa Rican Residency requirements. To apply for residency in Costa Rica you must demonstrate to the Costa Rican government that you have registered with your own embassy. U.S. citizens can register with the U.S. Embassy through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You can simply print out your profile page and turn it in the immigration office where you are applying. Please note that Costa Rican immigration no longer requires a notarized copy of this enrollment.
Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Abroad?
Have you been wondering how the Affordable Care Act may affect you here in Costa Rica? The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) went into effect October 1st of this year. If you are residing abroad you are not required to get health insurance and you do not have to pay any fees that other uninsured U.S. citizens may have to pay.
FDA Warning: Ortiga Dietary Supplement
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed Ortiga an unsafe dietary supplement. The FDA also determined that Ortiga is actually an illegal and unapproved drug under FDA’s law, due to the presence of a drug ingredient. Although the FDA regulates “dietary supplements”, products such as Ortiga are not subject to the same pre-approval requirements as “drugs.” Essentially these products are regulated similar to foods with no pre-approval, safety, or efficacy evaluations prior to their ability to be sold to consumers. This particular product, like many other dietary supplements, can be purchased over the internet. At the FDA website, you can sign up to receive e-mail alerts about other unsafe products sold as dietary supplements. This link will also allow you to navigate to previous alerts and obtain more information about FDA’s oversight of dietary supplements.
Dengue Fever Epidemic
There have been thousands of reported cases of Dengue Fever this year in Costa Rica. Areas of Guanacaste have been hit the hardest, but cases have been reported in San Jose, Limon, San Carlos, Puntarenas, and other areas throughout Costa Rica. As the rain subsides, eliminate areas of standing water to help reduce mosquito breeding grounds. Old tires and clogged up gutters are particularly vulnerable places that can breed Dengue prone mosquitoes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has more information about what you can do to help rid your living space of the risk of Dengue Fever.
Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)
Under FATCA, U.S. taxpayers with specified foreign financial assets that exceed certain thresholds must report those assets to the IRS. This reporting is made on Form 8938, which taxpayers attach to their individual federal income tax return. To help individuals understand how FATCA may impact their filing and reporting responsibilities, the IRS has redesigned its website and made it easier to navigate. Visit the FATCA main page for individuals for more information on filing your taxes abroad.
ACS In The Field
In August and September, Consular officers traveled to the Limon province to meet with Costa Rican law enforcement and investigation counterparts and U.S. Citizens in the region. Officers gave an overview of visa fraud concerns to help local law enforcement prosecute cases and to help visa applicants avoid getting scammed. The consular officers also met with U.S. Citizens on tourism security and consular services. The outreach included Embassy sponsored Tourism Security expert, Dr. Peter Tarlow, who spoke to government officials and local business owners in Puerto Limon, Puerto Viejo, San Jose, and Jaco.
The Embassy also sponsored Gender Based Violence (GBV) expert, Sonia Parras, on a three day visit to Costa Rica in August. Ms. Parras provided training to the investigators and prosecutors with the OIJ and held press conferences and media interviews to clarify myths surrounding GBV issues.