The importance of documentation

To guarantee the legal protection of refugees and people applying for refugee status in Costa Rica, there are two types of identification documents provided by the Directorate General of Migration and Immigration (DGME):
1. Provisional document for applicants of refugee status.
2. Refugee identity card.

They are both personal documents, meaning that everyone should have one, regardless of age. It is your responsibility to carry this document with you at all times.

Provisional document for refugee status applicants

When you begin the process of applying for refugee status, the DGME will give you a provisional document that legalizes your stay in the country. With this document you cannot be deported to your country and you have the right to access services (health, banking, education, housing, and more) and to move about freely.

If the authorities take longer than the three months established in the Migration Law to issue a resolution, the applicant may request a work permit. This document is the following:


Applicants may go through different phases in the process of determining refugee status, since they may appeal if their application is rejected. Because of this, the entire evaluation process for determining refugee status can last several months or years (the specific time can vary from case to case). During the time the complete evaluation process takes, you may renew your document from the DGME and your work permit.

Normally the provisional identification cards issued by the DGME are valid for 6 months. To renew this document, go to the Department of Refugees of the DGME. Renewal is free and the process is very simple. If you are recognized as a refugee, your document will continue to have the same twelve-digit number.

Refugee document

If you are recognized as a refugee, you will be provided with an identification document called DIMEX, which stands for “Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros” (“Migratory Identity Document for Foreigners”). Sometimes people think that the DIMEX is only for permanent residents, but it is actually the document that the DGME issues to different migration categories, including refugees. The DIMEX, regardless of the migration category, has certain security characteristics, including a twelve-digit identification number, the photograph and signature of the cardholder, an ultraviolet printing of the Coat of Arms of Costa Rica, among others.

For confidentiality reasons, the document you carry as a refugee does not list your migration status as “refugee”, but rather as “special category” (“categoría especial”) or “temporary resident” (“residente temporal”). Here are examples of both:


As you can see, below where it says “special category” or “temporary resident”, “free condition” (“libre condición”) is specified, meaning that refugees possess the same rights and duties as permanent residents. This document is valid for two years.

This document costs $68 US dollars. In order to renew it you must be enrolled in the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS). To renew it, ask for an appointment at the Bank of Costa Rica by calling 900-00-DIMEX.