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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Health Alert: Costa Rica, Plans for Gradual Reopening

Event: IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING MINISTRY OF HEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT ON GRADUAL REOPENING AND REPATRIATION FLIGHTS TO THE UNITED STATES.  PLEASE READ ENTIRE MESSAGE CAREFULLY.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has announced a plan for a gradual reopening.  Beginning on May 16, Costa Rica will further ease Coronavirus restrictions and allow limited visitations at beaches and national parks.  Current border restrictions prohibiting foreigners from entering Costa Rica continue through June 15.  Vehicle restrictions will also remain in place, but with vehicles now allowed to circulate until 10 pm during the week.  An English language summary of this announcement can be found by following this link.  Tourists who entered Costa Rica after December 17 have been granted an extension of stay until July 17.  Driving privileges for tourists who entered Costa Rica after December 17 have also been extended until July 17.  An English language summary of this announcement can be found by following this link.

The U.S. Embassy in San Jose and the U.S. State Department have coordinated with United Airlines to offer additional commercial repatriation flights from Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica to Houston, Texas (IAH) on Friday May 15 and Monday May 18.  These flights will depart SJO at 12:00 pm and arrive at IAH at 4:46 pm.  These flights are open to public booking; you are encouraged to book ASAP as seats are limited.  Please visit www.united.com for further information regarding availability.

Payment and booking will be done directly with United Airlines at www.united.com. The cost of the flight will be based on the passenger’s final destination.  This price is set by United Airlines.  Passengers can purchase a one-way ticket or round trip.

Passengers wishing to book connecting flights from Houston to other destinations in the United States or beyond should do so independently through United or other airlines.  The U.S. Embassy is not able to assist with arranging onward travel from Houston.  Policies regarding luggage allowances and seating arrangements will be managed by United Airlines.  For additional questions regarding this flight or airline requirements, please contact United Airlines at www.united.com.

Passengers traveling with pets and Emotional Support or Service Animals will need to consult with United Airlines regarding additional fees and space availability.  United Airlines does not allow pets to travel as cargo.  Proper documentation and veterinary certificates will be required.  Find more details when making your booking or by visiting this link.  For more information on requirements for pets to enter the United States, please click on this link.

Health regulations for boarding these flights will be managed according to Costa Rican Ministry of Health guidelines.  At this time that includes medical personnel monitoring passenger lines for people with COVID 19 symptoms, and asking passengers with symptoms to self-identify.  Health regulations for arrival at Houston’s IAH airport are managed by the airport and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) under guidance from CDC and state health officials.  At this time there are no specific measures in place at IAH.  Check with the airport and CBP websites for updates at https://www.fly2houston.com/iah/overview/ and https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/coronavirus.

All passengers will be subject to Costa Rica immigration and customs laws and Airline policies.  The U.S. Embassy is not able to intervene if people are stopped for violations or do not meet airline regulations.  U.S. Citizens must have valid passports to enter the United States.  If you do not have a valid U.S. passport, please email ACSsanjose@state.gov immediately to apply for an Emergency Passport.  Foreign national passengers must possess an official travel document from their country of nationality and permission to approach a United States port of entry such as a legal permanent resident card, U.S. visa, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) pre-approval.  For more information on U.S. entry follow this link:  https://www.cbp.gov/travel.

For information on requesting an emergency visa application appointment call 4000-1976, or visit: www.ustraveldocs.com/cr/cr-niv-expeditedappointment.asp. Note that foreign nationals seeking visas must qualify for a nonimmigrant visa under applicable laws, and that per U.S. Presidential Proclamation, most foreign nationals who have been in areas of highest COVID-19 incidence within the past 14 days must be refused embarkation to the United States. See complete details at www.ustraveldocs.com/cr.  The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor traffic and travel restrictions associated with COVID-19 preventative measures.  Please be sure you are enrolled in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html to receive the latest updates.  You can also find updated information on the U.S. Embassy website at https://cr.usembassy.gov/.

Please be aware that foreigners will not be allowed to enter Costa Rica until after current border restrictions are lifted.  People with residency status who depart Costa Rica at this time will not be allowed to re-enter Costa Rica using their residency status until the emergency period is lifted by the Government of Costa Rica.

You can email any additional questions you may have to ACSSANJOSE@state.gov.  We will respond to your email as quickly as possible.

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