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How to authenticate documents from Canada

A bit of background — I’m a Canadian with an approved residency application, which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Johanna of Costa Rica Immigration Experts. It turns out my file was buried deep in the catacombs gathering cobwebs. Just asking about the status of my file did nothing to change its fate. CRIE was able to get immigration to dig the file out of its bureaucratic grave and see the light.

So last month, I returned to Vancouver to get documents from Canada, this time for my upcoming citizenship application. The requirements are the same as an immigration application. The birth certificate wasn’t required, as TSE (the agency that handles naturalizations) can pull the info from immigration. But the criminal record check has to be recent (within the last 3 months), so I went ahead with both documents.

Canada is not a party to the Apostille Convention. All official documents from Canada must be legalized by the embassy of Costa Rica in Canada before use in Costa Rica. When I applied for residency back in 2012, things were a bit simpler, but recently you have no choice but to get Global Affairs Canada involved in the process.

Let’s run through the steps to get your Canadian birth certificate and criminal record check for Costa Rican residency or citizenship. This is valid and current as of this writing, in April 2015 (with some updates made in July 2018). Please refer to the original source documents, which I will link to within this article. I am not a lawyer, so please do your homework.

Step 1. Get Birth Certificate

First, your original Birth Certificate may work only if it’s a long-form Birth Certificate (with your parents’ names). Global Affairs only authenticates signatures of current officials (such as the presiding Registrar General who signed your birth certificate).

Ordering a birth certificate differs depending on the province you were born in. In my case, I was born in Québec, so it was a simple application through the Directeur de l’état civil. Be sure to order the long form with the names of the father and the mother on it!

Step 2. Get Criminal Record Check

Get a criminal record check from the RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. You can get another police certificate from a local RCMP detachment or police department. Still, it will need to be notarized before sending to Global Affairs to authenticate the Canadian notary’s signature. Save yourself the trouble and get the record check from RCMP HQ.

You can use an RCMP-accredited company to get your criminal record check. I have used and recommended the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, which has offices throughout Canada. If you can’t make the trip to Canada, contact them anyway — they have ways of digitizing an ink fingerprint submission. Be sure to order the fingerprint-based criminal record check from RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

Step 3. Prepare the package for the Embassy of Costa Rica in Ottawa

Pay the consular fees (the $40 USD per document — so, $80 USD for birth certificate and police record) to the Embassy of Costa Rica, Consular Services via a deposit to their Bank of Montreal bank account (see Legalization of Documents).

Include an addressed, pre-paid envelope for the Embassy to return your legalized documents. They prefer couriers (FedEx, UPS, DHL), and you can address it to Costa Rica.

Step 4. Send the entire package to Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa

Send the whole package to Global Affairs in Ottawa for authentication of documents from Canada. They will authenticate the relevant documents free of charge and deliver the package to the Embassy of Costa Rica in Ottawa, also free of charge.

Your package should contain the following:
– Authentication Request Form, detailing which documents to authenticate (birth cert & police cert) and instructions to forward to the Embassy of Costa Rica.
– Birth certificate (original) and Criminal Record Check from RCMP HQ in Ottawa (original)
– Cover letter for Embassy of Costa Rica, explaining which documents to legalize.
– Receipt of deposit of $80 USD to Embassy of Costa Rica.
– Pre-paid envelope to get the documents back.

Step 5. Legalize Documents in Costa Rica

Once your documents from Canada are in Costa Rica, you’ll need to legalize the signatures of the Embassy officials at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in downtown San José. CRIE will assist you in legalizing it for an additional fee.

Step 6. Translate to Spanish

Since documents from Canada are not in Spanish, you’ll need to have them translated. The translation needs to be complete and literal. It should be done in Costa Rica ONLY by an official translator. CRIE will help you with the translation as well.

CRIE can help guide you through this process of getting your documents from Canada, especially with the parts that are in Costa Rica (authentication at Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores and the official translation) through their services. I highly recommend using them to avoid wasting time — a solid year in my case.

Need Residency status in Costa Rica? – Contact CRIE now!


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. This is some really good information about getting documents. I liked what you said about how in some cases you need to get a birth certificate issued in the past six months for things. That wasn’t something I was aware of when it comes to using birth certificates.

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