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What paperwork do I need to move to Costa Rica?

At Costa Rica Immigration Experts, we get a lot of questions, and one of the most frequent is: What paperwork do I need to move to Costa Rica?” Knowing how to get your documents from your home country the right way is crucial. Your birth certificate and criminal record check must meet the requirements of Costa Rica immigration. It’s one thing to get the documents, but it’s another to get them authenticated, apostilled, and translated. Most of the process has to be done in your home country — you can’t do much with your foreign documents in Costa Rica if they are not adequately apostilled or authenticated.

What is the difference between Apostille and Authentication?

Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document for use in another country.

Authentication is a process or action of proving or showing something to be true, genuine, or valid.

All your documents should be either Apostilled or Authenticated (it depends on if your home country is a part of the Apostille Convention or not). For example, Canada is not part of the Apostille Convention, meaning you cannot Apostille your document. Still, you will need to Authenticate it with Global Affairs and certify it with the Embassy of Costa Rica. You can check if your home country is a part of the Apostille Convention or not HERE.

Note: each document should have its own Apostille or Authentication. You cannot Apostille or Authenticate 2 or more documents at once – the Immigration of Costa Rica will NOT accept that!

Important: the translation of ALL your documents should be done ONLY in Costa Rica by an official translator (CRIE provides this service for you).

The process of Apostille or Authentication can be done ONLY in the country where your document was issued. For example, if you were born in Canada, but reside in the USA, means that your Birth Certificate should be Authenticated in Canada, the country where your Birth Certificate was issued. Let’s say you got married in the USA, then your Marriage Certificate should be Apostilled in the USA.

The Immigration of Costa Rica accepts the originals only*. All your documents (except for your Birth Certificate, which is valid for life) AND all their Apostilles or Authentications should be not older than 6 months from the date of issue.

* Remember: the Immigration of Costa Rica will keep all your original documents. So if you need your documents with you as well – request more while ordering them.

Birth Certificate

If you were born in the USA, your birth certificate should be from the state where you were born. Each state has its own Vital Records office, typically run by the state’s Department of Public Health. You MUST have a LONG FORM certified copy of your birth record, and it must include your parents’ names, or Costa Rica Immigration will NOT accept it. Some states will let you order an Apostilled birth certificate. Otherwise, you will need to send the birth certificate to the corresponding authority (typically your state’s Secretary of State) to be Apostilled. Your original birth certificate may or may not be able to be Apostilled by your state if it’s too old. In this case, we suggest you order a new certified copy of your birth record (for example, Virginia, Oregon, or Colorado).

Example: Illinois
If you were born in Illinois, you’d need to obtain a copy of your birth certificate from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Once you receive the birth certificate, you will need to have it apostilled by the Secretary of State’s Index Department. The birth certificate is now ready to bring to Costa Rica to be translated locally.


Criminal Record Check

The second document to obtain is your criminal record check. Costa Rica Immigration requires ONLY your federal record from the FBI, not a criminal record check from local municipal or county police stations. You can request a Criminal Record Check from the FBI directly, but it is much easier and faster to use an FBI-approved channeler for this service:
The Channeler will be able to take your fingerprints on-site, or you can obtain and fill out a fingerprint card at your local police station.

You MUST ask for an AUTHENTICATED response from the FBI, or else the U.S. Department of State will NOT accept it for an apostille. We suggest using National Background Check, Inc. for this purpose since they provide authenticated criminal record checks that can be apostilled.

Once you’ve received your criminal record check from the FBI, you’ll need to have it apostilled by the U.S. Department of State. You can send it directly to them for processing, but it is well worth using a local agent to handle your Apostille on your behalf, such as US Legalization. Once you’ve received the apostilled criminal record check, it is now ready to bring to Costa Rica to be translated.

For Canada – RCMP Police Checks are required (not local Police).


Marriage Certificate

Costa Rica Immigration requires 1 original recent Marriage Certificate per couple. This document should be Apostilled or Authenticated in the country where it was issued. Make sure you have your valid Marriage Certificate and its Apostille (not older than 6 months).


At CRIE (Costa Rica Immigration Experts), we can help you by providing the service of having your FBI Background Check requested and Apostilled in the USA.


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. We are applying for residency in May after the birth of a child here. Can we do fingerprints in Costa Rica and mail them to the US? Or do we need to fly back to the United States to do our fingerprints at a police station in the US? I’m so kicking myself for not doing it while we were there over the holidays. Thanks.

  2. Does the RCMP Police Records needs only the fingerprints, or, also a foto?
    How much are your fees for the fingerprints?

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