Before applying for Costa Rican residency, you will need to obtain and authenticate all of the requirement documents. You can do most of it before moving to Costa Rica. As of 2012, documents that originate from countries participating in the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents can now be apostilled for use in Costa Rica. This means that U.S. citizens (but not Canadians since Canada does not participate) who have had their documents approved by the Secretary of State are no longer required to send their documents through the Costa Rican Consulate or Minister of Foreign Relations for authentication.
Here is a list of the documents you’ll need. You
- Birth Certificate: You must provide a certified copy of your own birth certificate and the birth certificates of your dependents.
- Marriage Certificate: If you are married and your spouse will be applying with you as well then you will also have to provide a certified copy of a marriage certificate.
- Proof of Income: If your source of income is a government pension then obtain a letter from your government certifying the income (US citizens on Social Security can obtain this letter from the United States Embassy Consular Section in Costa Rica). If the income is from a Bank or Financial Institution then that institution must issue the letter.
- Police Certificate of Good Conduct: This certification is obtained from the police department where you last resided. Note: we have heard that some U.S. residency applicants have been required to obtain reports from the FBI. While that was not our experience, we want to mention it as a possibility.
- Note: Your certified documents are only valid for 6 months from the dates they are issued. If any of your documents expire while you are pulling them together and getting them apostilled or authenticated, you will have to obtain new ones. If a document expires after you have submitted it to immigration and they have not processed your application, you will NOT have to submit another one.
- Finger Prints for Interpol Background Check: Finger prints will be taken at the Ministry of Public Security in Costa Rica and the prints will be checked by Interpol. You must take at least 2 photographs facing front and 2 facing to the side.
- Photographs: The application requires photographs during the various stages of processing, and it is recommended that you take at least 4 photographs facing the front.
- Photocopy of Your Entire Passport: You will need to provide a complete copy of every single page of your passport, from front cover to back, with your application. You will also require a very clear copy of the immigration stamp showing when and where you entered the country.
- Translation of Documents: Once you have compiled all of your documentation, all documents which are in English must be translated into Spanish. This procedure can generally be handled by the Attorney you have retained to process your application.
- Power of Attorney for Representation: If you have hired an attorney or organization to process your application, you will need to give that person or organization a Power of Attorney to act on your behalf before the Department of Immigration.
- Background Information Sheet (Hoja de Filiacion): This form requests the personal background information of the applicant and must be attached to the application.
- Proof of Registration With Your Local Embassy: Your local Embassy in Costa Rica must provide you with a letter or certificate indicating that you have registered with them. This was not a requirement at the time we applied in December of 2014; however, we have heard that it is now a pre-requisite to the approval of immigration residency status in Costa Rica.
All documents that are issued in your country of origin such as your birth certificate, police certificate, marriage certificate etc. must go through the document legalization and authentication process. This means that the documents you use for the residency process must first be obtained from your vital records office and then certified by your local authenticating government agency. In the United States that would be the Secretary of State of the state where the document was issued. Canadian documents can be legalized at the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Office. European documents must be legalized by the Foreign Relations office of the country where they were issued. If your country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents then you can skip the Costa Rican Embassy / Consular authentication step.
Once you have all of the documentation described above, you are ready to submit your application to the Department of Immigration through the Costa Rican Consulate in your country of origin. Generally the Department of Immigration will only receive applications that are accompanied by ALL of the supporting documentation. Keep in mind that all of the original documents that you submit become the exclusive property of the Department of Immigration and will NOT be returned to you.