Step One: Required Documents
Document requirements vary depending on type of Residency Program. The objective of this step is to obtain the necessary documents, required Apostille seals and translation prior to presenting the Residency Application.
Immigration explains requirements on their webpage, however these are at times vague. Free guidance is available at the information window of the immigration office in La Uruca. Unfortunately, the lines are often long, and only Spanish is spoken.
A majority of documents required for a residency application will be obtained from an applicant’s country of origin, along with an Apostille seal. In the United States, this seal usually comes from a Secretary of State at the state level, or in the rare case of federal documents, the U.S. Secretary of State. Going to the federal level by mistake can be time consuming and expensive.
Chain authentication of documents through a local Costa Rica consulate in the United States is no longer require. Instead, the apostille seal became valid in December of 2011.
Documents issued by non-state agencies, such as banks must be notarized and also certified by the court that issues the notary commission. Notary seal is NOT required for government issued documents that can be recognized directly by an agency that issues an apostille.
General Document Requirements
1. Birth Certificate: Official document issued by a government agency which typically has a raised seal. Certificates from hospitals and churches are not valid.
2. Police Clearance: Letter from your home country that certifies no criminal record from your place of legal residence for the last two years.
3. Fingerprints Receipt: Receipt issued by the police in Costa Rica after you submit personally to fingerprinting and background investigation.
4. Current Passport: Your passport must be unexpired and in good condition. Prior to starting the application process you should obtain a new passport, if your current passport will expire while your application is still in process (two years).
The first place to bring documents to Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by an official translator. These steps, along with the presentation of the application to immigration can be handled by an attorney in Costa Rica.
Expect to need professional assistance when applying under any Residency Program that requires a bank transaction such as Rentista or Inversionista. It is more plausible to handle your own residency application if you apply under the Pensionado or Vinculo program.
The Federal Benefits Unit of the United States Embassy in Costa Rica can produce a document that verifies monthly Social Security income.
Documents supporting a family connection to a Costa Rican citizen can usually be obtained at the Civil Registry in San Jose. The process of Recording Marriage usually requires a three month delay before the Marriage Certificate is ready.
Birth certificates for children born in Costa Rica are usually easy to obtain assuming paternity is not in doubt. Problems in this respect usually take years to resolve. Marriages and birth abroad of Costa Rican citizens need to be formalized in Costa Rica with the Civil Registry before they can be used as a basis for a residency application.