Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Costa Rica Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise increased caution in Costa Rica due to crime.
Country Summary: While petty crime is the predominant threat for tourists in Costa Rica, violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault, occurs in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government provides additional security resources in areas frequented by tourists.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Costa Rica.
If you decide to travel to Costa Rica:
The Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption, which entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, requires that all adoptions between the United States and Hague Partner countries have certain safeguards that ensure the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Every step of The Hague Adoption process was developed to address past abuses. The Costa Rican Central Authority for the Hague Convention in respect to Intercountry adoption is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI). PANI is the Costa Rican child welfare authority. PANI will not accept private-direct-adoptions. There are no exceptions to this rule. Private adoptions are those that are not handled by the Costa Rican Council on Adoptions (PANI), but are arranged by an attorney and approved by a judge. There have been allegations of fraud in connection with private adoptions, and the Costa Rican National Council on adoptions strongly discourages them.
All international adoptions in Costa Rica should go through PANI. PANI prohibits adoption of children less than five years of age, except in cases in which the child is part of a family group, or in cases where the child may have disabilities that will cause difficulties in placing the child. Another important requirement is the post-adoption reporting that the adoptive parents need to send to the country of origin of the children. PANI is very strict with this requirement and they require a post-adoption report for a period of two years, every six months. U.S. adoption providers and adoptive parents must comply with this requisite
Costa Rica is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore all adoptions between Costa Rica and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law implementing the Convention.
In order for an adoption application to meet the requirements of the Hague, a U.S. consular officer must review the case file and issue an "Article 5 Letter" to PANI before an adoption or grant of legal custody takes place. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents are cautioned to carefully follow in order the steps outlined in the "How to Adopt" Section below.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Costa Rica, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
Adoption between the United States and Costa Rica is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Costa Rica, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Costa Rica also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
While in Costa Rica, the adopting parents need to take the following steps to satisfy local adoption requirements:
Because Costa Rica is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Costa Rica must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Costa Rica attempt to place a child with a family in Costa Rica before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Costa Rican requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention Adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Costa Rican Adoption Authority
The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI), the Costa Rican child welfare authority, oversees adoptions of abandoned orphans who are in public institution.
Because Costa Rica is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Costa Rica must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600a with Costa Rica before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Costa Rica generally includes the following:
PANI must also authorize the child to leave the country. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, must complete the adoption process in Costa Rica and the adoption must be formally registered in the civil registry before the Costa Rican authorities will grant permission for the child to leave the country. Because of Costa Rican government concerns about child smuggling and the need for follow-up in the adoption process, permission is rarely granted for a child to leave Costa Rica in the custody of a prospective adoptive parent for the purpose of being finally adopted in another country.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from Costa Rica include official fees for an adoption which are set at a minimum of $250, and represent the total court costs when an adoption is processed through PANI. Payments to parents or guardians are illegal under Costa Rican law and prospective adoptive parents who make such payments could be subject to investigation and possible prosecution. American adoptive parents may want to notify the Embassy and the Department of State if they feel they are being charged excessive fees.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Learn how.
What Documents to Bring with You to U.S. Embassy Consular Section:
Note: Since each case is different, it is possible that the Embassy will require additional documents after a preliminary review of the application of the prospective adoptive parent(s). Generally, however, the following documentation is required:
The child must be present at the U.S. Embassy for the immigrant visa interview.
Note About Additional Documentation Requirements: Since each case is different, it is possible that the Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary review of the application of the prospective adoptive parent(s). For example, if the minor has a physical or mental disability and only one adoptive parent (in the case of married couples) is present abroad, a notarized statement will be required from the absent prospective adoptive parent in the United States indicating that s/he is fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in spite of that fact that s/he has the intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-800 and also in the home study if more convenient. In the latter case, a separate notarized statement will not be required.
Note: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.
CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s admission into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including that the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Costa Rica. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print; all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Costa Rica, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Costa Rica, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done Online
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica
US Embassy San Jose,
APO AA 34020
Tel: (506) 2519- 2466
Fax: (506) 2220-2455
Costa Rican Adoption Authority
Patronato Nacional de La Infancia
P.O. Box 5000-1000
San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 25230794
Fax: (506) 25230895
Embassy of Costa Rica
2112- S Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 234-2945/46
Fax: (202) 265-4795
Internet: Http://Www.Costarica-Embassy. Org/
Costa Rica also has consulates in: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Juan, San Francisco, and Tampa
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or a Form I-800 petition:
USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax: 1- 913-214-5808
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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