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International Parental Child Abduction

English

Country Information

Costa Rica

Country Information

Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica
Last Updated: November 4, 2015
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Embassy Messages
Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

Length of stay

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

1 page per entry stamp

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

Not required for stays less than 90 days, but return ticket required

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

10,000 USD  

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

10,000 USD  

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San José

Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica

Telephone: +(506) 2519-2000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(506) 2220-3127

Fax: +(506) 2220-2455

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Destination Description

See our Fact Sheet on Costa Rica for information on U.S. – Costa Rica relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Requirements for Entry:

  • Passport valid for duration of stay. Immigration may deny entry if passport is damaged.
  • Return ticket or proof of onward travel to another country.
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa. 
  • Proof of funds for at least $100 USD per month of proposed stay.

Tourist stays up to 90-Days: Authorities may permit stays up to 90 days without a visa, but are not required to do so. Be sure to leave before the 90 days are up; otherwise, you may face departure delays, deportation, fines, and/or be denied entry to Costa Rica in the future.  

See the Embassy of Costa Rica’s website for the most current visa information.

Exit tax: Check with your airline to see if the $29 USD exit tax was included in the  cost of the ticket. For more information, visit the Costa Rican Immigration Agency website. 

Children with Costa Rican citizenship: All children born in Costa Rica acquire Costa Rican citizenship at birth and must have an exit permit issued by immigration authorities in order to depart the country.  This is strictly enforced.  

Unless traveling with both parents, children with Costa Rican citizenship must have legal documentation demonstrating parental consent in order to leave the country. Parents of minors with Costa Rican citizenship should consult with Costa Rican immigration authorities prior to travel to Costa Rica.  

Indebtedness: If you owe money in Costa Rica, authorities may prevent  you from leaving. This includes unsettled injury claims from vehicular accidents and unpaid medical bills U.S. citizens owing child support may be required to pay 13 months of support in advance before being allowed to leave Costa Rica.

Documentation Requirements: Carry copies of identification and immigration status at all times. During routine checks for illegal immigrants, authorities may ask to see the original passport and papers. 

Local authorities have the right to detain U.S. citizens until their identity and immigration status have been verified.

HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Costa Rica.

Find information on dual nationality,  prevention of international child abduction, and customs information on our websites.

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Safety and Security

For safety and security messages, see  Embassy San Jose’s website.

Crime: Crime has increased in recent years and remains a significant concern. Petty theft is the most common crime targeting tourists. Be mindful of your surroundings and keep valuables out of sight in cars.  See the  2017 OSAC Annual Crime Report for an overview of crime in Costa Rica. 

Domestic Violence: Contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.

Students and Volunteers: Violent assaults, rapes, and deaths have occurred involving students and volunteers. Ensure that your organization provides safety and security information on the area where you will stay. See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Victims of Crime: Contact local police at 911. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur in Costa Rica.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can assist victims of crime. Contact us at 2519-2000 or from the U.S. at 011-506-2519-2000, or by email to: acssanjose@state.gov

We can:

  • Replace a lost or stolen passport.
  • Help you find medical care.
  • Put you in contact with the police.
  • Contact family or friends with your consent.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.

A police report with a case number is necessary for case follow up, insurance claims, and waiving of rebooking fees on certain airlines. Check with airlines regarding their rebooking policies.

To file police reports: Contact the Investigative Police Unit (Organismo de Investigación Judicial , OIJ) at 800-800-3000. The Tourist Police can also take reports at the following tourist destinations:

  • Tamarindo
  • Flamingo
  • Puerto Viejo
  • Guiones, Dominical
  • El Coco

To register complaints: Contact Costa Rica’s Tourism Commission  or by phone at 800-TURISMO from Costa Rica or 011-506-2299-5800 from the U.S. Email: contactenos@ict.go.cr

Potential for Natural Disasters: Costa Rica is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.  

  • Two volcanoes near San Jose and one in the northwest have become more active in recent months. Ashfall due to volcanic eruptions can disrupt air traffic.
  • Tsunamis may occur following significant earthquakes. 
  • Flooding occurs annually in the Caribbean Province of Limon and the Pacific Province of Puntarena. 
  • Flash floods and severe landslides occur in many parts of Costa Rica, depending on the time of year and rainfall. 

For information concerning disasters, see: 

Civil Disturbances: Demonstrations are generally peaceful. Foreigners are prohibited from participating and may be subject to detention or deportation.   

Beach Conditions: Many beaches have dangerous currents or rip tides with neither lifeguards nor warning signs. Exercise extreme caution when swimming in the ocean. 

Hiking: First responders have limited ability to locate missing persons in remote areas. 

To hike in national parks, you must:

  • Register with the park
  • Obtain an entry permit
  • Be accompanied by authorized guides in some cases. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has contact information for licensed tour operators.

For further information:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you break local laws in Costa Rica, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.

Alcohol/Drugs: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe, including long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Prostitution/Sex Tourism: Although legal, local law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another person. Local laws regarding human trafficking and child exploitation carry extremely harsh penalties, including large fines and significant jail time.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

The law permits pre-trial detention of persons accused of serious crimes. Defendants have the right to a public defender and an official translator for important hearings.

Judicial Process: Due to case backlogs, judicial processes can take years to complete, and civil suits on average take over five years to resolve. Some U.S. firms and citizens have satisfactorily resolved their cases through the courts, while others have seen proceedings drawn out over a decade without a final ruling. 

Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Costa Rica. The LGBTI community is protected by anti-discrimination laws.  See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Accessibility and accommodation is limited. Many buildings remain inaccessible and the Costa Rican Ombudsman’s Office has received several noncompliance reports regarding accessibility or malfunctioning of hydraulic wheelchair lifts for public transportation. 

Students: For periods of study under 90 days, no visa is required if you have a round-trip ticket.  Most Costa Rican educational institutions assist individuals planning to study longer than three months to obtain a student visa. Verify requirements with the nearest Costa Rican embassy or consulate and with your airline.  

Real Estate: Be extremely cautious when making real estate purchases or investments, consult with reputable legal counsel, and thoroughly review the contract. There is little the U.S. Embassy can do to assist U.S. citizens who enter into land or business disputes; you must be prepared to take your case to the local courts.

Please note civil archives recording land titles are at times incomplete or contradictory. Coastal land within 50 meters of the high tide line is open to the public and therefore closed to development. The next 150 meters inland (“Maritime Zone”) cannot be owned by foreign nationals. Land in this zone is administered by the local municipality. Expropriation of private land by the Costa Rican government without compensation considered adequate or prompt has hurt some U.S. investors. 

Property owners are encouraged to maintain security and access controls on any private property. Organized squatter groups have invaded properties, taking advantage of legal provisions that allow people without land to gain title to unused property. Victims of squatters have reported threats, harassment, and violence. 

Check the Embassy’s website for a list of local lawyers. Please review the Investment Climate Statement for Costa Rica on the State Department’s website.

Women Travelers: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page.

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Health

Medical care in San Jose is generally adequate, but services can be limited in areas outside of San Jose. In more remote areas, basic medical equipment may not be available.  Ambulances may lack emergency equipment.

Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are available; however, some U.S. citizens travel regularly to the United States to fill prescriptions that are unavailable locally. Bring a supply of your medications and carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. 

The U.S. Embassy does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

Many health care providers and hospitals expect cash payment upon delivery of health service. Costa Rican immigration authorities reserve the right to prevent departure of those international travelers with unpaid or disputed medical bills. U.S. Embassy San Jose maintains a list of local doctors and medical facilities.

The following diseases are found in Costa Rica:

  • Zika virus
  • Dengue
  • Chikungunya
  • Malaria

Vaccinations: Proof of yellow fever vaccination must be presented upon arrival for all passengers coming from certain countries in South America or Africa.  Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical Tourism: Confirm that:

  • Facilities and professionals are accredited, with an acceptable level of care
  • Your insurance will cover any associated or emergency costs
  • You understand the terms of  payment and costs for treatment

For clinics offering alternative medical treatments , thoroughly research these clinics and their providers. The Embassy has received reports of hospitalizations as a result of clients at so-called wellness centers undergoing medically unverified “alternative treatments.”

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation in the event of unforeseen medical complications. An air ambulance flight can cost $25,000 to $50,000 USD and will often take place only after payment has been received in full.  

Further health information:

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Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Roads are often in poor condition, lack clearly marked lanes, have narrow shoulders, and large potholes. Signage can be inadequate. Visibility at intersections is often limited by hedges or other obstacles. 

Main highways and principal roads in the major cities are paved, but some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not. Many destinations are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance. 

Landslides are common during the rainy season. When staying outside of urban areas, call ahead to hotels regarding  the current status of access roads. 

Avoid driving at night outside urban areas.   

Expect traffic jams around San Jose.

Motorcyclists often drive without respect to rules of the road, passing on the right, or weaving in and out without warning. Buses and cars frequently stop in travel lanes, even on expressways. 

Bridges: Bridges, even on heavily traveled roads, may be only a single lane. Rural roads sometimes lack bridges, compelling motorists to ford waterways. Exercise extreme caution in driving across moving water, as the riverbed may not be stable and even a few inches of water may be sufficient to float your vehicle.

Traffic Laws: Drivers will need a valid passport and valid U.S. driver’s license or an international driving permit. 

Fines for routine traffic violations can be upwards of $500 USD. 

Laws and speed limits are often ignored, turn signals are rarely used, passing on dangerous stretches of highway is common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way. 

In the event of a traffic accident, do not move the vehicle. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved. Drivers using rental cars should clarify their company’s policy in the event of accidents. Rental companies may levy additional charges on drivers for failing to file a report. 

There is a high fatality rate for pedestrians and those riding bicycles or motorcycles. In the eventof a traffic fatality, a judge must arrive at the scene to pronounce a person dead, which could take several hours.  If there is an ongoing investigation of a vehicular accident resulting in death or injuries, you may not be allowed to leave the country for several months.

Unpaid traffic tickets: U.S. citizens have occasionally reported to the Embassy that charges for unpaid traffic tickets have appeared on the credit card that was on file with the rental car company. The Embassy cannot intervene in such cases.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Costa Rica’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San José

Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica

Telephone: +(506) 2519-2000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(506) 2220-3127

Fax: +(506) 2220-2455

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General Information

Costa Rica and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since January 1, 2008.

For information concerning travel to Costa Rica, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Costa Rica.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Costa Rica.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.

Contact information:

U.S. Department of State 
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's Issues
CA/OCS/CI 
SA-17, 9th Floor 
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website:  travel.state.gov

The Costa Rican Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI).  PANI's role is to perform the duties given to central authorities under the Hague Abduction Convention, including processing Hague Abduction Convention applications for return of and access to children.  They can be reached at:

Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI)
Apartado Postal 5000-1000
SAN JOSÉ
Costa Rica
Telephone: +506-2523-0736 or -0714
Fax: +506 2258 1494
Email

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Costa Rica, the left-behind parent must submit a Hague application to PANI.  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the PANI, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or Costa Rican central authorities.  Attorney fees, if necessary, are the sole responsibility of the person hiring the attorney.  Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Costa Rica.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Costa Rica.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to file Hague Convention applications with courts in Costa Rica. However, parents should consider hiring a private attorney to follow up on cases, directly provide information to courts, and generally advise courses of action appropriate for their individual circumstances. A privately-hired attorney should contact PANI as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed. If a parent chooses not to hire a private attorney, the court will appoint a legal representative for the left-behind parent. PANI represents the child in a Hague case. In this role, PANI presents the case in the appropriate court in the context of the Hague Convention, and, through the USCA, facilitates communication between the left-behind parent and the court regarding the case.

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica posts a list of attorneys, including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney.The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

PANI, Costa Rica's Central Authority, often attempts to mediate between parties in abduction cases prior to the commencement of Hague proceedings. 

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.  For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

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.

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Who Can Adopt

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:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Costa Rican law requires that, at the initial stage of the adoption process, both prospective adoptive parents must be in Costa Rica to sign the official consent documents before the Costa Rican court. In the case of adoption by a single prospective adoptive parent, that individual must be present to sign the documents. At least 30 days should be allowed for this initial trip. At the end of the process, one of the adoptive parents, or the sole parent if it is a single-parent adoption, must be in Costa Rica to finish the paperwork for the adoption, obtain a travel document for the child, and complete immigration procedures at the U.S. Embassy. Since the length of time for the entire adoption process may vary (from eight months to a year), many prospective adoptive parents make two trips to Costa Rica; others prefer to remain in Costa Rica for the entire process.

    While in Costa Rica, the adopting parents need to take the following steps to satisfy local adoption requirements:

    • Meet the child;
    • Give formal consent for the adoption at the court;
    • Obtain a decree of abandonment;
    • Obtain a certified copy of the final adoption decree from the court;
    • Register the adoption at the local Civil Registry;
    • Obtain a birth certificate from the Civil Registry with the new name of the child;
    • Obtain PANI authorization for the child to leave the country;
    • Obtain a Costa Rican passport for the child.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age and under 60 years of age. 
  • MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Costa Rican law permits adoption by married and single persons. A foreign couple must have been married for at least five years.
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Who Can Be Adopted

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.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

  • ABANDONMENT/RELINQUISHMENT REQUIREMENTS: Under Costa Rican law, adopted children do not need to be orphans (both birth parents deceased). They must, however, be abandoned or irrevocably surrendered for adoption. Abandoned children may be living in a government facility, in a private orphanage or foster home or in the custody of a relative or friend. Children may also remain in the custody of a biological parent prior to formal relinquishment of custody before a judge.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: In foreign adoptions overseen by PANI, current Costa Rican law prohibits adoption of children less than four years of age, except in cases in which the child is part of a family group, or is difficult to place.
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How to Adopt

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.


The Process

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.

  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the Child in Costa Rica
  6. Bring your Child Home
  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:

    The first step in adopting a child from Costa Rica is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited not only in the United States but also in Costa Rica. The accreditation of agencies in Costa Rica is done by the Costa Rican Central Authority, PANI. Prospective adoptive parent(s) seeking to adopt in Costa Rica need(s) to check with the Costa Rican Central Authority to find a current list of these agencies, You can find PANI's contact information at the end of this document. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Costa Rica. Learn more.


  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

    After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.

    Once the U.S. Government determines that you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Costa Rica. Costa Rica's adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Costa Rican law.
  3. Be Matched with a Child:

    If both the United States and Costa Rica determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Costa Rica may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

    After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.

    After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Costa Rican adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

    Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

  5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Costa Rica:

    Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Costa Rica, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Costa Rica.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Costa Rica generally includes the following:

    • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: PANI contacts a prospective adoptive family when PANI identifies a child for adoption, even calling collect if authorized by the family or through the adoption facilitator that is handling the case. Pictures and related information about the child will be sent by airmail. (Note that there is a backlog in pending cases.)

    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.

    • ROLE OF THE COURT: The court reviews the qualifications of the prospective adoptive parents, with PANI playing a consultative role.
    • TIME FRAME: An adoption in Costa Rica generally takes from eight to twelve months from the time a decree of abandonment has been issued or an official request for adoption of a specific child is placed before the court.
    • ADOPTION FEES: The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, "donations," or "expediting" fees, that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of "buying" a baby and put all future adoptions in Costa Rica at risk.

    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.

    • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documentation is normally required:
      • Certified and authenticated copies of the adoptive parent(s)' birth certificate(s);
      • Certified and authenticated copy of the adoptive parent(s)' marriage certificate (if applicable) and proof of termination of any previous marriages (certified copy of spouse's death certificate or divorce decree);
      • Medical certificate(s) for adoptive parent(s) notarized. The certificate must be authenticated by the Costa Rican Embassy in the U.S. and translated into Spanish.
      • A certificate of good conduct/no criminal record for each adoptive parent from a local police department, notarized or bearing police department seal and authenticated. An FBI report is acceptable in lieu of local police record. This is separate from the FBI check conducted by USCIS as part of the petition process;
      • Verification of employment and salary, notarized and authenticated;
      • Two letters of reference notarized and authenticated;
      • A certified and authenticated copy of property trusts deeds, if applicable;
      • A home study prepared by an authorized and licensed social agency, certified and authenticated, may be required in some cases by the Costa Rican authorities if necessary information was not included on the USCIS (I-800A).
      • Bank statements, notarized/certified and authenticated;
      • Family letter of intent to adopt, which states any general preferences requested by the family, i.e. a certain age, sex, etc. notarized and authenticated.

    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.

  6. Bring Your Child Home 

    Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
    • Birth Certificate
      You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate as well as the new name of your child. You can obtain this birth certificate from the Civil Registry.
    • Costa Rican Passport
      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Costa Rica.
    • U.S. Immigrant Visa
      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Learn more.

    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:

    • Certified copy of child's original birth certificate issued by the civil registry showing biological parent(s) names.
    • If birth father, mother or both are deceased, certified copy of death certificate(s) issued by civil registry.
    • If either or both parents are alive, Relinquishment of parental rights executed before appropriate Costa Rican authority or a decree of abandonment.
    • Certified copy of Costa Rican final adoption decree, including a copy of the home study done on the child.
    • Certified copy of the new birth certificate from the Costa Rican Civil Registry showing names of adoptive parent(s).
    • Valid Costa Rican passport for the child in his/her new name.
    • One photograph of the child. (Instructions will be given)
    • Proof of adoptive parents' current employment or self-employment,
    • For IH4 cases only- proof of adoptive parents' Individual Income Tax Returns for last year.
    • Medical examination (according to Embassy instructions). If the minor has a physical or mental disability, a notarized statement will be required from the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States indicating that they are fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in spite of that fact that they have 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 that case a separate notarized statement will not be 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: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.

    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.

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Traveling Abroad

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

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After Adoption

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:

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Contact Information

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
Internet: https://cr.usembassy.gov/embassy/sanjose/

Costa Rican Adoption Authority
Patronato Nacional de La Infancia
P.O. Box 5000-1000
San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 25230794
Fax: (506) 25230895
Email: Paniadop@Racsa.Co.Cr

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  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel: 1-888-407-4747
E-mail: AskCI@State.Gov
Internet: Adoptions.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)

1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
 
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 48 Months
A-2 None Multiple 48 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 12 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 60 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 60 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 60 Months
E-1 2 None Multiple 60 Months
E-2 2 None Multiple 60 Months
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 48 Months
G-2 None Multiple 48 Months
G-3 None Multiple 48 Months
G-4 None Multiple 48 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 12 Months
H-1B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 60 Months
L-2 None Multiple 60 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 48 Months
N-9 None Multiple 48 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 60 Months
R-2 None Multiple 60 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Not Applicable.

 

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth
 

Available

Fees:  There may be a fee for this service.

Document Name:  Birth Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request a birth certificate.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents:  Births prior to January 01, 1888 may be evidenced by a baptismal certificate (Fe de Bautismo) issued by an ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Exceptions: If a birth subsequent to that date is found not to be recorded in the Civil Registry, it may usually be recorded therein on the basis of a certification from the civil or ecclesiastical authorities of the place of birth.

This certificate, consisting of a full copy of the entry in the registry, is typed on fiscal paper, headed by the name and title of the issuing official, and bears a revenue stamp.  Also valid is a certified copy of the microfilmed entry in the Civil Registry, as long as the Civil Registrar's official stamp is placed on the back.

Comments:  Birth records are routinely changed in the case of adoptions to read in the names of the adoptive parents. A birth certificate of an adopted child cannot be distinguished from that of a natural child.

A literal birth certificate (certificado de nacimiento literal) is required for applicants who are beneficiaries of petitions based on a parental relationship or sibling relationship, and for any derivative child. For example, if a child in the United States petitioned for his parents to immigrate, and vice versa. The literal birth certificate shows the registration of the date of the birth, change of names, and acknowledgement of the child by his/her parent(s). The literal birth certificate is issued by the Civil Registry in San Jose. At the time they request this document, applicants must inform to the Civil Registry that they require the literal birth certificate.
 

Death/Burial
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Death Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants needing copies of death certificates must go in person to the Civil Registry to request the document.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Abbreviated forms of death certificates (Constancia de Defuncion) are also available.

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Not Applicable

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Marriage Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request their  marriage certificate

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions:  Not Applicable

Comments: The document “Declaración de Matrimonio”, as well as marriage documents from a notary are not acceptable.
 

Divorce Certificates
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Divorce Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have the stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request the divorce certificate.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Please note that divorce decrees from the Juzgado (court) or from a notary are not acceptable.

Adoption Certificates

Adoption
 

Available

Fees:  A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Adoption Decree

Issuing Authority: R Court

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The adoption decree must have the stamp of the Court on each page of the document.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Court to request the adoption decree.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Not Applicable

 

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Identity Card

Unavailable.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police Certificates
 

Available

Fees:  A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Certificado de antecedentes penales para trámites internacionales

Issuing Authority: Judicial Registry in San José

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:  The document must have the raised seal from the Judicial Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: The Costa Rican police certificate is issued to applicants who are 18 years of age or older.

Procedure for Obtaining:  The document may only be requested by the applicant. The address of the Judicial Registry is the following: Edificio Anexo A, Poder Judicial, primer piso, avenida 6, calle 19, costado norte del OIJ. Days and hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 7:30a.m. to 12:00p.m. and from 1:00p.m. to 4:30p.m.

Certified Copies Available:  Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments:  The Costa Rican police certificate is generally issued the same day it is requested and has a validity of three months. Applicants residing abroad should contact the nearest Costa Rican Consulate to request a police certificate.
 

Court / Prison Records

Unavailable.

Military Records

Unavailable.

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Unavailable.

Other Records

Legitimation Certificates

Available from the Civil Registry. A fee may be charged for this service.

Records regarding "Recognition."

Available from the Civil Registry. A fee may be charged for this service. Under Costa Rican law, "recognition" of a natural child, while not constituting legitimation, confers most rights of legitimation, such as name, support, and inheritance. 

Certificate of Naturalization

Certificates showing that an individual has opted for Costa Rican citizenship and certificates of naturalization (Carta de Naturalizacion) are available from Registro Civil, Seccion de Opciones y Naturalizaciones. There may be a fee for this service. Replacement naturalization certificates cannot be obtained. If it is lost, a certificate will be issued verifying the naturalization. There may be a fee for this service.

 

 

Visa Issuing Posts

San Jose, Costa Rica (Embassy)

Consular Section
Unit 2501
APO AA 34020

 

Visa Services

All visa categories for all of Costa Rica.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 499-2991 (202) 265-4795

Atlanta, GA (770) 951-7025 (770) 951-7027 (770) 797-7700

Houston, TX (713) 266-0484 (713) 266-1527

Los Angeles, CA (213) 380-7915 (213) 380-6031 (213) 380-5639

Miami, FL (305) 871-7485 (305) 423-3952 (305) 423-3951 (305) 423-3954 (786) 522-0119

New York, NY (212) 509-3066/3067 (212) 509-3068

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy San José
Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica
Telephone
+(506) 2519-2000
Emergency
+(506) 2220-3127
Fax
+(506) 2220-2455
Costa Rica Country Map

Learn about your destination
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

Country Information

Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica
Last Updated: November 4, 2015
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Embassy Messages
Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

Length of stay

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

1 page per entry stamp

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

Not required for stays less than 90 days, but return ticket required

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

10,000 USD  

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

10,000 USD  

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San José

Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica

Telephone: +(506) 2519-2000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(506) 2220-3127

Fax: +(506) 2220-2455

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Destination Description

See our Fact Sheet on Costa Rica for information on U.S. – Costa Rica relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Requirements for Entry:

  • Passport valid for duration of stay. Immigration may deny entry if passport is damaged.
  • Return ticket or proof of onward travel to another country.
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa. 
  • Proof of funds for at least $100 USD per month of proposed stay.

Tourist stays up to 90-Days: Authorities may permit stays up to 90 days without a visa, but are not required to do so. Be sure to leave before the 90 days are up; otherwise, you may face departure delays, deportation, fines, and/or be denied entry to Costa Rica in the future.  

See the Embassy of Costa Rica’s website for the most current visa information.

Exit tax: Check with your airline to see if the $29 USD exit tax was included in the  cost of the ticket. For more information, visit the Costa Rican Immigration Agency website. 

Children with Costa Rican citizenship: All children born in Costa Rica acquire Costa Rican citizenship at birth and must have an exit permit issued by immigration authorities in order to depart the country.  This is strictly enforced.  

Unless traveling with both parents, children with Costa Rican citizenship must have legal documentation demonstrating parental consent in order to leave the country. Parents of minors with Costa Rican citizenship should consult with Costa Rican immigration authorities prior to travel to Costa Rica.  

Indebtedness: If you owe money in Costa Rica, authorities may prevent  you from leaving. This includes unsettled injury claims from vehicular accidents and unpaid medical bills U.S. citizens owing child support may be required to pay 13 months of support in advance before being allowed to leave Costa Rica.

Documentation Requirements: Carry copies of identification and immigration status at all times. During routine checks for illegal immigrants, authorities may ask to see the original passport and papers. 

Local authorities have the right to detain U.S. citizens until their identity and immigration status have been verified.

HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Costa Rica.

Find information on dual nationality,  prevention of international child abduction, and customs information on our websites.

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Safety and Security

For safety and security messages, see  Embassy San Jose’s website.

Crime: Crime has increased in recent years and remains a significant concern. Petty theft is the most common crime targeting tourists. Be mindful of your surroundings and keep valuables out of sight in cars.  See the  2017 OSAC Annual Crime Report for an overview of crime in Costa Rica. 

Domestic Violence: Contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.

Students and Volunteers: Violent assaults, rapes, and deaths have occurred involving students and volunteers. Ensure that your organization provides safety and security information on the area where you will stay. See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Victims of Crime: Contact local police at 911. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur in Costa Rica.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can assist victims of crime. Contact us at 2519-2000 or from the U.S. at 011-506-2519-2000, or by email to: acssanjose@state.gov

We can:

  • Replace a lost or stolen passport.
  • Help you find medical care.
  • Put you in contact with the police.
  • Contact family or friends with your consent.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.

A police report with a case number is necessary for case follow up, insurance claims, and waiving of rebooking fees on certain airlines. Check with airlines regarding their rebooking policies.

To file police reports: Contact the Investigative Police Unit (Organismo de Investigación Judicial , OIJ) at 800-800-3000. The Tourist Police can also take reports at the following tourist destinations:

  • Tamarindo
  • Flamingo
  • Puerto Viejo
  • Guiones, Dominical
  • El Coco

To register complaints: Contact Costa Rica’s Tourism Commission  or by phone at 800-TURISMO from Costa Rica or 011-506-2299-5800 from the U.S. Email: contactenos@ict.go.cr

Potential for Natural Disasters: Costa Rica is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.  

  • Two volcanoes near San Jose and one in the northwest have become more active in recent months. Ashfall due to volcanic eruptions can disrupt air traffic.
  • Tsunamis may occur following significant earthquakes. 
  • Flooding occurs annually in the Caribbean Province of Limon and the Pacific Province of Puntarena. 
  • Flash floods and severe landslides occur in many parts of Costa Rica, depending on the time of year and rainfall. 

For information concerning disasters, see: 

Civil Disturbances: Demonstrations are generally peaceful. Foreigners are prohibited from participating and may be subject to detention or deportation.   

Beach Conditions: Many beaches have dangerous currents or rip tides with neither lifeguards nor warning signs. Exercise extreme caution when swimming in the ocean. 

Hiking: First responders have limited ability to locate missing persons in remote areas. 

To hike in national parks, you must:

  • Register with the park
  • Obtain an entry permit
  • Be accompanied by authorized guides in some cases. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has contact information for licensed tour operators.

For further information:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you break local laws in Costa Rica, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.

Alcohol/Drugs: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe, including long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Prostitution/Sex Tourism: Although legal, local law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another person. Local laws regarding human trafficking and child exploitation carry extremely harsh penalties, including large fines and significant jail time.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

The law permits pre-trial detention of persons accused of serious crimes. Defendants have the right to a public defender and an official translator for important hearings.

Judicial Process: Due to case backlogs, judicial processes can take years to complete, and civil suits on average take over five years to resolve. Some U.S. firms and citizens have satisfactorily resolved their cases through the courts, while others have seen proceedings drawn out over a decade without a final ruling. 

Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Costa Rica. The LGBTI community is protected by anti-discrimination laws.  See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Accessibility and accommodation is limited. Many buildings remain inaccessible and the Costa Rican Ombudsman’s Office has received several noncompliance reports regarding accessibility or malfunctioning of hydraulic wheelchair lifts for public transportation. 

Students: For periods of study under 90 days, no visa is required if you have a round-trip ticket.  Most Costa Rican educational institutions assist individuals planning to study longer than three months to obtain a student visa. Verify requirements with the nearest Costa Rican embassy or consulate and with your airline.  

Real Estate: Be extremely cautious when making real estate purchases or investments, consult with reputable legal counsel, and thoroughly review the contract. There is little the U.S. Embassy can do to assist U.S. citizens who enter into land or business disputes; you must be prepared to take your case to the local courts.

Please note civil archives recording land titles are at times incomplete or contradictory. Coastal land within 50 meters of the high tide line is open to the public and therefore closed to development. The next 150 meters inland (“Maritime Zone”) cannot be owned by foreign nationals. Land in this zone is administered by the local municipality. Expropriation of private land by the Costa Rican government without compensation considered adequate or prompt has hurt some U.S. investors. 

Property owners are encouraged to maintain security and access controls on any private property. Organized squatter groups have invaded properties, taking advantage of legal provisions that allow people without land to gain title to unused property. Victims of squatters have reported threats, harassment, and violence. 

Check the Embassy’s website for a list of local lawyers. Please review the Investment Climate Statement for Costa Rica on the State Department’s website.

Women Travelers: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page.

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Health

Medical care in San Jose is generally adequate, but services can be limited in areas outside of San Jose. In more remote areas, basic medical equipment may not be available.  Ambulances may lack emergency equipment.

Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are available; however, some U.S. citizens travel regularly to the United States to fill prescriptions that are unavailable locally. Bring a supply of your medications and carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. 

The U.S. Embassy does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

Many health care providers and hospitals expect cash payment upon delivery of health service. Costa Rican immigration authorities reserve the right to prevent departure of those international travelers with unpaid or disputed medical bills. U.S. Embassy San Jose maintains a list of local doctors and medical facilities.

The following diseases are found in Costa Rica:

  • Zika virus
  • Dengue
  • Chikungunya
  • Malaria

Vaccinations: Proof of yellow fever vaccination must be presented upon arrival for all passengers coming from certain countries in South America or Africa.  Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical Tourism: Confirm that:

  • Facilities and professionals are accredited, with an acceptable level of care
  • Your insurance will cover any associated or emergency costs
  • You understand the terms of  payment and costs for treatment

For clinics offering alternative medical treatments , thoroughly research these clinics and their providers. The Embassy has received reports of hospitalizations as a result of clients at so-called wellness centers undergoing medically unverified “alternative treatments.”

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation in the event of unforeseen medical complications. An air ambulance flight can cost $25,000 to $50,000 USD and will often take place only after payment has been received in full.  

Further health information:

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Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Roads are often in poor condition, lack clearly marked lanes, have narrow shoulders, and large potholes. Signage can be inadequate. Visibility at intersections is often limited by hedges or other obstacles. 

Main highways and principal roads in the major cities are paved, but some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not. Many destinations are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance. 

Landslides are common during the rainy season. When staying outside of urban areas, call ahead to hotels regarding  the current status of access roads. 

Avoid driving at night outside urban areas.   

Expect traffic jams around San Jose.

Motorcyclists often drive without respect to rules of the road, passing on the right, or weaving in and out without warning. Buses and cars frequently stop in travel lanes, even on expressways. 

Bridges: Bridges, even on heavily traveled roads, may be only a single lane. Rural roads sometimes lack bridges, compelling motorists to ford waterways. Exercise extreme caution in driving across moving water, as the riverbed may not be stable and even a few inches of water may be sufficient to float your vehicle.

Traffic Laws: Drivers will need a valid passport and valid U.S. driver’s license or an international driving permit. 

Fines for routine traffic violations can be upwards of $500 USD. 

Laws and speed limits are often ignored, turn signals are rarely used, passing on dangerous stretches of highway is common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way. 

In the event of a traffic accident, do not move the vehicle. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved. Drivers using rental cars should clarify their company’s policy in the event of accidents. Rental companies may levy additional charges on drivers for failing to file a report. 

There is a high fatality rate for pedestrians and those riding bicycles or motorcycles. In the eventof a traffic fatality, a judge must arrive at the scene to pronounce a person dead, which could take several hours.  If there is an ongoing investigation of a vehicular accident resulting in death or injuries, you may not be allowed to leave the country for several months.

Unpaid traffic tickets: U.S. citizens have occasionally reported to the Embassy that charges for unpaid traffic tickets have appeared on the credit card that was on file with the rental car company. The Embassy cannot intervene in such cases.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Costa Rica’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy San José

Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica

Telephone: +(506) 2519-2000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(506) 2220-3127

Fax: +(506) 2220-2455

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General Information

Costa Rica and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since January 1, 2008.

For information concerning travel to Costa Rica, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Costa Rica.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Costa Rica.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.

Contact information:

U.S. Department of State 
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's Issues
CA/OCS/CI 
SA-17, 9th Floor 
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website:  travel.state.gov

The Costa Rican Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI).  PANI's role is to perform the duties given to central authorities under the Hague Abduction Convention, including processing Hague Abduction Convention applications for return of and access to children.  They can be reached at:

Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI)
Apartado Postal 5000-1000
SAN JOSÉ
Costa Rica
Telephone: +506-2523-0736 or -0714
Fax: +506 2258 1494
Email

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Costa Rica, the left-behind parent must submit a Hague application to PANI.  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the PANI, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or Costa Rican central authorities.  Attorney fees, if necessary, are the sole responsibility of the person hiring the attorney.  Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Costa Rica.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Costa Rica.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to file Hague Convention applications with courts in Costa Rica. However, parents should consider hiring a private attorney to follow up on cases, directly provide information to courts, and generally advise courses of action appropriate for their individual circumstances. A privately-hired attorney should contact PANI as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed. If a parent chooses not to hire a private attorney, the court will appoint a legal representative for the left-behind parent. PANI represents the child in a Hague case. In this role, PANI presents the case in the appropriate court in the context of the Hague Convention, and, through the USCA, facilitates communication between the left-behind parent and the court regarding the case.

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica posts a list of attorneys, including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney.The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

PANI, Costa Rica's Central Authority, often attempts to mediate between parties in abduction cases prior to the commencement of Hague proceedings. 

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.  For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

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.

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Who Can Adopt

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:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Costa Rican law requires that, at the initial stage of the adoption process, both prospective adoptive parents must be in Costa Rica to sign the official consent documents before the Costa Rican court. In the case of adoption by a single prospective adoptive parent, that individual must be present to sign the documents. At least 30 days should be allowed for this initial trip. At the end of the process, one of the adoptive parents, or the sole parent if it is a single-parent adoption, must be in Costa Rica to finish the paperwork for the adoption, obtain a travel document for the child, and complete immigration procedures at the U.S. Embassy. Since the length of time for the entire adoption process may vary (from eight months to a year), many prospective adoptive parents make two trips to Costa Rica; others prefer to remain in Costa Rica for the entire process.

    While in Costa Rica, the adopting parents need to take the following steps to satisfy local adoption requirements:

    • Meet the child;
    • Give formal consent for the adoption at the court;
    • Obtain a decree of abandonment;
    • Obtain a certified copy of the final adoption decree from the court;
    • Register the adoption at the local Civil Registry;
    • Obtain a birth certificate from the Civil Registry with the new name of the child;
    • Obtain PANI authorization for the child to leave the country;
    • Obtain a Costa Rican passport for the child.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age and under 60 years of age. 
  • MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Costa Rican law permits adoption by married and single persons. A foreign couple must have been married for at least five years.
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Who Can Be Adopted

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.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

  • ABANDONMENT/RELINQUISHMENT REQUIREMENTS: Under Costa Rican law, adopted children do not need to be orphans (both birth parents deceased). They must, however, be abandoned or irrevocably surrendered for adoption. Abandoned children may be living in a government facility, in a private orphanage or foster home or in the custody of a relative or friend. Children may also remain in the custody of a biological parent prior to formal relinquishment of custody before a judge.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: In foreign adoptions overseen by PANI, current Costa Rican law prohibits adoption of children less than four years of age, except in cases in which the child is part of a family group, or is difficult to place.
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How to Adopt

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.


The Process

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.

  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the Child in Costa Rica
  6. Bring your Child Home
  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:

    The first step in adopting a child from Costa Rica is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited not only in the United States but also in Costa Rica. The accreditation of agencies in Costa Rica is done by the Costa Rican Central Authority, PANI. Prospective adoptive parent(s) seeking to adopt in Costa Rica need(s) to check with the Costa Rican Central Authority to find a current list of these agencies, You can find PANI's contact information at the end of this document. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Costa Rica. Learn more.


  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

    After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.

    Once the U.S. Government determines that you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Costa Rica. Costa Rica's adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Costa Rican law.
  3. Be Matched with a Child:

    If both the United States and Costa Rica determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Costa Rica may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

    After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.

    After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Costa Rican adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

    Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

  5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Costa Rica:

    Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Costa Rica, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Costa Rica.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Costa Rica generally includes the following:

    • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: PANI contacts a prospective adoptive family when PANI identifies a child for adoption, even calling collect if authorized by the family or through the adoption facilitator that is handling the case. Pictures and related information about the child will be sent by airmail. (Note that there is a backlog in pending cases.)

    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.

    • ROLE OF THE COURT: The court reviews the qualifications of the prospective adoptive parents, with PANI playing a consultative role.
    • TIME FRAME: An adoption in Costa Rica generally takes from eight to twelve months from the time a decree of abandonment has been issued or an official request for adoption of a specific child is placed before the court.
    • ADOPTION FEES: The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, "donations," or "expediting" fees, that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of "buying" a baby and put all future adoptions in Costa Rica at risk.

    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.

    • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documentation is normally required:
      • Certified and authenticated copies of the adoptive parent(s)' birth certificate(s);
      • Certified and authenticated copy of the adoptive parent(s)' marriage certificate (if applicable) and proof of termination of any previous marriages (certified copy of spouse's death certificate or divorce decree);
      • Medical certificate(s) for adoptive parent(s) notarized. The certificate must be authenticated by the Costa Rican Embassy in the U.S. and translated into Spanish.
      • A certificate of good conduct/no criminal record for each adoptive parent from a local police department, notarized or bearing police department seal and authenticated. An FBI report is acceptable in lieu of local police record. This is separate from the FBI check conducted by USCIS as part of the petition process;
      • Verification of employment and salary, notarized and authenticated;
      • Two letters of reference notarized and authenticated;
      • A certified and authenticated copy of property trusts deeds, if applicable;
      • A home study prepared by an authorized and licensed social agency, certified and authenticated, may be required in some cases by the Costa Rican authorities if necessary information was not included on the USCIS (I-800A).
      • Bank statements, notarized/certified and authenticated;
      • Family letter of intent to adopt, which states any general preferences requested by the family, i.e. a certain age, sex, etc. notarized and authenticated.

    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.

  6. Bring Your Child Home 

    Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
    • Birth Certificate
      You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate as well as the new name of your child. You can obtain this birth certificate from the Civil Registry.
    • Costa Rican Passport
      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Costa Rica.
    • U.S. Immigrant Visa
      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Learn more.

    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:

    • Certified copy of child's original birth certificate issued by the civil registry showing biological parent(s) names.
    • If birth father, mother or both are deceased, certified copy of death certificate(s) issued by civil registry.
    • If either or both parents are alive, Relinquishment of parental rights executed before appropriate Costa Rican authority or a decree of abandonment.
    • Certified copy of Costa Rican final adoption decree, including a copy of the home study done on the child.
    • Certified copy of the new birth certificate from the Costa Rican Civil Registry showing names of adoptive parent(s).
    • Valid Costa Rican passport for the child in his/her new name.
    • One photograph of the child. (Instructions will be given)
    • Proof of adoptive parents' current employment or self-employment,
    • For IH4 cases only- proof of adoptive parents' Individual Income Tax Returns for last year.
    • Medical examination (according to Embassy instructions). If the minor has a physical or mental disability, a notarized statement will be required from the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States indicating that they are fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in spite of that fact that they have 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 that case a separate notarized statement will not be 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: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.

    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.

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Traveling Abroad

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

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After Adoption

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:

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Contact Information

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
Internet: https://cr.usembassy.gov/embassy/sanjose/

Costa Rican Adoption Authority
Patronato Nacional de La Infancia
P.O. Box 5000-1000
San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 25230794
Fax: (506) 25230895
Email: Paniadop@Racsa.Co.Cr

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  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel: 1-888-407-4747
E-mail: AskCI@State.Gov
Internet: Adoptions.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)

1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
 
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 48 Months
A-2 None Multiple 48 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 12 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 60 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 60 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 60 Months
E-1 2 None Multiple 60 Months
E-2 2 None Multiple 60 Months
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 48 Months
G-2 None Multiple 48 Months
G-3 None Multiple 48 Months
G-4 None Multiple 48 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 12 Months
H-1B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 60 Months
L-2 None Multiple 60 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 48 Months
N-9 None Multiple 48 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 60 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 60 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 60 Months
R-2 None Multiple 60 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Not Applicable.

 

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth
 

Available

Fees:  There may be a fee for this service.

Document Name:  Birth Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request a birth certificate.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents:  Births prior to January 01, 1888 may be evidenced by a baptismal certificate (Fe de Bautismo) issued by an ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Exceptions: If a birth subsequent to that date is found not to be recorded in the Civil Registry, it may usually be recorded therein on the basis of a certification from the civil or ecclesiastical authorities of the place of birth.

This certificate, consisting of a full copy of the entry in the registry, is typed on fiscal paper, headed by the name and title of the issuing official, and bears a revenue stamp.  Also valid is a certified copy of the microfilmed entry in the Civil Registry, as long as the Civil Registrar's official stamp is placed on the back.

Comments:  Birth records are routinely changed in the case of adoptions to read in the names of the adoptive parents. A birth certificate of an adopted child cannot be distinguished from that of a natural child.

A literal birth certificate (certificado de nacimiento literal) is required for applicants who are beneficiaries of petitions based on a parental relationship or sibling relationship, and for any derivative child. For example, if a child in the United States petitioned for his parents to immigrate, and vice versa. The literal birth certificate shows the registration of the date of the birth, change of names, and acknowledgement of the child by his/her parent(s). The literal birth certificate is issued by the Civil Registry in San Jose. At the time they request this document, applicants must inform to the Civil Registry that they require the literal birth certificate.
 

Death/Burial
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Death Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants needing copies of death certificates must go in person to the Civil Registry to request the document.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Abbreviated forms of death certificates (Constancia de Defuncion) are also available.

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Not Applicable

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Marriage Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request their  marriage certificate

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions:  Not Applicable

Comments: The document “Declaración de Matrimonio”, as well as marriage documents from a notary are not acceptable.
 

Divorce Certificates
 

Available

Fees: A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Divorce Certificate

Issuing Authority: Registro Civil

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The documents must have the stamps from the Civil Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Civil Registry to request the divorce certificate.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Please note that divorce decrees from the Juzgado (court) or from a notary are not acceptable.

Adoption Certificates

Adoption
 

Available

Fees:  A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Adoption Decree

Issuing Authority: R Court

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The adoption decree must have the stamp of the Court on each page of the document.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: Not Applicable

Procedure for Obtaining:  Applicants must go in person to the Court to request the adoption decree.

Certified Copies Available: Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments: Not Applicable

 

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Identity Card

Unavailable.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police Certificates
 

Available

Fees:  A fee may be charged for this service.

Document Name:  Certificado de antecedentes penales para trámites internacionales

Issuing Authority: Judicial Registry in San José

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:  The document must have the raised seal from the Judicial Registry.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Not Applicable

Registration Criteria: The Costa Rican police certificate is issued to applicants who are 18 years of age or older.

Procedure for Obtaining:  The document may only be requested by the applicant. The address of the Judicial Registry is the following: Edificio Anexo A, Poder Judicial, primer piso, avenida 6, calle 19, costado norte del OIJ. Days and hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 7:30a.m. to 12:00p.m. and from 1:00p.m. to 4:30p.m.

Certified Copies Available:  Yes

Alternate Documents: Not Applicable

Exceptions: Not Applicable

Comments:  The Costa Rican police certificate is generally issued the same day it is requested and has a validity of three months. Applicants residing abroad should contact the nearest Costa Rican Consulate to request a police certificate.
 

Court / Prison Records

Unavailable.

Military Records

Unavailable.

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Unavailable.

Other Records

Legitimation Certificates

Available from the Civil Registry. A fee may be charged for this service.

Records regarding "Recognition."

Available from the Civil Registry. A fee may be charged for this service. Under Costa Rican law, "recognition" of a natural child, while not constituting legitimation, confers most rights of legitimation, such as name, support, and inheritance. 

Certificate of Naturalization

Certificates showing that an individual has opted for Costa Rican citizenship and certificates of naturalization (Carta de Naturalizacion) are available from Registro Civil, Seccion de Opciones y Naturalizaciones. There may be a fee for this service. Replacement naturalization certificates cannot be obtained. If it is lost, a certificate will be issued verifying the naturalization. There may be a fee for this service.

 

 

Visa Issuing Posts

San Jose, Costa Rica (Embassy)

Consular Section
Unit 2501
APO AA 34020

 

Visa Services

All visa categories for all of Costa Rica.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 499-2991 (202) 265-4795

Atlanta, GA (770) 951-7025 (770) 951-7027 (770) 797-7700

Houston, TX (713) 266-0484 (713) 266-1527

Los Angeles, CA (213) 380-7915 (213) 380-6031 (213) 380-5639

Miami, FL (305) 871-7485 (305) 423-3952 (305) 423-3951 (305) 423-3954 (786) 522-0119

New York, NY (212) 509-3066/3067 (212) 509-3068

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy San José
Calle 98, Via 104
Pavas
San José, Costa Rica
Telephone
+(506) 2519-2000
Emergency
+(506) 2220-3127
Fax
+(506) 2220-2455
Costa Rica Country Map

Learn about a country
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.