In our first two posts on having a baby in Costa Rica, we discussed prenatal care (Part 1) and delivery (Part 2). In this post, we’ll go through the much less exciting, though important, topic of paperwork. It took us a while to figure out exactly how (and where) to get the documents we needed, so we thought we’d share our experience. Below you’ll find information on getting our son Sam’s US citizenship documents and various Costa Rican documents.
US Passport and Certificate of Birth Abroad
A baby born in Costa Rica to at least one US citizen parent is a dual citizen, with citizenship rights to both Costa Rica and the United States. The baby is Costa Rican just by being born on Costa Rican soil. While the baby is also automatically a US citizen, you have to do some paperwork to have this formalized.
It is very important to get a Certificate of Birth Abroad from the US Embassy as proof that your baby is a US citizen. You can get this document, as well as your baby’s first US passport and social security card, from the US Embassy in San Jose. These documents can be obtained at the same time, and we found the process to be very efficient. Be sure to make an appointment in advance on the US Embassy website for Costa Rica. Keep in mind that both parents and the child need to attend the appointment.
The US Embassy website has all the forms you need to fill out, which we recommend doing in advance because they are very detailed. The website also has specific information on the documentation you will need to bring to the appointment. It is a lot of documents so be sure to go through the list carefully to avoid multiple trips to the Embassy. In general, you have to have:
- An original copy of the baby’s birth certificate issued by the Civil Registry (more info on how to get this below)
- A statement from the doctor who attended the birth
- Parents’ marriage certificate, and if either has been married previously, certified copies of documents showing that the prior marriage was terminated. These do not have to be apostilled.
- Proof of parents’ US citizenship (you can use your passport)
- Proof of parents’ physical presence in the US (they liked our school transcripts for this requirement)
- 1 passport-size photo of the baby (can be taken at the US Embassy on the day of your appointment for a small fee).
You’ll bring all of these documents to the appointment and Embassy staff will ask for them, along with your forms, in a certain order. They made copies of all of our documents and gave us back the originals.
Once your application is accepted, you’ll pay the required fees. In about two weeks, you will receive an email saying that the Certificate of Birth Abroad and passport are ready. You have to pick them up in person at the Embassy, but luckily only one parent has to go and you don’t have to bring the baby. They will mail the social security card separately.
Cost: Passport- $105; Certificate of Birth Abroad- $100
Costa Rican Birth Certificate
Getting your baby’s Costa Rican birth certificate is a very straightforward process. You have to file a request online with the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. It doesn’t take long once you make the request, and you can even get it same day if you do it early enough! Here is the link to the website. Just go through the prompts, putting in your child’s name and selecting which Registro Civil office you want to pick up at. We recommend getting at least a few copies since it is inexpensive and you will probably need them for other things, like if you’re applying for residency. When you go to pick up the documents, you’ll have to buy inexpensive timbres (stamps), usually sold right outside the office. These are what make the documents official.
Cost: Just the cost of timbres, about 20 colones per document.
UPDATE: As of November 2016, you can now request digital copies of birth certificates in Costa Rica. We have not tried this yet, but the online process looks fairly straighforward. They come as PDFs sent to your email and you can pay with a credit or debit card. Each copy costs 1,575 colones (about $3). Here is the link to the applicable page of the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones’ website.
Permiso de Salida
Before you can travel out of the country, you’ll need to obtain a permiso de salida (exit permission). This is required for all minor Costa Rican children, both citizens and legal residents. Basically, the point of this process is to prevent kids from being unlawfully taken out of Costa Rica. You will get to decide if only one parent can take the child out, if only both parents can together, or if either parent can alone. We decided on the either of us option for the most flexibility in case only one of us needs to travel with Sam.
The Migracion website has excellent information on the process and what you need for documents. Take a look at the PDFs (all in Spanish but easy to translate). There is a one-page form to fill out and various documents depending on your exact situation. We needed two passport photos of Sam; a photocopy of the first page of everyone’s passport, including Sam’s; Sam’s birth certificate issued by the Civil Registry; and all of our actual passports. If you are getting permissions for more than one child, you will need multiple copies of the parents’ passports so that they have a copy for each child’s file.
The form and documents need to be submitted in person (both parents in attendance but not the child) to Migracion. The PDF with the information on what documents you need also says which Migracion offices can process the permiso de salida. We went to our local office in San Isidro de El General. When you go to the office, the official will go through your paperwork and create a file. They’ll put the permission into the computer system so that when you leave the country, immigration can pull up the information. They will also give you a paper record in case the computer system is down (we recommend carrying this with you when you travel). Before you can check in for your flight, you’ll need to go to immigration at the airport. They will confirm that you have filed for the permiso de salida and give you a separate paper for the baby’s passport saying that he or she is free to travel out of the country. We have also heard that you can file for the permiso de salida right at the airport if you need to as long as you bring all the required documents and both parents are present.
If you’re planning to use the public healthcare system, you will also need to get your baby’s carnet. The carnet looks like a small, paper appointment book and the lines get filled in at each hospital/clinic visit as a sort of record of care. We had a hard time figuring out where to go for this because the process isn’t uniform and depends on where you live in Costa Rica. We talked to some other parents who said that they got theirs at the local EBAIS clinic, but our clinic told us they didn’t issue them. We ended up having to go to the public hospital. The Oficina de Afiliacion at the hospital in San Isidro de El General issued Sam’s. All we had to show was his birth certificate.
Getting your baby’s initial paperwork isn’t the most fun of chores, but once you figure out how to do it, it really isn’t that bad. Each step was more efficient than we expected, and a lot easier than some other things you have to do when you live in Costa Rica.
Have a question or want to share your experience about getting your baby’s initial documents? Leave a comment below (Email subscribers, click here to post a comment).
Post Updated: April 12, 2017