What is an Apostille ?
An Apostille is an authentication of the origin and validity of a public document issued by a country that is a member of the Apostille Convention on the Legalization of Foreign Documents.
If you are from the United States and require official documents issued by the Federal government or your State government for use in Costa Rica you must have them Apostilled.
It is important to understand that even though you have an original document such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate issued by your State this document will not be valid in Costa Rica. The process to validate that document is known as an Apostille.
What are the most common documents that require Apostille for use in Costa Rica ?
The most typical documents are a birth certificate, marriage certificate and a criminal background certification. These are the most common documents required to apply for residency in Costa Rica.
What is the first step ?
I suggest that you first start out by getting a certified original from your vital records office. The reason for this is that most documents are only valid for use in Costa Rica if they have been issued within 6 months.
Therefore contact your vital records office first and get a certified copy of your document. In the United States there are private companies that offer this service such as Vital Check.
Once you have an original certified copy you can then start the Apostille process. To do so, you must contact the Secretary of State of the State that issued your document. The National Association of Notaries provides a list of all the 50 Secretaries of State of the United States at www.nass.org. The procedure and cost for each state varies so contact them directly.
As an example the Texas Secretary of State provides the following procedure to authenticate documents issued by the State of Texas:
- Authentications Unit: The Authentications Unit may issue Apostilles or Certificates for the following types of documents: …..Recordable documents are issued by a Texas statewide officer. Recordable documents may not be certified by a notary public. This includes certified copies of birth/death certificates, vehicle title histories, etc.; documents issued by a county official including certified copies of marriage licenses, divorce decrees, probated wills, judgments, birth/death certificates, etc.; documents issued by a city or local registrar including certified copies of birth/death certificates. You must submit the complete document for authentication. Originals and/or certified copies submitted for authentication must have been issued within the past five years. Request for Official Certificate or Apostille – NOT for use in proceedings relating to the adoption of one or more children – Form 2102
In addition to the above requirements, for all certifications or authentications you will also need to provide the following:
- The name of the country where the document will be recorded.
- The statutory fee of Fifteen Dollars ($15.00) per certificate or apostille unless the certificate or apostille is requested for use in adoption proceedings. * A check or money order drawn on a U.S. Bank and made payable to the Secretary of State of Texas must be submitted with the documents. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa cards (PDF) are also accepted (subject to a 2.7% convenience fee).
- A self-addressed, stamped envelope or pre-paid overnight airbill/envelope.
Once you have received your document back from the Secretary of State Apostilled then you have completed the process. The document that you receive will now be accepted by any Costa Rican government agency in Costa Rica.
For more details of the process you can watch my video on How to Apostille a Document from the United States which I have linked below: @CostaRicaLaw