Good news: You don’t have to go to the US for fingerprints

Good news: You don’t have to go to the US for fingerprints

Need an FBI Background Check? Don’t want to travel back to the US just to have your fingerprints taken? Skip the hassle! Save time and money, and get it all done without leaving paradise.

Currently, the FBI prohibits digital transmission of fingerprints from outside the US. To submit digital scans inside the US, you must work with an authorized channeler. Police departments used to offer the service of taking your fingerprints for this purpose, but in Costa Rica they will not do this for international purposes, only for local police reports.

So, how can you get your FBI fingerprints taken without costly travel to the US?

fingerprinting process

Digital vs Ink Prints

Traditionally, there have been two ways to get your fingerprints taken for an FBI Background Check: ink prints or digital prints.

Ink prints are the old-school way, where a trained technician rolls each of your fingers in ink and places the prints on a form card. Multiple sets are usually taken in case of smudged prints or cards being lost in transit. The ink print cards are then mailed to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division in West Virginia, USA.

Shipping from Costa Rica to the FBI with a trusted courier and tracking number is highly recommended. This can range from $70 – $125 USD each way for standard shipping taking 3-5 business days and even more for expedited services.

Digital fingerprints require specific scanners with live scan technology that capture the scans onto a computer software. From there, the scans can be submitted directly to the FBI. This is a more accurate method of capturing prints and increases the likelihood that the FBI will accept them and be able to generate your report. Once submitted, the FBI Background Check is typically available within 24-48 hours.

A hybrid method has recently been approved by the FBI, which would require the fingerprints to be taken digitally with the scanner, then printed with a special high resolution printer. The printed digital scan will then be mailed to the FBI. We are working closely with the FBI and our vendors to acquire the technology required for this hybrid method.

digital fingerprinting

Getting fingerprinted in paradise

With these new restrictions, people are left wondering, do I have to go back to the US just to get my fingerprints taken? The answer is NO!

While the US Embassy nor local police stations are willing to help fingerprint US Citizens for this purpose, we are here for you! OLS Documents has offices right here in Central America, and works closely with an approved FBI Channeler.

In Costa Rica, we are now taking appointments in our offices in Liberia, Guanacaste and Escazu, San Jose. In Panama, you can have your fingerprints taken in our new office in Evolution Tower. The OLS Documents team is also equipped to make home visits if you are unable to come to either of these offices.

Our technicians are trained as required by the FBI and are currently taking classic ink prints and mailing them directly to the FBI.  Ink print appointments last about 30 minutes per person printed. Background checks are issued within about 3 weeks of the appointment.

Shipping process

Shipping is required at every step of the way. As you have likely already noticed, shipping to and from Costa Rica has its challenges.

OLS Documents has years of experience and has researched the very best shipping methods for each route, to determine the most secure and efficient couriers. We can also ship to and from our Orlando office to expedite the turnaround time as well and save on costly international shipping.

Mailing the ink prints and required documentation is just the first step. From there the FBI emails or ships your report to the person requesting it. If emailed, it is required to be printed on special security paper provided by the FBI to their approved channelers. Once printed, it will need to be shipped to get the Apostille and then shipped to the country it is intended for.

FBI Report Process

  • Shipping fingerprint card to CR to US
  • Receiving report from US in CR

Apostille Process

  • Shipping apostille application and payment from CR to US
  • Receiving report with apostille from US in CR


Once the FBI report has been issued and is printed on security paper, it must be sent along with payment, cover letter, application form, and prepaid return shipping, to the Department of State of the United States for Apostille. An Apostille is a special acknowledgment from the country of origin (in this case, the United States) to the country of intended use (where you will present the document to immigration, for example Costa Rica or Panama). It is required for most documents that will be used internationally. The Apostille portion of the process takes 10-11 weeks and does not have an expedited option.

What’s next?

Now that you know how to get your FBI Background Check taken care of without having to leave paradise, have you considered what other documents might be required for your legal process? Some vital records can take several months to procure and authenticate, and legal processes might even require bank letters or other documents to receive an Apostille. OLS Documents is here to take care of this so you can focus on achieving your dreams and enjoying your new home.

Are you ready to take the next step? Whether you are applying for residency, citizenship or a temporary visa, or if you are ready to invest in real estate or start your own business, our sister company, Outlier Legal Services can help make sure the process is done correctly, saving you time and money in the long run.

Please be aware that documents and regulations may change without prior notice. OLS Documents stays abreast of updates from governments, vendors and couriers. Feel free to reach us with any questions and to receive updated information.

Amanda Bolton
Author: Amanda Bolton
She serves as the Documents Manager. Amanda Bolton has a Bachelor’s degree in Bilingual Education and a Fulbright Scholar in 2013. She worked as an elementary teacher for ten years, while developing an education service company and has also taught at the University of Costa Rica in Guanacaste. Amanda relocated to Costa Rica from Texas in 2012. She describes herself as authentic, dependable and compassionate.