Obtaining Documents for Residency

Obtaining Documents for Residency

One of the most challenging parts of residency is obtaining the required documents. Other documents may be required depending on your category, but for now we are only covering birth and marriage certificates and background checks from North America.

Birth and Marriage Certificates

Birth and marriage certificates from the United States come from the specific state where you were either born or were married. Each state has a division of vital records and each state will have different requirements for obtaining the document. States such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas have very restrictive rules such as the credit card used to purchase the document must have the same address where the document will be delivered. There are ways of circumventing this process, but it will require a power of attorney to do so. Other states are considered “open” and access to the records are easy and relatively quick. California can be troublesome since many counties do not send their marriage records to the state; therefore, you will need to request the document from the specific county where you were married.

Canadians need to contact their province to request their vital records. Canada is very restrictive about who can obtain documents, so it is best to order them directly or have a family member order them.

Background checks

We have posted an article about the difference between state and FBI checks here, over at Outlier Legal News. So, for the time being, we are only going to discuss FBI background checks. If you are in the US, you can request your FBI from multiple channels depending on where you live. It is recommended that you have them electronically scanned since you will receive the results within a matter of days. If you send in the hard copy of your ink prints to the FBI directly for processing, results will take several weeks or a few months to be returned to you. Outlier Legal Services has had a contract with an FBI channeler for several years now and can obtain records without ink prints or having to go to the US.

Canadians should request their records from the RCMP. The RCMP can only do electronic prints while in Canada but ink prints can be submitted from overseas. Please contact Outlier Legal Services for obtaining your RCMP report from Costa Rica.

Apostille or Legalization

We discussed the difference between apostilles and legalization in a post here. All documents from the United States need to be apostilled for use in Costa Rica. For birth and marriage certificates, this would need to be done in the state that issued the document. For example, a document issued from Florida would need an apostille from the State Department in Tallahassee. Apostilles are not considered sensitive so any person can obtain them. Each state will have its own cost and process.

Any US Federal document, such as an FBI background check would need to go to the State Department in Washington DC for the apostille. States will not apostille FBI background checks.

Canada, frustratingly enough, has not signed the Hague Treaty and does not use apostilles. Documents from Canada must be legalized for use in Costa Rica. This is a multiple step process where your documents such as an Ontario birth certificate, would need to be authenticated and then sent to the embassy for Costa Rica. Once the document arrives to Costa Rica, there is still another step where it needs to be validated at the office of Foreign Affairs in San Jose.


Currently, documents used for residency cannot be older from six months from the date of issuance of the document. Not the apostille.

Documents used for citizenship have different requirements. Background checks cannot be older than three months from the date of issuance, but a birth certificate does not have an expiration. These documents will need to be apostilled or legalized for use in your citizenship application.

Author: Dawn Drummer

As the Chief Executive Officer, Dawn Drummer is methodical, proactive and always willing to find a solution to any inquiry or problem that may arise. She has a Bachelors in Science and 14 years working in the US Federal government in various law enforcement positions.