Costa Rica: EXcited to be an EX-Pat

We agreed to work with Great Sunrise, which by the way is average in cost for a relocation service. If one speaks Spanish competently, it is our understanding the process can be done by the individual for a fraction of the cost. Retire in Costa RicaBut as a caveat to that, it is a foreign country and there are many stories about fraudulent practices, misunderstood laws and the pace at which the government works there. We needed someone else to do our battle and we will pay for that.

The first thing, after getting married, was an alarming amount of paperwork. Here is a brief rundown of what we had to acquire. We had three months before our next visit to Costa Rica when we’d need to start the process in person:

  1. Photocopies of our passports to Great Sunrise Enterprises
  2. A “Hola de Fillacion” paper for each of us with all the identifiers- name, weight, etc pre-sent to be translated into Spanish and ready when we are in country to sign as we make Great Sunrise our legal representatives for immigration only.
  3. A money transfer to Great Sunrise to start the ball rolling.
  4. Newly issued birth certificates for both of us- need to be issued no more than 3 months before submitting for APOSTILLE* (I’ll get to that!)
  5. Newly issued marriage certificate to be apostilled
  6. Letter from Nevada Personal Retirement System that says I get at least $1000 per month for the rest of my life. NOTARIZED! And then- you guessed it- apostilled.
  7. Form from our local police department for each that says we are upstanding citizens, no arrests, tickets etc. Notarized and… apostilled.

Hopefully the following account of the paper trail will be amusing as that is my intent NOW. Not so funny while we were going through it…

Re #1: Kevin was great at sending us contracts and assurances that we were dealing with a reputable company, so that was cool to send the passport stuff.

Re #4: John uses VitalCheck to get his birth certificate from Illinois and it cost $25 total and he got it in 6 days. Really. No joke. We then send it to the Secretary of State of Illinois for Apostille. What is an Apostille? (Pronounced AP-a-stile)

*“The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostilles convention, or the Apostille treaty is an international treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It specifies the modalities through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory states. Such a certification is called an apostil (French: certification). It is an international certification comparable to notarization in domestic law, and normally supplements a local notarization of the document.”

The Secretary of State in the state in which the document originates must do an Apostille paper. What they do is then research the notary and issue an official certificate that the notary exists and the certificate is real. In Illinois it cost $2 to send his birth certificate for this process. We got it back in 6 days!!

My birth certificate? I submit my NOTARIZED request to California with $25, wait 4 weeks and get a letter back that I apparently don’t exist. No explanation. I can only assume that I didn’t fill out one of the *%$# boxes correctly and they searched for my married name, not my maiden name. My bad, but damn that’s a long time! I use VitalCheck, pay $56 and it’s back in 8 days! I then send it through certified mail to the Secretary of State for the Apostille at $20 per certificate with a paid, self-addressed envelope, certified for return. Surprisingly I get these back in less than 2 weeks from sending it off.


John’s birth certificate and Apostille? $25 +$2 + 3 stamps = $28.47
Karen’s birth certificate? $25.00 (first attempt) + $56 + $20 +$18 postage = $119.00

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  1. Oh, gee. We were told that when we give all our paperwork to an attorney in CR, it only takes 3 months to become a resident. You indicated 6 month to 2 years. How long did it actually take you to become a CR resident?
    Also, where did youdecide to live? What town? We are thinking of Escazu or Grecia. Not sure until we check it out next month. Please let us know.
    Good luck to you.

  2. Hi Renee,
    We filed in March and are still waiting (mid-August) and do not expect residency anytime soon. Whoever told you 3 months is very, very uninformed! We move in 3 weeks. the temporary form that says we are in process of receiving residency will allow us to stay in country without a visa, but does not apply to our drivers license which will require us to go out of country every 3 months until we get our residency and can get a CR license. We are both surfers and will always live on the coast. Starting with Santa Teresa. Join all the expat Facebook sites you can- they will help with all questions and avoid bad lawyer advice! I have not heard of anyone receiving residency in 3 months. 6 months is quickest I’ve heard and even that is a unicorn!

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