How Do I Become A Costa Rican Citizen?

March 16, 2007

Several people have told me that if you have lived legally in Costa Rica for a certain number of years (some say five, some 10) then you can apply for citizenship. Is this true, and if so, is the citizenship granted automatically, or do you have to fulfill certain requirements?

Elizabeth Ridley

San Ramón de Tres Ríos

Naturalization, the process of becoming a new citizen, falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of Options and Naturalizations, a division of the Supreme Election Tribunal’s Civil Registry (www.tse.go.cr, 287-5477, Calle 15, Aves. 1/3). The tribunal serves as the repository of all “Who’s Who?” information in Costa Rica, logging births, deaths, marriages, divorces and election registrations, and issuing the cédula (identity card) carried by all citizens.

Several paths lead to citizenship, none automatic, all with numerous stipulations. Options and Naturalizations spokesman Jorge Vindas told The Tico Times that first establishing legal residency, the right to live long-term in Costa Rica and a status conferred by Immigration, is the route most commonly taken. We usually refer queries about residency to the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (www.arcr.net, 233-8068), a membership organization here, which has shepherded many people through the residency process. After living here for seven years as a legal resident (five, for citizens of Spain and Latin American countries), you are eligible to apply for citizenship.

You can also apply for citizenship after marrying a Costa Rican and residing together here for two years. You can also apply if you are the child of a Costa Rican citizen, but born outside the country, as you can if you were born here to non-Costa Rican parents.

The tribunal’s Web site outlines procedures and requirements (Spanish only) and shows all required forms in PDF format.

Click on Servicios (services), then Requisitos y Tramites (requisites and procedures), and scroll down to Naturalización (naturalization).

The final step in the naturalization process entails passing a Ministry of Education exam demonstrating your reading, writing and speaking proficiency in Spanish, and also your knowledge of Costa Rican culture and history.

Costa Rica does not recognize dual nationality and will require you to sign a statement renouncing your former citizenship.

“A formality,” Vindas says, admitting many people do keep two passports. That second passport does not release you from any of the obligations required of Costa Rican citizens, however.

 

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