San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Does Costa Rica Recognize Dual Citizenship?

Dear Tico Times:

A query to this column earlier this year asked about the process of becoming a naturalized Costa Rican citizen (TT,March 16). The final paragraph of your reply read:

“Costa Rica does not recognize dual citizenship and will require you to sign a statement renouncing your former citizenship. A formality … many people do keep two passports. That second passport does not release you from any of the obligations required of Costa Rican citizens, however.”

According to my attorney, the paragraph is not correct. One can have dual nationality from Costa Rica and another country. You should double check your information and print a correction.

John Bisceglio

Ciudad Colón

We stand by our original answer, with a bit of elaboration. Costa Rica normally does not officially recognize another country’s citizenship for its own citizens, according to Margarita Loria of the Office of Options and Naturalizations, a division of the Civil Registry, the government agency in charge of naturalization, the process of becoming a citizen here.

Costa Rica does have a dual-nationality agreement with Spain, the only such case, whereby citizens of either country can become nationals of the other without losing their original citizenship. They are required to use identity documents pertinent to the country in which they are present, Loria explained.

The registry famously made an exception in 1995 for NASA astronaut Franklin Chang. Chang had been stripped of his Costa Rican citizenship when he began working for NASA and was required to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. An act of the Legislative Assembly, spurred on by public outcry, reinstated his citizenship here (TT,March 3, 1995).

That said, we know many people who, in practice, are citizens of both Costa Rica and another country, and keep two passports. Their circumstances come about by virtue of naturalization or of being born here to foreign parents or of being born abroad to Costa Rican parents, and taking the requisite steps to apply for citizenship. Many take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to their status. Costa Rica confers all the rights (voting, access to public health care) and requires all the obligations (taxes, Social Security payments) of citizenship on such people. A second passport has no legal standing in the eyes of the government here. Like all Costa Rican citizens, that person is required to carry a cédula (national identity card) and present it in situations when required. That person must use a Costa Rican passport to enter and leave the country. Of course, the “other” passport must be presented upon arrival to immigration officials when traveling to the “other” country, if so required.

The real risk is to Costa Ricans who become citizens of another country, Loria said. The registry can and does revoke citizenship in such cases, as originally happened to Chang. Going the opposite direction, foreigners who become naturalized Costa Ricans are required to sign a statement renouncing their original citizenship. Options and Naturalizations keeps these statements on file, but does not forward them to other embassies, nor does it have the ability to check and see what new citizens actually do with respect to their original status. That is for the country of first citizenship to determine.


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