Simple & Trusted Foreign Document Authentication in Costa Rica and Panama


If you’re a foreigner applying for residency in Costa Rica or Panama, you’ll need to authenticate your home country’s documents for them to be recognized in these countries. These authenticated documents are essential for obtaining residency, making the authentication process a crucial step.

Expat-Tations has experience assisting expats with their legal needs, making us a reliable and efficient option for procuring and legalizing vital records or court documents in Costa Rica and Panama. To facilitate this process, we’ve established a department of specialists, dedicated to helping you obtain the vital records required by the local government agencies.

We can authenticate a wide range of documents, including background checks, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, college diplomas, death certificates, and more. We ensure the safe delivery of authenticated documents to both Costa Rica and Panama. However, the process may vary depending on the country of origin.

Please note that we cannot procure all documents due to varying legislation in each country. To determine if we can assist you with your specific situation, please use the contact form to reach out to us. Below, you’ll find all the essential information regarding the authentication of foreign documents in Costa Rica and Panama.



Foreign Documents authentication refers to the verification of the identity and authenticity of background checks, vital records, or court documents in a foreign country like Costa Rica and Panama. Some countries have signed international treaties, such as the Hague Convention, for the legalization of foreign public documents, while others haven’t.

Therefor the authentication process can differ in complexity based on your home country’s laws and whether your documents require an apostille or legalization. An apostille is used for countries within the Hague Convention, while legalization involves embassies, consulates, or foreign relations offices.

The validity of legal documents is limited to the jurisdiction where they were created. For example, a birth certificate issued in the United States is only valid within the United States until it undergoes authentication to be recognized in another country. This authentication can take the form of either legalization or an apostille from an agency in the home country.


Difference between legalization and apostille

So, what’s the difference between legalization and apostille? Both are methods of authenticating foreign documents. Apostille is the authentication process used for countries that are part of the Hague Convention, while legalization involves the intervention of embassies, consulates, or foreign relations offices.

Depending on the specific circumstances, an apostille may suffice for certain documents, while others may require additional steps involving embassies, consulates, or foreign relations offices. It’s worth noting that in a few countries, the authentication process can be more complicated than usual.



Foreigners applying for residency in Costa Rica or Panama often need to authenticate certain documents to submit to the migration authorities. The most commonly required documents for authentication are birth certificates, marriage certificates, and background checks. Later on, we will delve into the details of each of these, as well as other documents that may need authentication for residency processes.

It’s important to note that after the authentication process is complete, these documents must be translated by an official translator to be accepted.



Your residency application won’t be complete without an authenticated birth certificate. For most cases, foreigners must obtain a new birth certificate from their country of origin. However, in some situations, the original birth certificate or a certified copy can be authenticated. The type of authentication required depends on the country of origin and may involve obtaining an apostille or legalization for the birth certificate. Keep in mind that the issued certificate should not be older than six months.


If you’re extending a residency permit to your spouse, they’ll need to provide proof of their marital status. Similar to birth certificates, marriage certificates require updated authentication. Additionally, in certain cases, a divorce decree may also be necessary for specific purposes.


Foreigners seeking residency in Costa Rica or Panama must demonstrate a clean criminal record with no active law enforcement inquiries. For instance, individuals from the United States should obtain a background check from the FBI.

At EXPAT-TATIONS, we offer fingerprinting services in both Costa Rica and Panama. Our digital fingerprint scanner and bespoke software, enables clients to obtain their FBI background check within just three business days, while the apostille processing takes approximately six to eight weeks. Rest assured, we prioritize the security and confidentiality of our clients’ data.

Being the leading digital fingerprint service provider in Central America, EXPAT-TATIONS is committed to delivering exceptional and reliable services to our valued customers.

usa passport


For foreigners residing in Costa Rica or Panama, authenticating a death certificate may be necessary for probate proceedings involving a relative abroad. At EXPAT-TATIONS, we can obtain these documents from any country in the Americas, eliminating the need for expats to travel to the event’s location to obtain the certificate.


Foreigners seeking employment in Costa Rica or Panama must present their college diplomas or academic degrees to demonstrate their expertise and experience. However, these degrees alone are not valid in these countries. Hence, authentication is essential before bringing them to Costa Rica or Panama.


Bank letters for retirees, investors, or other proofs of income, property, or rental agreements for rentistas may also require authentication for various purposes.



We completely understand that authenticating foreign documents can be an overwhelming challenge for expats residing abroad. Rest assured, we possess the necessary tools and expertise to streamline this process for foreigners living in Costa Rica or Panama. Should you have any further questions or require assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are here to provide you with prompt support and guidance.

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