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									                      INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION - COSTA RICA


PROVISO: Costa Rica does allow United States citizens and other foreigners to adopt. All
adoptions are full and final when completed in Costa Rica. Children may not be taken outside of
Costa Rica on a temporary guardianship for adoption abroad. There appears to be a slight increase in
numbers of adoptions in thee past two years, however, foreign adoptions are a subject of intermittent
controversy in Costa Rica.

GENERAL: The following is a guideline for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in
Costa Rica and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to return to the United States. This
process can be expensive, time-consuming and complex, involving both foreign and American
legal requirements. Adoptions are given careful consideration on a case-by-case basis by both
foreign judicial authorities and American consular officers to ensure that the legal requirements of
both countries have been met for the protection of the child, the adoptive parent(s) and the natural parent(s)

Interested Americans are strongly advised to read the following information carefully.
Contact the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service early in the process, before you have
identified a specific child to adopt. Contact American consular officials in Costa Rica before
formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which
will make it possible for the Embassy/Consulate to issue a U.S. immigrant visa to the child. The
American Embassy and the Department of State stand ready to assist adoptive parents, within the
limits of our authority. Please share your experiences and suggestions about how we can improve
this information and better assist Americans adopting abroad. Reports to the American Embassy or
the Department of State about successes or problems with foreign adoptions are very useful and any
assistance adoptive parents can provide in this regard is much appreciated.

AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect
the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans in Costa Rica:

                  IR-3 Immigrant Visas                 IR-4 Immigrant Visas
Fiscal            Issued to Costa Rican                Issued to Costa Rican
Year              Orphans Adopted Abroad               Orphans Adopted in U.S.

FY 1997                    22                                    0
FY-1998                    07                                    0
FY-1999                    04                                    0
FY-2000                    17                                    0


Adoptions of all abandoned orphans who are in public institutions are handled by the
PATRONATO NACIONAL DE LA INFANCIA (PANI). PANI also plays a consultative role in private
adoptions. This is the official Costa Rican government agency responsible for the general welfare and
protection of children. PANI can be contacted by mail at the following address: Patronato Nacional de La
Infancia, P.O. Box 5000, San Jose, Costa Rica, or by fax at the following number: (506) 233-2414.
PANI is a professional child welfare organization which is meticulous in assuring that children they place
go to proper homes. PANI has a number of requirements for placing children with adoptive parents and
will inform inquirers directly (in English) of their policies and procedures. If you apply for an adoption
through PANI, they will contact you when they find a child that meets your needs. They will also call you
collect, if you authorize such calls in your application. Pictures and related information about the child will
be sent by air mail.

Children in PANI orphanages must be declared in a state of abandonment by a family court judge prior to
adoption. A home study must be done in each case. These requirements have created a backlog in pending


Existing Costa Rican adoption law provides for two types of adoptions: those adoptions arranged through
the Child Welfare Agency, Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI), and private adoptions.

Foreigners must complete the adoption process in Costa Rica and have the adoption formally inscribed in
the civil registry before permission is given for the child to leave the country. Because of Costa Rican
concerns about child smuggling and need for follow-up in the adoption process, permission is rarely
granted for a child to leave Costa Rica to be adopted elsewhere.

Adopted children do not need to be orphans, under Costa Rican law. They must, however, be abandoned or
irrevocably surrendered for adoption. (Please see requirements of U.S. immigration law regarding
definition of orphan for U.S. visa purposes).

Abandoned children may be taken to a government facility, be lodged in a private orphanage or foster
home or be placed in the custody of a relative or friend. Children may also remain in the custody of a
biological parent prior to formal relinquishment of custody before a judge.


Costa Rican adoption law provides no legal impediment to adoptions by foreigners. However, it is the
policy of the Child Welfare Agency (PANI) to encourage the adoption of abandoned infants by Costa
Rican citizens. To give Costa Rican citizens an opportunity to adopt, current PANI policy prohibits foreign
adoptions of children under four except in cases in which the child is part of a family group or is difficult to

Children who are formally abandoned or removed from their families by PANI remain in government
orphanages until adopted. In these cases, PANI handles all the paperwork and screening of adoptive


In private adoption, children are released to private attorneys who may arrange foreign adoptions. Virtually
all complaints and allegations of adoption fraud in Costa Rica focus on private adoptions.
There is no limit on the age of children whose adoptions are arranged by private attorneys.
In private adoptions, the court reviews the qualifications of the adoptive parents. PANI plays a consultative
role in private adoptions.


Costa Rica allows for adoption by married persons and by a single adoptive parent. A foreign couple must
have been married for at least five years in order to be able to adopt a child from Costa Rica.

In order to adopt in Costa Rica you must be at least twenty-five years of age and under the age of sixty.


Costa Rica requires that at the initial stage of the adoption process, both adoptive parents must be in
Costa Rica to sign the official consent documents before the Costa Rican court. In the case of
adoption by a single parent, that parent must be present to sign the documents. Allow at least fifteen
days for this initial trip. At the end of the process, one of the adoptive parents, or the sole parent if it
is a single parent adoption, must be in Costa Rica to finish the paperwork for the adoption, obtain a
travel document for the child and complete immigration procedures at the U.S. Embassy. Since the
length of time for the entire adoption process may vary and take as along as several months, many
parents make two trips to Costa Rica; others prefer to remain in Costa Rica for the entire process.
While in Costa Rica, the adopting parents need to take the following steps to satisfy the country's
legal requirements:-

   meet the child
   give formal consent for the adoption at the court
   obtain a certified copy of the final adoption decree from the court
   register the adoption at the local Civil Registry
   obtain a birth certificate from the Civil Registry with the new name of the child
   obtain PANI authorization for the child to leave the country
   obtain a passport for the child.


Controls on removal of children from Costa Rica are strict and written permission from both parents
or a legal guardian must be presented to PANI which then grants approval. PANI will not approve
the departure of a child if they are aware that the intent is to complete an adoption in a foreign


An adoption in Costa Rica generally takes from four to eight months from the time a decree of
abandonment has been issued or an official request for adoption of a specific child is placed before
the court.


Official fees for an adoption are set at a minimum of approximately two hundred and fifty dollars,
which represents the total court costs when an adoption is processed through PANI. Payments to
parents or guardians are illegal under Costa Rican law and could be subject to investigation and possible
prosecution. The fees generally charged in private adoptions can be as high as fifteen thousand dollars. It is
useful for American adoptive parents to notify the Embassy and the Department of State of exorbitant fees
for adoptions.


Adoptions in Costa Rica can be arranged through the government agency, PANI, or through private
channels. PANI works with established international adoption agencies in placing abandoned
children. In private adoptions, where children are released by their parents directly to a private
attorney, PANI is consulted and will give an opinion on the adoption, but the judge is not bound
to accept that opinion. Locating and adopting children abroad can be a frustrating and time consuming
experience. The U.S. Embassy has found that parents who employ the services of a well established
adoption agency in Costa Rica or who work directly with PANI have had the best results. U.S.
citizens interested in adopting a child from Costa Rica may wish to contact the American Embassy in
San Jose before retaining the services of a particular agency or attorney to ascertain whether the
individual or agency has been the subject of investigation or indictment in Costa Rica which has been
brought to the attention of the Embassy.


If you arrange an adoption through PANI, that agency will provide you with a list of their
documentary requirements. If you arrange an adoption through a private attorney, the attorney will
likewise advise you what documents you will need to submit in support of an adoption application.
In general, the documentary requirements will be similar to those required for a U.S. visa petition:

   Certified and authenticated copies of the adoptive parent(s)' birth certificate(s). (See more detailed
    explanation of authentication further in document.)

 Certified and authenticated copy of the adoptive parent(s)' marriage certificate (if applicable) and
proof of termination of any previous marriage (certified copy of spouse's death certificate or divorce

   Medical certificate(s) for adoptive parent(s) notarized by physician and authenticated.

 A certificate of good conduct/no criminal record for each adoptive parent from a local police
department notarized or bearing police department seal and authenticated. An FBI report is
acceptable in lieu of local police record. This is separate from the FBI check conducted by INS as
part of the petition process. You can request an FBI record check by-sending two sets of fingerprints, a $17
money order, your full name, date and place of birth, social security number and letter requesting and
explaining the purpose for the clearance to: FBI ID Division, Room 10104, Washington, D.C. 20537-
9700. The FBI certificate should also be authenticated.

   Verification of employment and salary notarized and authenticated.

   Two letters of reference notarized and authenticated.

   A certified and authenticated copy of your property trust deeds, if applicable.

   A home study prepared by an authorized and licensed social agency certified and authenticated.

   Bank statements notarized/certified and authenticated.

 Family letter of intent to adopt, describing child adoptive parent(s) is/are willing to adopt, notarized
and authenticated.

Note: that additional documentation and procedures may be required.


Generally, U.S. civil records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates must bear the seal of the
issuing office, then be authenticated by the state Secretary of State in your state capital, then by the
U.S. Department of State Authentications Office, then by the foreign Embassy or Consulate in the
United States.

Check with the foreign Consulate in the U.S. with jurisdiction over your state to see what seals and
signatures the Consulate can authenticate. It may be possible to eliminate some of the authentication
steps if the Consulate has the seal of the local issuing authority on file.

Tax returns, medical reports and police clearances should likewise be authenticated, beginning with
the seal of a notary public in the United States or some appropriate issuing office. The notary's seal
should be authenticated by the clerk of court of the county where the notary is licensed or some
similar authority. The document should then be authenticated by the state Secretary of State (in your
state capital), the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office, and the foreign Embassy or

The U.S. Department of State Authentications Office is located at 518 23rd Street N.W., Columbia Plaza,
State Annex 1, Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5002. Callers out of local dialing range may call
(800) 688-9889. Walk-in service is available 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, except holidays. The
Department charges $5.00 per document for this service, payable in the form of a check drawn on a U.S.
bank or money order made payable to the Department of State.


All documents prepared for transmission to Costa Rican adoption authorities must be accompanied
by a certified Spanish translation. The translator must execute a statement before a notary public as
to the validity of the translation. The notary's seal must then be authenticated.

Special Instructions For Persons Born or Married in Third Countries: Individuals who were born or
married in third countries should have their birth or marriage certificates authenticated by the issuing
authorities, and then authenticated by the American Embassy in the country in which the birth or
marriage took place for a fee of $32.00 per document payable to the American Embassy. Such
documents must then be authenticated by the Embassy or Consulate of the country of origin for the
child to be adopted in that country if one exists. If not, the document bearing the seal of the
American Embassy must be forwarded to the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office for
authentication of the American Embassy's seal for a fee of $32.00 payable to the Department of
State. It will then be necessary to obtain the seal of the foreign Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Individuals born abroad who acquired U.S. citizenship at birth and whose parents applied for
Foreign Service Reports of Birth for them at the American Embassy or Consulate may obtain a
Certification of Birth Abroad by contacting the U.S. Department of State, Office of Passport
Services, Correspondence Branch, 1111 19th Street, Suite 500, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20522-1705, tel: (202) 647-0518. There is a fee of $32.00 payable to the Department of State for
this service. This document would then have to be authenticated by the foreign Embassy or


Embassy of Costa Rica and Consulate of Costa Rica 1825 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Suite 211
Washington, D.C. 20009 tel (Embassy): (202) 234 2945, -2946, -2947 tel (Consulate): (202)
234-2945 or (202) 328-6628

Consulate of Costa Rica 80 Wall Street Suite 1117 New York, N.Y. 10005 tel (212) 425-2620

In addition, Costa Rica has consulates and honorary consuls located throughout the United States. Check
with the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington D.C. for the consulate closest to you.


Consular Authority to Approve a Case:
All children adopted abroad must obtain an immigrant visa from the U.S. Embassy in order to travel to the
United States.

The first step in any adoption case is to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office
which has jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States. You should request information
from INS on how to file an orphan petition (Form I-600A or I-600). Once the U.S. Embassy has received
an approved I-600A petition from the INS, we have the authority in “clearly approvable” cases to approve
form I-600 abroad.

Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), consular officers can only adjudicate clearly
approvable I-600 petitions. Cases involving relinquishment of parental rights by a sole or surviving
parent are often not clearly approvable and must be referred to INS for adjudication. In all private
adoption cases processed in Costa Rica, arrangement must be made for interview of the biological
parent(s) by a consular officer. If there are any questions regarding the eligibility for orphan status or
whether petition conditions have been met, consular officers must refer these petitions to the nearest
INS office. When an orphan petition (I-600) is sent to an American embassy or consulate for
possible issuance of an immigrant visa (Form OF-230) to the child , a consular officer does an overseas
orphan investigation as part of the normal processing. This is usually done very quickly. However, the
investigation and visa processing can sometimes be lengthy, especially when adoptive parents employ
irregular practices to adopt a child, making the petition "not clearly approvable". INS Form I-604, Request
for and Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation is used by INS and consular officers.

Scheduling Appointment With U.S. Consular Officer:

It is advisable to contact the U.S. Embassy at least three working days in advance to check that the
documents are in order and to set an appointment to file the immigration visa (I-600) application and
schedule the immigrant visa interview. Since the documentation required is slightly different from that
required for the I-600A, adoptive parents should contact the Embassy during the adoption process
to request a packet of instructions listing the documents necessary for immigrant visa issuance.
Included in this packet of instructions is an "Immigrant Visa Checklist" form. The Embassy will
schedule a final appointment in an adoption case once all documents have been assembled and the
form has been signed and returned to the Embassy.

What Documents to Bring with You to U.S. Embassy Consular Section:

Note: Since each case is different, it is possible that the Embassy will request additional documents
after a preliminary review of the application of the prospective adoptive parent(s). For the immigrant
visa application the child will need:

   Certified copy of child's birth certificate issued by the civil registry showing biological parent(s).

 If birth father, mother or both are deceased, certified copy of death certificate issued by civil

   Relinquishment of parental rights executed before appropriate Costa Rican authority.

 Certified copy of Costa Rican final adoption decree, including a copy of the home study done on
the child.

 Certified copy of the new birth certificate from the Costa Rican Civil Registry showing names of
adoptive parent(s).

   Valid Costa Rican passport.
   Two 1 3/4 inch color visa photographs.

    Affidavit of Support Section 213A of the Act. Form I-864. Proof of current employment or self-
     employment, your Individual Income Tax Returns for the most recent 3 tax years.

 Medical examination (according to Embassy instructions). If the minor has a physical or mental
 disability, a notarized statement will be required from the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the
United States indicating that they are fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and
in spite of that fact that they have the intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be
included in item 19 of form I-600 and also in the home study if more convenient. In that case a
separate notarized statement will not be required.

 In the case of a minor taken to the United States by a third party, for example a legal
 representative or social assistant of an adoption agency or other entity, a notarized statement will be
required authorizing that person to take the minor to the United States with the purpose of placing
him/her with the prospective adoptive parent(s). This statement can also be included in the Judge's
authorization for the child to leave Costa Rica.

Note: There are no provisions in INS regulations for approving petitions signed by agents with
powers of attorney. Consequently, even if an agent is physically accompanying the child to the U.S.,
the petition itself must be signed by the adoptive parent(s), after the child has been identified.

The child must be present at the U.S. Embassy for the immigrant visa application process. The
medical examination must be performed by a physician from an approved list of physicians using a
specified form provided by the American Embassy.

Note About Additional Documentation Requirements: Since each case is different, it is possible that
the Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary review of the application of the
prospective adoptive parent(s). For example, if the minor has a physical or mental disability and only
one adoptive parent (in the case of married couples) is present abroad, a notarized statement will be
required from the absent prospective adoptive parent in the United States indicating that they are
fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in spite of that fact that they have the
intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-600 and also
in the home study if more convenient. In that case a separate notarized statement will not be


INS Fees for I-600 and I-600A Petitions: There is an INS fee of $405.00 for an I-600 or I-600A
petition. If you have a valid I-600A and file an I-600 within 18 months of the approval of the
I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600 provided you are only petitioning for one child or for
siblings. If you have a valid I-600A and within 18 months of approval of the I-600A are petitioning
for more than one child and the children are not siblings, the I-600 fee will be charged for each child
after the first child except for the first child.

U.S. State Department authentication fee: If you are having documents authenticated by the
Department of State Authentication Office, there is a fee of $32.00 per document.

Medical Examination Fee:

The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by one of the U.S. Embassy or
Consulate's panel physicians before the immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical
examination is approximately U.S. $30.00 and must be borne by the adoptive parent(s).

U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee:
The fee for the immigrant visa is $325.00 and may be paid either in U.S.
dollars or local currency. This $325.00 does not include medical examinations, costs of documents,
the petition, etc. The American Embassy/Consulate does not accept personal checks or credit

Authentication fees:

Authentication of Documents by U.S. Embassy or Consulates: If you are having documents
authenticated by a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate, there is a fee of $32.00 per


Upon arrival in Costa Rica to try to arrange an adoption, U.S. citizens should register at the
American Embassy, Consular Section, American Citizens Services. The Embassy will be able to
provide information about any outstanding travel advisories and to provide other information about
Costa Rica including lists of physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators. The American
Embassy is located on Pavas Road in the Rohrmoser section of San Jose. The telephone number of
the Consular section is (506) 220-3050; ask for extension 2465. The immigrant visa unit is
open for walk-in information and assistance between the hours of 12:00 to 13:30 p.m. at window "D"
any Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, or you may telephone directly Monday through Friday from 9:00 to
11:00 a.m. to inquire about your visa petition and adoption case. Prospective adoptive parents in the
United States who wish to write for information from the United States, should use the following
address: Chief, Immigration Visa Unit ,U.S. EmbassySan Jose, Consular Section, Unit 2501 APO AA
Miami 34020 (domestic postage rate). The International Mailing address is IV Unit, Consular Section,
U.S. Embassy, Apdo 920-1200, Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica. For Costa Rica specific adoption questions
you may email to the Embassy general information address at If, while you are in
Costa Rica, you experience a serious, life threatening emergency, the Embassy has a duty officer available
on call when the Embassy is closed who can be reached by calling (506) 220-3127 and asking to speak to
the duty officer about a consular emergency regarding a U.S. citizen.


Since it is difficult to predict how long it may be necessary for you to remain in Costa Rica with your
adopted child, you may want to consider what articles you might want to bring with you. You should
be aware that not all U.S. style baby products are readily available abroad. You may wish to
consider bringing certain items with you. These might include:

   Plastic or cloth baby carrier
   Bottle nipples
   Disposable paper diapers
    Baby wipes
   Baby blankets
   Infant wear
   Thermos bottle, for hot water to prepare dry formula
   Milk bottles (plastic, glass, and disposable)
   Disposable plastic bags for milk bottles

DOCTORS: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should
either you or your child encounter health problems while still in Costa Rica.-


Prospective adopting parents should consult INS publication (M-249Y, Revised, 1990), The Immigration of
Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children which includes a checklist on orphan petition procedures for
the convenience of prospective adoptive parents to help in tracking the immigration requirements. They
may also review the Department of State information flyer International Adoptions.

Specific questions regarding adoptions in Costa Rica may be addressed to the Consular Section of
the U.S. Embassy at (506) 220-3050; ask for extension 2465. You may also contact the Office of
Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Room 4800 N.S., 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20520-4818, telephone (202) 647-2688 with specific adoption questions. Recorded information concerning
significant changes in adoption procedures is available 24 hours a day at: (202) 736-7000, or by automated
fax (calling from the telephone on your fax machine) at (202) 647-3000. If the country you are interested in
is not listed, then procedures in that country have not significantly changed since publication of the most
recent flyer. Information on immigrant visas is available from the State Department's Visa Office, at (202)
663-1225. This 24 hour automated system includes options to speak with consular officers during business
hours for questions not answered in the recorded material. The Department of State web site may be
accessed at Application forms and petitions for immigrant visas are available from the
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the nearest office of which is listed in the federal pages
of your telephone book, under U.S. Department of Justice. The web site address for the INS is

For international travelers the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets and Travel
Warnings. Consular Information Sheets are available for every country in the world, providing
information such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime
reports. When situations are sufficiently serious that the State Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid
traveling to a country, a Travel Warning is issued. Both Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings
may be heard 24 hours a day by calling the State Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services
at (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone. The recording is updated as new information
becomes available. In addition, this information is accessible through the automated fax machine, as
above, and is also available at any of the 13 regional passport agencies, field offices of the U.S.
Department of Commerce, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Furthermore, you may
write in requesting information, sending a self addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas Citizens
Services, Room 4811 N.S., 2201 C St., N.W., U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
20520 4818. Finally, information is available through your personal computer. If you have internet access,
you can access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). This service is free of charge, and may also
be reached at (301) 946-4400. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings may also be accessed by
subscribers to many on-line services. For complete information on accessing consular information via
computer, please request document 1016, entitled "Consular Information Program," from the automated fax
system, which is described in the preceding paragraph.


Interested Americans should be aware that the process of adopting a child in Costa Rica and
bringing the child to the U.S. may be time-consuming and complex. The American Embassy and the
Department of State stand ready to assist adoptive parents, within the limits of our authority. U.S.
citizens arriving abroad to finalize an adoption are advised to proceed carefully with all local foreign
legal procedures. They should also work closely with the U.S. Embassy throughout the
adoption process to ensure that the child selected will qualify for U.S. immigration benefits and that
all the necessary documents are in order.

March 15, 2001

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