The Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption, which entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, requires that all adoptions between the United States and Hague Partner countries have certain safeguards that ensure the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Every step of The Hague Adoption process was developed to address past abuses. The Costa Rican Central Authority for the Hague Convention in respect to Intercountry adoption is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI). PANI is the Costa Rican child welfare authority. PANI will not accept private-direct-adoptions. There are no exceptions to this rule. Private adoptions are those that are not handled by the Costa Rican Council on Adoptions (PANI), but are arranged by an attorney and approved by a judge. There have been allegations of fraud in connection with private adoptions, and the Costa Rican National Council on adoptions strongly discourages them.
All international adoptions in Costa Rica should go through PANI. PANI prohibits adoption of children less than five years of age, except in cases in which the child is part of a family group, or in cases where the child may have disabilities that will cause difficulties in placing the child. Another important requirement is the post-adoption reporting that the adoptive parents need to send to the country of origin of the children. PANI is very strict with this requirement and they require a post-adoption report for a period of two years, every six months. U.S. adoption providers and adoptive parents must comply with this requisite
Costa Rica is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore all adoptions between Costa Rica and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law implementing the Convention.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
Updated: September 2009
Adoption between the United States and Costa Rica is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Costa Rica, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Costa Rica also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Because Costa Rica is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Costa Rica must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Costa Rica attempt to place a child with a family in Costa Rica before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Costa Rican requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Abandonment/Relinquishment Requirements: Under Costa Rican law, adopted children do not need to be orphans (both birth parents deceased). They must, however, be abandoned or irrevocably surrendered for adoption. Abandoned children may be living in a government facility, in a private orphanage or foster home or 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.
Age Requirements: In foreign adoptions overseen by PANI, current Costa Rican law prohibits adoption of children less than four years of age, except in cases in which the child is part of a family group, or is difficult to place.
HOW TO ADOPT
Costa Rican Adoption Authority
The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI), the Costa Rican child welfare authority, oversees adoptions of abandoned orphans who are in public institution.,
Because Costa Rica is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Costa Rica must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600a with Costa Rica before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more.
Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
Be Matched with a Child
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
Adopt the Child in Costa Rica
Bring your Child Home
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Costa Rica is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Costa Rica. Learn more.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
Once the U.S. Government determines that you are “eligible” and “suitable” to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Costa Rican law.
3. Be Matched with a Child:
If both the United States and Costa Rica determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Costa Rica may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.
After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Costa Rican adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.
Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Costa Rica:
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Costa Rica, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Costa Rica.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Costa Rica generally includes the following:
ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: PANI contacts a prospective adoptive family when PANI identifies a child for adoption, even calling collect if authorized by the family or through the adoption facilitator that is handling the case. Pictures and related information about the child will be sent by airmail. (Note that there is a backlog in pending cases.)
PANI must also authorize the child to leave the country. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, must complete the adoption process in Costa Rica and the adoption must be formally registered in the civil registry before the Costa Rican authorities will grant permission for the child to leave the country. Because of Costa Rican government concerns about child smuggling and the need for follow-up in the adoption process, permission is rarely granted for a child to leave Costa Rica in the custody of a prospective adoptive parent for the purpose of being finally adopted in another country.
ROLE OF THE COURT: The court reviews the qualifications of the prospective adoptive parents, with PANI playing a consultative role.
TIME FRAME: An adoption in Costa Rica generally takes from eight to twelve 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.
ADOPTION FEES: The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, “donations,” or “expediting” fees, that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Costa Rica at risk.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from Costa Rica include official fees for an adoption which are set at a minimum of $250, and represent the total court costs when an adoption is processed through PANI. Payments to parents or guardians are illegal under Costa Rican law and prospective adoptive parents who make such payments could be subject to investigation and possible prosecution. . American adoptive parents may want to notify the Embassy and the Department of State if they feel they are being charged excessive fees.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documentation is normally required:
- Certified and authenticated copies of the adoptive parent(s)' birth certificate(s);
- Certified and authenticated copy of the adoptive parent(s)' marriage certificate (if applicable) and proof of termination of any previous marriages (certified copy of spouse's death certificate or divorce decree);
- Medical certificate(s) for adoptive parent(s) notarized. The certificate must be authenticated by the Costa Rican Embassy in the U.S. and translated into Spanish.
- 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 USCIS as part of the petition process;
- Verification of employment and salary, notarized and authenticated;
- Two letters of reference notarized and authenticated;
- A certified and authenticated copy of property trusts deeds, if applicable;
- A home study prepared by an authorized and licensed social agency, certified and authenticated, may be required in some cases by the Costa Rican authorities if necessary information was not included on the USCIS (I-800A).
- Bank statements, notarized/certified and authenticated;
- Family letter of intent to adopt, which states any general preferences requested by the family, i.e. a certain age, sex, etc. notarized and authenticated.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
6. Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate as well as the new name of your child. You can obtain this birth certificate from the Civil Registry.
Costa Rican Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Costa Rica.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Learn more.
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 require additional documents after a preliminary review of the application of the prospective adoptive parent(s). Generally, however, the following documentation is required:
- Certified copy of child's original birth certificate issued by the civil registry showing biological parent(s) names.
- If birth father, mother or both are deceased, certified copy of death certificate(s) issued by civil registry.
- If either or both parents are alive, rRelinquishment of parental rights executed before appropriate Costa Rican authority or a decree of abandonment.
- 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 for the child in his/her new name.
- One photograph of the child. (Instructions will be given)
- Proof of adoptive parents’ current employment or self-employment,
- For IH4 cases only- proof of adoptive parents’ Individual Income Tax Returns for last year.
- 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-800 and also in the home study if more convenient. In that case a separate notarized statement will not be required.
The child must be present at the U.S. Embassy for the immigrant visa interview.
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 s/he is fully aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in spite of that fact that s/he has the intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-800 and also in the home study if more convenient. In the latter case, a separate notarized statement will not be required.
Note: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Costa Rica. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Costa Rica, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Costa Rica, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it’s another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search: