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Those Who Choose Citizenship Have Long Road

by Garland M Baker on June 20, 2005

Dual citizens are torn by mixed loyalties

Becoming a citizen of Costa Rica is a long, tedious road.

The process is slow and requires patience. Filling out the forms is easy enough, but every document presented to el Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones or Supreme Court of Elections is put under a microscope to see if one qualifies. The mere misspelling of a word or name in any document can put the process on hold for months or years.

Once the wait is over, taking the oath of citizenship is a joyful day. One truly feels part of the country much more so than being a permanent resident.

Here are the different types of Costa Rica citizenship:

By birth: Children born within the territory of Costa Rica, regardless of the nationality of the parents, have the right to Costa Rican citizenship.

By decent: Children born abroad have the right to Costa Rican citizenship if at least one parent is a citizen of Costa Rica.

By naturalization: Central Americans, Spaniards and Latin Americans by birth who have lived in the country for at least five years can apply for Costa Rican citizenship. Central Americans, Spaniards and Latin Americans, other than by birth, as well as foreign nationals who have lived in the country for at least seven years can also apply for citizenship.

Foreigners who have married a citizen of Costa Rica can apply for Costa Rican citizenship after two years.

As of June 6, 1995, articles 16 and 17 of the Costa Rican Political Constitution were modified to state that there are no grounds for loss of Costa Rican citizenship even if there is a voluntary or involuntary reason to
renounce it. This means you can never lose citizenship once you obtain it. This change to the constitution came about because Dr. Franklin Chang, a Costa Rican-born scientist and NASA astronaut, became a U.S. citizen
and was consequently stripped of his Costa Rican citizenship. There was a public outcry in Costa Rica. The country did not want to lose such an illustrious Tico to the United States. In response, the law was changed.

What is dual citizenship?

A person is considered a dual national when he or she owes allegiance to more than one country at the same time.

Can one keep U.S. citizenship after becoming a Costa Rican?

Yes. However, the U.S. government does not encourage this as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause.

Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country, and they are required to obey the laws of both countries.

The country where a dual national lives generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

Recognizing the trend, the United States is tolerant of dual citizenship despite the stern wording in the U.S. naturalization oath where one renounces allegiance to all other nations.

In other words, the United States looks the other way. The United States is merely accepting a growing reality.

One of the most important reasons the United States permits dual citizenship with Costa Rica is because there is no army here and one does not have
to swear to protect the country, just to uphold the constitution.

One of every 100 people on earth lives outside their country of birth. Transmigration in recent decades has reached an unprecedented scale. With the shrinking of the world through cheap travel and telecommunications,
governments are beginning to catch up with an unstoppable trend — dual or even multi-citizenship.

A second or even a third passport has become not just a link to a homeland but also a glorified travel visa, a license to do business, a stake in a second economy, an escape hatch, even a status symbol.

There are also practical reasons to carry two passports. It is much easier to travel in countries that are antagonistic to Americans with a passport from Costa Rica, which is known as a peaceful country, sometimes
referred to as “Little Switzerland.”

On a personal note, this writer is very happy to have gone through the process to become a naturalized Costa Rican citizen even though the “tramite” or “red tape” took two years and six months.  The new identification card or cédula will take some getting used to. It now reflects two last names, both father’s and mother’s. My mother’s is a very long and difficult to pronounce Russian-German name. Nobody in Costa Rica can pronounce Garland let alone Brungardt. In fact, this is why the process took so long. No one at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones could get it right.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle October 26, 2005 at 7:51 am

My husband was born in Costa Rica, raised in COsta Rica, came to US when he was 16. I am a US citizen. We married and 4 years later he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He just got US citizenship this summer. Does he maintain Costa Rican citizenship?



Garland Baker October 26, 2005 at 10:29 am

Dear Danielle,

Yes he does, he can never lose it. You can also get Costa Rican citizenship. GMB


Danielle October 26, 2005 at 10:49 am

Thank you so much! I am going to look into it! How exciting! What about our children?



Garland Baker October 26, 2005 at 11:07 am


Yes, your childern too.



Bill June 30, 2009 at 6:11 am

Hi. My wife and I would like to move to Costa Rica to retire. We will meet all of the economic conditons without a problem. We want to know where to start the process. Can we start here in America? We do not speak Spanish, but are willing to learn. Any advise would be very helpful. We are prepared to pay what ever it takes to do this properly. Thanks


Jessica August 22, 2009 at 11:17 am

Currently a student living in Canada, born in Canada with a father born in Costa Rica. After coming across this article the question of if perhaps being able to get dual citizenship sounds like a possibility, where could I find more information to expand on? What should I prepare for?

Thank you kindly,
Cheers !



Darren July 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

My wife is Costa Rican and we married in the US back in Sept of 2010. We have since moved to Costa Rica and I have applied for and received Temporary Residency status. I noted that this article was posted in 2005 and in 2010 they revised the residency and citizenship laws which redefine relative status of married couples. Under the new laws established in 2010 what is the time frame and requirements for me to apply for Costa Rica citizenship. Married to a Tica since Sept of 2010, lived in Costa Rica for a year and received temporary residency status July 2012. Thanks for any info.


jeanniescrossroad August 2, 2012 at 5:39 am

My husbands family is Costa Rican and lives there. His grandfather was a citizen of CR however his father was born in the US. Does that make my husband and his father (now deceased) Costa Rican?

Also where would I get the papers to apply for citizenship?

Thanks so much for any help! God Bless You!


Dyala Corrales December 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I am 46 years old, I was born in the U.S. but both of my parents were born in Costa Rica. My father lives in Costa Rica while my mother lives in the U.S. Can I obtain Costa Rican citizenship?


Vicki Skinner January 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm

What is required for a U.S. citizen (married U.S. couple) to get a Costa Rican Passport? (which I'm sure means they first need to be a CR citizen yes?). How long is the process? How hard are the tests,etc.? Do you have a website for that information? THANX!


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