Presenting foreign documents here will be easier

This is a model of an apostille. According to the Hague convention, the document must be square and at least 9 centimeters (3.54 inches) per side.

Importing or exporting documents will become easier now that Costa Rica has agreed to adopt a simplified system based on an international treaty.

One of the main group of beneficiaries will be U.S. citizens who seek to obtain residency here. Until now assembling the paperwork for the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería required the use of a chain of signatures.

A birth certificate, for example, would be obtained from the local county clerk. The person applying for residency here would take or send the birth certificate to the secretary of state in the relevant U.S. state. That office would validate the stamp and signature of the county clerk. Then the would-be expat would have to deliver the document, containing the verification by the secretary of state to the relevant Costa Rican consulate.

There would be another notation affixed validating the stamp and signature of the secretary of state. Then the Person seeking residency or a designate would take the document to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here in San José. There officials would validate the signature and stamp of the Costa Rican consulate, apply stamps and collect fees.

Then and only then could the document be submitted to the immigration department. A couple seeking residency would have to follow this process for both birth certificates, the marriage certificate, any divorce decrees, the police clearance letters and other relevant documents.

Under the new system offices in each of the 100 countries that have adopted the treaty will affix a certificate that validates the document. Most secretaries of state in the United States have this power. In Costa Rica, the validation will be done at the foreign ministry, officials here said.

The Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that it is the authority in the United Kingdom.

After that validation the document will be accepted in all of the signatory nations, according to the treaty.

Big losers are Federal Express and DHL, which have moved thousands of documents to and from state offices and consulates for validation.

Canadians will not have the option because that country has not approved the treaty.

The foreign ministry here said that Costa Rica became the 100th nation to accept the treaty when the Asamblea Legislativa passed the necessary measures. The full title of the agreement is “Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents.” The agreement also is called the “Apostille convention” after the French word for certification, the ministry noted.

Due to the way the treaty is worded and the steps that must be taken after a nation gives its agreement, the new process will not be in force in Costa Rica until the end of the year, the ministry estimated. Until then the old chain of legalization will be used, it noted. The United States adopted the convention in 1981.

The ministry noted that the new system would be used for birth certifications, court documents, a patent, sales documents and documents that have been notarized. Presumably the system also would be used for academic degrees earned outside the country. There was no mention of the fees that the ministry might charge.

Under another recent law Costa Rican notaries are empowered to validate signatures overseas and to serve legal paperwork. That means a Costa Rican notary can fly to Spain, for example, and close a real estate deal or serve divorce papers.

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