If you are staying in Costa Rica long term and you need to replace your Canadian passport before it expires, you can do this without returning to Canada but it’s a bit tricky. I recently did this through the Canadian Embassy in San Jose, so I’ll try to explain things to help you.
Canadian passports only last five years (US & UK passports last ten years) and it’s important not to let it expire if you want to travel. Remember that you can’t travel within the last six months before the expiry date so really a Canadian passport is only good for 4-1/2 years.
I’ve been living in Costa Rica for the last 3 years (although I leave the country every 90 days, by law) and my passport was due to expire next April. So in May of this year I started the process. My options were to return to Calgary in Canada and renew there, or try to get it done at the Embassy in San Jose. Flights at the time were going to be in the $700 range, so I decided to do it here.
First of all, you can’t renew a Canadian passport until it is within one year of the expiry date. Here is what you will need:
1. Application form filled in.
3. Guarantor Declaration (doctor, lawyer)
4. Original Birth Certificate
5. Your expiring passport
6. Fee of $100
The application form is available online at The Canadian Embassy in San Jose.
Photos are very particular. They have to be taken at a professional studio (I used one in Liberia), they have to be the exact size of the specifications, you can’t smile, tilt your head, have your mouth open, wear dark glasses etc. Although the photos are small, you must write “I certify this to be a true likeness of ________” and your guarantor must sign it, and the photo studio must stamp their name and address or phone number on one of the photos.
The Guarantor Declaration is also available online at The Embassy. I asked my doctor to sign it. Your guarantor must say how long he has known you personally, and it must be at least three years.
Who carries around a birth certificate? It seems crazy to me that in this day and age the authorities rely on a withered old piece of paper that was given to me forty years ago, but that’s the rule. I had mine in storage back in Canada but luckily I got a friend to find it and mail it to me. A photocopy doesn’t work, nor does a drivers license.
You have a six month window of opportunity to renew your passport. After four years of the issue date but not later than six months before the expiry date (in case you need to travel, which I have to every 90 days to go outside of Costa Rica). When you send in your old passport, make sure you have a photocopy of the main information page and also the stamp showing when you most recently entered Costa Rica. While I was waiting for my passport, I was stopped by Transit Police and they demanded to see the stamp.
The fee is $100 Canadian. I live in Guanacaste so I preferred to mail in my application to save the 3-1/2 hour drive each way. The embassy said they preferred a cheque gerencia (pronounced che que herencia). So I tried three banks but I couldn’t get one. The cost is $25 but they will only do it if you have an account with them. So I sent $100 cash in an envelope instead, at a cost of $3. I sent US dollars and The Embassy accepted that.
The processing on my new passport was quite quick. I think it took under three weeks.
The Embassy is not allowed to mail your new passport to you for security reasons so I had to go to San Jose to pick it up. I was in and out of the building in five minutes. There’s free parking in the lot right beside the building. The location is quite easy to find. Coming from Puntarenas on the new highway, you stay on that road all the way past Escazu until you get to the MacDonalds at the traffic lights downtown San Jose (where the old highway to San Ramon meets the new highway). Turn in at the MacDonalds and turn immediately right again so you are going back towards Escazu on the side road parallel to the highway. Take a left at the first lights and first right into the parking lot. The attendant will give you a voucher which gives you free parking if the Embassy stamps it. If you take the new highway it’s about an hour quicker than taking the old highway that goes past San Ramon, although there are four tolls, averaging $1 each.
I dealt with Lorena at The Embassy in San Jose. She is an excellent help and I recommend calling her to confirm details before you apply to renew your Canadian passport in Costa Rica. She speaks English, French & Spanish, and her number is 2242-4442.
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