Having a Baby Overseas (Part Two)

This is the second part of a two-part series on our son and daughter-in-law’s experience of having their first child in Costa Rica. If you haven’t read Part One (previous post), I suggest you do that, as it will make Part Two more clear.

In the weeks preceding Emily’s birth, our daughter, Bethany, and her five children arrived in Costa Rica to be with the family during the birth and after. It was a grand family reunion, and we will always be so grateful that we could all be together during this time.

Emily meets her five cousins for the first time.

As we made our way home to Jaco from the hospital, Emily had her first experience in the car seat. She did pretty well. When she fussed, we played my hymn videos on YouTube to settle her down.

One of our favorite Costa Rican restaurants is on the road between San Jose and Jaco. Since Nate and Eva love this restaurant too, they wanted to initiate Emily right away. So, we stopped and had lunch at El Jardin, just out of Orotina on Highway 34. We took turns walking her and tending to her needs while eating. She was only a little more than 24 hours old, and here she was, enjoying her first Costa Rican tradition with her family.

When we arrived in Jaco, the first place we went was to Aunt Bethany’s place so that everyone could meet Emily. It was so much fun to introduce her to her cousins and her aunt.

Nate and Eva had rented a condo for these three months in the same building, and on the same floor, as the one Brenda and I live in. So, they were actually our next-door neighbors. It was very convenient, especially in the night. We told them they could bring Emily any time they needed help or a break. So, a few nights, we had knocks on our door at 3:00 am. Brenda gladly took over Emily’s care for a while, and I helped to walk her also.

Once a baby is born in Costa Rica, it is the hospital’s responsibility to report the birth to the nacional registry. This is crucial since other important documents hinge on proof of the birth being registered. This means that you are at the mercy of the hospital staff, especially if you are under a time constraint, as in Emily’s case. She needed to be able to leave the country with her parents on November 18. (She was born mid-October.)

CIMA Hospital – Superb hospital in the San Jose suburb of Escazu where Emily was born.
90 minutes from Jaco by car. Outstanding medical care.

The hospital assured Nate and Eva that they would report the birth promptly, and they did. A week after her birth, we all drove into San jose so they could go to the registry as instructed to request the birth certificate. They were told that her case was pending like many others, and that they would just have to wait. When Nate, Eva, and Emily returned to the car after the appointment, there was some disappointment that things hadn’t moved faster.

However, a surprise was on its way, and it arrived within about ten minutes of leaving the registry office. As I was driving the family through San Jose, en route to returning to Jaco, Nate got a phone call from the guy at the registry. He told Nate that he had gone ahead and processed everything, and that she was registered, and that her birth certificate would arrive to him by email shortly.

This was cause for joy because it meant we didn’t have to make the trip to San Jose again soon, and it meant that things could now proceed easily with the US Embassy as well as the Costa Rican government.

Sure enough, in a day or so, the birth certificate arrived by email. During Covid-19 lockdown, the Embassy had reduced appointments. Way back early in the Fall, Nate had been trying daily online to secure an appointment in advance for Emily. He would check all through the day during work breaks. One day, several months previously, he had been able to secure an appointment on October 26, when someone had cancelled.

So now that the birth certificate was in hand, as well as an appointment set, Emily was ready to make application for her US passport, based on the fact that her father is an American citizen. Eva, Emily’s mother, is a Chinese citizen, with permanent residency (green card) in the United States. But Emily’s U.S. citizenship is based on her father’s citizenship.

Nate was meticulous with the extensive paperwork for the Embassy. We even made several attempts to get a passport photo of Emily – Nate took photos at home, and we took them to several places in Jaco to have them printed. In the end, the US Embassy official rejected the photos we had taken. So, in the middle of the embassy appointment, Nate, Eva, and Brenda took Emily to a photo studio across the street and did their best to get a passport photo that would be accepted. It was quite a challenge. Getting a photo of an infant with their eyes open and looking at the camera, as well as keeping their head in the right position, and keeping her from crying, were all challenges that just about brought tears on everyone’s part. But, in the end, an acceptable photo was secured, and the family of three went back to the Embassy to continue the appointment.

Everything went like clockwork, and Nate and Eva were told that Emily’s passport would be ready in two weeks. That timeline would work well, as long as it was really just two weeks. An appointment was made in two weeks to retrieve the passport. (It takes two weeks because all the documents, photo, etc., are actually sent to the United States for processing, and then returned to Costa Rica.)

In the meantime, it was time to get Emily’s Costa Rican passport. Surprisingly, this was actually a much easier process. Nate made an appointment at the Banco de Costa Rica across the street from where we live. At the appointed time, he, Eva, and Emily went to the bank. The official there easily accepted her birth certificate copy and passport application, took her photo, and told them that Emily’s passport would be sent to the Jaco post office the next day. They were in shock at how fast and easy the process was.

Sure enough, later that afternoon, Nate received an email stating that the passport was on its way to the post office for retrieval the next day.

The next day, sure enough, the passport was at the post office, and Emily had her Costa Rican passport. Following later, were her cedula (national identity card) and other documents regarding her citizenship. Permanent permission was also granted by the Costa Rican government (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) for her to leave the country any time with one of her parents. This was registered within her passport.

Getting this Costa Rica passport had been as important as getting the US passport. She would need to leave the country on the Costa Rican passport, and she would need to enter the United States on a U.S. passport.

The US passport was indeed ready at the appointed time, and Emily walked out (well, actually, she was carried out) of the Embassy a United States citizen.

She was now a dual-citizen of Costa Rica and the United States of America.

We celebrated with our favorite cakes from the French Bakery in Jaco!

Here are some tips that might be helpful for those considering giving birth in Costa Rica.

  1. Begin the planning process very early. Once Eva was pregnant, they began making contact with people in Costa Rica who had given birth there in order to gain information, advice, and suggestions. If you don’t know anyone that can put you in touch with such people, join some Costa Rica expat Facebook groups and start asking questions.
  2. Carry out normal prenatal care in your home country until departure for Costa Rica. Be sure to communicate early on that you will be giving birth in Costa Rica, and you will need him/her to prepare records and even perhaps speak with your doctor in Costa Rica as time passes.
  3. Secure an appointment with a doctor in Costa Rica before your arrival. Communicate and ask questions of your delivery doctor so that you feel confident and informed about the process of giving birth. Ask people in Costa Rica for doctor recommendations.
  4. Once in country, if possible, pre-register at the hospital so that when the time comes for admission you do not have to take time to fill out all the paperwork.
  5. Make an appointment for the child as early as possible at your home country’s embassy. This is crucial for later on.
  6. Always be proactive. Do not assume that everything will be done on time. Encourage efficiency and timeliness, but don’t be rude. You are, after all, a visitor in the country.
  7. Regarding paperwork and documentation, always complete these as early as possible.
  8. Keep the big picture in mind. You want your child to have the advantages of two passports. The hassles, delays, and detours will all be worth it in the end.

Thanks for joining us on this baby adventure.

Until next time,

This is Paul, A Part-Time Expat

(Actually, we are not part-time any more, but the name remains. We are now living full-time in Costa Rica.)

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