U.S. Passport for a Child Born Abroad: Registering a Birth in Costa Rica with the U.S. Embassy

Note: We are publishing this article in April 2024, and it’s possible the information below will change as the Embassy updates their rules and processes. Please be sure to follow all instructions from the Embassy, which you can find here: https://cr.usembassy.gov/services/birth.


We gave birth to our daughter in December and recently went through the process of getting her U.S. passport. The process was frustrating, largely due to how difficult it was to get the information we needed to proceed. We are publishing this guide in the hopes that it helps other new American parents in Costa Rica.

Our Story

We knew as soon as our daughter was born that we’d want to get her registered as an American born abroad in Costa Rica, in order to get her passport. Without her U.S. passport it would be very difficult to travel back to the U.S. as a family, so we wanted to get it taken care of asap. When she was just a few weeks old we started the process, which ended up taking 5-6 weeks to complete, including a big road trip and overnight stay in San Jose with the whole family.


We completed the online process outlined below and requested our in-person appointment at the Embassy. In-person appointments cannot be selected or scheduled at your convenience. They are assigned. We ended up getting a 7am appointment on a Tuesday, so we traveled to San Jose the weekend before and booked an Airbnb for 2 nights near the embassy. Both parents typically need to attend this appointment, along with the child.


While 7am is early for an embassy appointment, we were the first American citizens to be seen that day, skipping the long line of Costa Ricans waiting on their embassy appointments. We went up to a window twice – first to show our initial paperwork to make sure we had everything required, next to a private room with a window where we answered questions to prove our citizenship. We showed up to the embassy just before 7am and left before 8am. All in all an efficient trip!


It was a little bit stressful to have a hungry, crying infant with us, but the embassy officials seemed to have seen it all, and didn’t bat an eye when we stopped to nurse in the chairs in the waiting area. 


While the initial process was confusing, we did end up getting approved for our registration of birth abroad immediately, while we were physically at our embassy appointment, and our daughter’s passport was ready for pickup after just one week. 


When we asked about getting a Social Security Number for our daughter, we were referred to the Federal Benefits Unit of the embassy for instructions as to how to apply. This unit was unresponsive to emails and phone calls for a few months, but we finally got through. See below the instructions they gave us on how to get an SSN for our daughter.


We are both American citizens who were born and grew up in the United States, and we’re unmarried. The paperwork we had to provide will be slightly different than parents who are both US citizens and married, or in cases in which only one parent is a US citizen or resident, but we will cover all cases below!



Steps we took to register a birth abroad with the United States from Costa Rica

  1. Create an account with MyTravelGov
  2. Complete a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (eCRBA) form online and upload docs online at MyTravelGov
  3. Pay the fee online
  4. Schedule an in-person interview by emailing [email protected] and [email protected] (in early 2024 it says to email the SanJoseCRBA address online, but we found only acssanjose would respond).
  5. Attend the in-person interview at the US embassy in San Jose, bring all of your documents listed below, and decide if you want to pick up your child’s passport at the embassy in San Jose or get it mailed to you.
    • There are places to get your baby’s passport photo taken all around the embassy. We got our daughter’s photo taken at Formuvisa.
    • You can’t bring anything with you into the Embassy – no phone, nothing electronic. You will have to store any keys with security as you walk in. It’s fine to bring a baby blanket, a few diapers, and other non-electronic baby necessities, but do not expect to be able to bring your diaper bag.
  6. Once the passport is ready, you can either have it mailed to you in Costa Rica or pick it up at the embassy. 
    • If you pick it up at the embassy you have 90 days to pick it up and you have to pick it up from 10-11:30am Monday-Friday (note: the Embassy is closed on the last Wednesday of every month for some reason + all CR and US holidays). 
    • If you want to get the passport mailed to you at your local post office (Correos) in Costa Rica, you will have to get a form at the Consulate that is stamped to give to Correos. You’ll take it to your local Correos, pay the shipping fee, and then email the Embassy with a photo of your Correos receipt. They should then put the passport in the mail. 
      • NOTE! Given our experience in early 2024, we would recommend picking up your child’s passport at the embassy. It was *very* difficult for us to get a response from the US Embassy in Costa Rica to confirm they had mailed our child’s passport and to get any kind of tracking number.

Documents for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad - CRBA (submit online and bring in-person)

  • Costa Rica Birth Certificate (long form) – You can get this form easily online. You can look your child up in the Registro Civil by name here to find their cedula number. You buy the certificacion de nacimiento here. It’s a digital document that will be emailed to you. You will need to print it to bring to your in-person appointment at the embassy as well. Note that this is NOT the yellow paper you may have received at the hospital/immediately after birth.
  • Proof of Pregnancy – Likely the easiest way to fulfill this requirement is to submit your Carné del Embarazo (the card that includes stats from your prenatal visits in Costa Rica). Any other medical paperwork from your pregnancy or birth will also suffice.
  • Proof of Parent’s Citizenship – Your U.S. passport, birth certificate showing birth in the United States, or certificate of naturalization or citizenship
  • *if married* Proof of Relationship – A certified marriage certificate
    • If you got married in Costa Rica it needs to be the document from the Registro Civil
    • If either person was married previously you also need to show termination of any previous marriages
  • Proof of residence in the US – 
    • *if married* – You will only need to show your valid driver’s license, 
    • *if unmarried* – The embassy asks for proof of five years of residence, with two of those years being after age 14. We fulfilled this with old school report cards and transcripts. Only one parent will need to provide these documents.
  • Form DS2029 – You will complete this form online on MyTravelGov as part of the eCRBA process, but you will also need to bring a filled out version to the embassy appointment

Documents for the Passport (to bring to the appointment at the embassy in person)

  • Form DS-11, completed but not signed. Use the link (don’t use another version of the form).
  • 1 recent passport photo of your child, 2×2” size with a light background (we recommend bringing a couple just in case)
  • Application fee paid in cash or credit card

How to Get a Social Security Number for a U.S. Citizen Baby Abroad

In March of 2024 we were informed that the process of getting a Social Security Number for a U.S. citizen child under the age of 12 in Costa Rica requires just two types of documentation:


  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or a birth certificate recorded before age 5
  • ID for the parent and the child


In order to get the SSN you have to make an appointment with the Federal Benefits Unit at the U.S. Embassy. They are only open for this type of appointment on Wednesdays from 8:30am to 11:30am. You can make an appointment by emailing [email protected].


If we had been aware of this requirement in advance, we would have scheduled our passport pickup and Social Security Number appointment for the same week, to simplify our travel to San Jose.

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