As of 2010, the total number of nationalized foreign-born people was 38,846 people.
- A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -

Published Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Foreign-born with criminal records
will not be able to obtain
Costa Rican nationality

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The deputies of the Special Permanent Commission on Security and Drug Trafficking approved bill No.21,511 called "Law to prevent foreigners with criminal records from obtaining Costa Rican nationality."

According to Congress, the bill has the goal of making clear rules regarding the granting of Costa Rican nationality to migrants who have criminal records.

With the changes in the law, a fourth cause is added for the non-granting of naturalization guidelines to those who are foreign-born and who in the last ten years have had some type of criminal background, either in Costa Rica or their own country, or a third country.

Also, the new law establishes the suspension of the naturalization process for those who have a pending judicial process in any country.

According to the deputy Gustavo Viales-Villegas, who voted in favor of the bill, that Costa Rican nationality must be protected, so there must be defined criteria for immigrants to obtain it.

However, the law establishes a couple of exceptions. The law does not apply in the case of the foreigner-born person who is under refugee status and granted the Restricted Visa and Refugee Commission of the National Directorate of Migration, and the Migration officials were previously reported of judicial processes or convictions.

Also, the case of foreigners who had a criminal record before the declaration of naturalization, as long as they have reported this situation to the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

However, if the criminal acts were committed in Costa Rica, neither of the two previous exceptions would apply and therefore the foreign nationality would not be authorized.

According to the statistics of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, TSE, between 2001 and 2010, 16,146 foreign-born people obtained Costa Rican nationality, which is an average of 1.8% naturalizations per year, in relation to the total immigrant population.

As of 2010, the total number of nationalized foreign-born people was 38,846 people. Of these, the majority of 20,986 were born in Nicaraguan, 3,161 were born in El Salvador and 2,611 were born in Colombia

The next step is the approval of the bill by the rest of the deputies who are expected to be called to vote during the next few weeks.

Can a foreign-born obtain nationality in your country even with having a criminal background?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to

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