Costa Rica: Local identification card issuance subject to delays

Due to technical issues, foreign nationals seeking initial or renewed local identification cards (cédulas) should expect processing to take over a month after their cédula appointment, instead of the usual two weeks.

Foreign nationals should therefore carry their passport and processing receipt to use local services, and the approval notice of their respective category (e.g. Temporary or Permanent Residence, Stay Visa) if they travel. There is currently no estimate for the resolution of system issues.


Cédulas are used to enter and exit Costa Rica and for the following non-exhaustive list of local transactions:

  • Registration with Social Security;
  • Obtaining a cell phone;
  • Obtaining a driver’s licence; and
  • Opening a bank account.

In May 2015, a new appointment system was implemented whereby legal representatives or authorized attorneys of companies accredited by the immigration authority (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) request a cédula appointment by email on Fridays, following the approval of the foreign national’s residence or visa application.  At the appointment, the foreign national submits a picture and fingerprints for the cédula. Due to the current demand, appointments are being granted up to two-and-a-half months following the applicant’s request. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals seeking new or renewed cédulas as part of the immigration process should factor in the delays.