Home / Immigration  / Name Changes – A little too confusing for Immigration

Name Changes – A little too confusing for Immigration

We have the pleasure of assisting expats from all corners of the world and have grown accustomed to seeing and dealing with cases where there is a disparity between the applicant’s name on the various

We have the pleasure of assisting expats from all corners of the world and have grown accustomed to seeing and dealing with cases where there is a disparity between the applicant’s name on the various documents we must submit to Immigration. For example, it is common to see wives who have a name on their birth certificate and a different name on their passport as they traditionally take their spouse’s last name.

We have had cases where people simply disliked their birth name and adopted a new one growing up. There are people who married and divorced numerous times, those who dropped their middle name, names that changed as a result of Anglicisation, etc. There are several situations, reasons and explanations of why a name could have changed and it generally would not be something to lose sleep over when thinking of moving to Costa Rica.

However, name changes in Costa Rica are rare. It is simply not part of the tico culture to change last names, for example, as our Law states that ticos shall have their name (first and middle, if desired), followed by their father’s and mother´s last names, respectively. Whilst people may be known (conocido como or known as) by a nickname or a different name to the one featured on their birth certificate, people generally do not request to have a name legally changed.

This, plus Immigration’s well-known love for overcomplicating certain things, may explain why they find it challenging to analyze and approve applications when a name change is identified.

Whilst one can understand why they need to make sure that the person submitting the birth certificate, passport and additional documents is the same human being, our Immigration Law does not contemplate how to proceed or which documents to file when there is a name change.

Simple cases may be for example where an applicant has a name on the birth certificate such as Hannah Jane Doe, this person marries John Michael Smith and changes her name to Hannah Jane Smith. In that case it is easy since the marriage certificate would explain it all.

However, lets say Hannah Jane Doe just thought her name was very boring and requested to have her name legally changed to Hannah Sloth Lover. In cases such as Ms. Sloth Lover’s, it used to be enough to file a notarized affidavit explaining the sequence of the name change. However, this may no longer be sufficient.

As of lately, Immigration’s expectations seem a little excessive. For example, if a person changed names 5 times, they basically wish for the applicant to procure and apostille/legalize documentation to explain the 5 name changes.

This makes the document procurement stage longer and more expensive. We are, as is our style, fighting Immigration on this. However, whilst we continue to challenge what seems to be an unnecessary hurdle, we would suggest for expats who wish to apply for Residency to contemplate procuring additional documentation to explain any disparity in their names to ensure a smoother Residency process.

Applicants who, on the other hand, are eligible for naturalization, may not face such unwarranted nuisances. Nonetheless, they may be in for a different treat. Applicants who are granted nationality will notice that their naturalization letters, cedula and passport will feature their names just as a tico´s would, meaning first name, middle name if applicable, father´s and then mother´s last name. In our experience, many expats love the idea of having their parent´s names featured on their official documentation. For those who do not like such drastic change, remember tico cedulas allow you to include the conocido como or known as name.



Attorney with more than 10 years of experience in customer service, team management and team building at an international level. Has worked immigration cases in various countries, including Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama.

Review overview