Are you an American expat married to or with a Costa Rican? Is it time to move back home but you want to bring your better half with you? Before googling “how to bring my Costa Rican spouse to the USA” (or something along those lines), read on below for a little visa guidance.
This website is all about life and travel in Central America, geared for tourists, expats, and potential expats. But sometimes things change for expats in the region and they find themselves moving back home. For many, this is easy – just a case of selling your possessions/property and heading back. But for others, people who have fallen in love with Central Americans, for example, it’s a little more difficult. Big decisions need to be made about the future.
After all, if you’re from the United States, for example, and your partner/spouse is a citizen of a Central American country like Costa Rica, it might not be as easy as you think.
No country in Central America participates in the ESTA visa waiver program, including Costa Rica
This means that all Central Americans need a visa. No matter what their relationship with you is, they need a visa. These visas are not easy to obtain, even for a short visit as a tourist.
A feature of American embassies in Central American capitals is the line of people outside them waiting to apply for a visa. This application isn’t cheap and the process includes a face-to-face interview with an official, who, most times, will deny the visa, even for a vacation. This goes double for applicants with American partners or spouses. An applicant needs to prove they have enough ties in their home country (job, property, etc) to return. An American boy/girlfriend is quite literally the opposite of that.
So if you’re an American with a Costa Rican partner and you want to start your life together in the States, what can you do to ensure a smooth and legal transition back home for you both?
In this guide, we’ll cover a few essentials to help you choose the best visa pathway for your needs and increase your chances of securing a visa for your partner. We’re using Costa Rica as an example here, but the exact same process applies for Belizeans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Panamanians.
Should you leave Costa Rica in the first place?
Before you start, however, you need to be sure that this is the right move for you and your Tico/a partner/spouse. While you might miss your home and while the business environment is better in the States, with much better financial opportunities, remember you left there for a reason.
That lifestyle you left hasn’t changed. And now you have to think about someone else (your partner/spouse) adapting to a foreign country and culture. Many Costa Ricans find themselves missing their home country and their families. And you might well miss the more laidback lifestyle you found in Costa Rica yourself. The grass is not always greener back home.
— Central America Living (@VidaAmerica) September 9, 2022
So make the right choice based on your unique life goals and needs
And once you’ve decided you definitely want to live together in the States, the tips below can help make the process of getting a visa even smoother.
Securing a visa for a Central American to live legally in the United States may seem overwhelming. But don’t fret – obtaining a green card or temporary residency permit is possible! Today, over 7.2 million U.S. residents were born in Central America or have Central American ancestry. And, if they can do it, so can you or your partner.
Let’s look at what to keep in mind during this process below.
Explore the Fiancé(e) Visa pathway
If you’ve found love in Costa Rica and plan on marrying your partner, you should explore the Fiancé(e) Visa (K-1). This allows Americans to bring their foreign fiancé(e) to the U.S. with an intention to get married. It is important to note that the K-1 visa is only valid for 90 days after the fiancé(e) enters the US, and the couple must get married within that time frame. This process demands absolute precision in the paperwork and includes an interview at the embassy where you and your partner must convince them that your relationship is legitimate – oftentimes easier said than done.
Consider getting married first and applying for a family immigration visa
Another option is getting married in Costa Rica before moving to the United States. Although you don’t want them to think you’re getting married to move to the States. It helps here to be married in advance and get your residency in Costa Rica through marriage. But family immigration visas are possible. It’s a lengthy process, involving multiple interviews and a medical examination. You might find it easier if you’ve been living together in a married state for some time in Costa Rica – it’s easier to prove the legitimacy of your relationship that way. That said, successful applicants find it much easier to establish a secure and legal pathway towards permanent U.S. residency.
As a citizen of the US, you can sponsor a relative to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. We’re ready to get the process started when you are. Visit https://t.co/vtD0jvMzC0 to get connected with experienced #immigration lawyers in your area. pic.twitter.com/0ardHs7mo0
— Marble Law (@themarbleway) December 28, 2022
Is employment sponsorship an option for you?
If you and your partner aren’t ready to get married, another option is to legally immigrate to the U.S. for work. This involves finding an American employer who is willing to sponsor your visa application. It provides an opportunity to secure a stable job while gradually easing into your new life in America. Again, as a Costa Rican, unless you have some special skills, this route is far easier said than done.
Three tips to ensure a smooth legal transition to the United States
Moving to the U.S. with your Costa Rican partner is challenging. But with the right tips and strategies, and an inordinate amount of patience, it’s possible:
- Partner with a specialized lawyer. Experienced attorneys specializing in US immigration law like the team at Marble.co can provide valuable guidance. They’ll ensure all your forms are filled out correctly and all legal requirements are met. They can also help you find the best pathway to becoming a resident for your needs and goals.
- Provide all necessary documents. You’ll need various documents like your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), passport-sized photos, financial records, etc. Given the complexity of the immigration process, having your documents professionally translated and USCIS certified can make a significant difference in supporting your application. Whether it’s your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or any other necessary paperwork, services that get your documents USCIS-certified can streamline the process, making sure you’re fully prepared for every aspect of your application.
- Prepare for your interview. This is where visa outcomes are often decided. Research the common questions asked and rehearse your answers in advance. Being well-prepared will help eliminate unnecessary stress on the actual day of the interview.
Use these tips to navigate through this process effortlessly and start your new life in the United States with confidence. There’s no doubt that bringing your partner/spouse back to the States can feel overwhelming. But with the right legal help, you can get rid of unnecessary stress and increase your chances of enjoying a smooth and successful transition. And Costa Rica’s always here should you decide to return someday!