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Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa Rica

Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa RicaHas anyone ever told you to not throw away your old passport? Probably not.

Well, you can throw them all away, except the one(s) that you used to purchase a property in Costa Rica. Crazy eh!

It sounds like a pretty stupid request, doesn’t it! Who wants to keep an old passport that is no good anymore? Let me show you why.

Costa Ricans do it the right way

You won’t believe this: Costa Ricans do it the right way. We expats always believe we do everything better. Well, in this case, Costa Ricans do it so much better than we do. If you want to know how that can happen, find out now.


Costa Ricans, when they become 18 years old, will receive their first cédula from the Civil Registry. This cédula is an identity card with their most important personal information. The identity card is used for everything they do.

On the front of the cédula, you will find:

  • the photo (like in a passport),
  • the ID number
  • and the person’s signature.

At the bottom, you will find:

  • the person’s first name
  • and both their last names.

On the back of the ID card, you will find even more information:

  • Again, the cédula number,
  • the person’s date of birth,
  • location where the person votes,
  • where the person was born (usually the name of the hospital),
  • when the identification card expires,
  • the sex of the person.

Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa Rica

Other MOST important data

  • A driver’s license is not an accepted identity card in Costa Rica, the cédula is the only one legally accepted.
  • The cédula number is for life, it never changes
  • The same ID number is used as a passport number, which is also for life, even though the passport expires and is renewed. But it is renewed with the exact same passport number.

The deed

When you purchase a property in Costa Rica, the notary public takes your legal ID number to identify you in the deed. If you’re a Costa Rican, the cédula is used and if you are a legal resident, your cédula de residencia or DIMEX is used.

If you are a tourist or you are a resident but not legal yet, you use your passport to purchase a property.

Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa Rica

Expiring date

As I already told you under “other important data”, a Costa Rican passport, even though it expires, keeps the same passport number. For life!

Your passport, when it expires, is replaced by a passport WITH A DIFFERENT NUMBER.

When you sell the property

The day will come that you will want to sell your property. Maybe that will happen 10 years later and you will notice that now you have a different passport with a different number.

You will be seen by a Costa Rican notary public as a different person because the passport number doesn’t match. Most closing attorneys, especially those who work for a bank, will not accept your new passport, without proof that you are the same person. The best proof is your old passport.

Especially when you sell your property to a person who needs bank financing, this issue can become really important and can even make you lose your sale.

Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa Rica

Your old passports

Most embassies don’t destroy your old passport when they issue a new one. Mine punches holes in it or cut a triangle from it.

Some embassies recommend two valid options to destroy your old passport:

1.       Shredding your passport so the biometric information page is destroyed.

2.       Disposing of your passport safely is burning it in a fireplace

This is fine as long as you didn’t use that old passport to buy property in Costa Rica.


If you don’t have your old passport anymore, talk to your lawyer. Hopefully, he/she was the closing lawyer during your purchase, so the lawyer knows about the situation. Lic. Roger Petersen gave us the following solutions:

1.       If the property is in your name, you should appear before a Notary Public to request the change of identification number and then file it in the National Registry.

2.       When there is no time to make this change because your closing is within days, you can appear before a notary public) who manifests that you are the same person. This is not always accepted by another closing attorney.

Why to keep the old passport used to buy property in Costa Rica

Update your corporation

In case you own your property in Costa Rica in a Sociedad Anónima or corporation, you might find that you are registered in such corporation with an old passport number. If that is the case, you first need to ask your lawyer to make the change of your ID number in the National Registry.

Contact us for your real estate purchase or sale, we are expert real estate professionals.

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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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