Part One: In Search of the Golden Ticket

 Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.
~ Willy Wonka

In the beginning

I’m beginning to feel like I’m in the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…in search of the illusive golden ticket. In our case, we’re in search of the Secretary of State’s gold seal that certifies the notary. I returned to the states in November to start the process for our residency in Nicaragua. After many failed attempts, Ron and I returned to the states in January and started the process all over again in Florida, where they seem to understand Latin logic more than other states. Following is what I have learned throughout this horrific and frustrating experience:

1. Nicaragua is not a member of the Hague Convention. Therefore to legalize documents for Nicaragua, they go through a chain of authentication or certification process. Countries that are members of the Hague Convention receive apostilles for the documents instead of certifications.

2. It all starts with the notary! We collected our documents: long-form birth certificates, proof of income for a lifetime, health statements that say we are of good health and free from contagious diseases, marriage certificate, and police reports. These documents need to have embossed or raised stamps…Nicaragua loves stamps! Then, all documents are taken to a notary, copied, and stamped.

3. It is illegal to copy and notarize birth certificates in most states. So, get several copies of birth certificates to include in packets. Nicaragua wants four packets containing the notarized copies of documents. Believe me when I say, the gold seal will be out of reach if you copy and notarize the birth certificates. That is a BIG no,no!

4. Once your documents are notarized, you will need to either get the County Clerk’s office to certify that the notary is a true and legal notary in that county, or in our case, just send documents to the Secretary of State to certify that the notary is a true and legal notary in the state. Depending on the state that you get your documents notarized, they may need a County Clerk’s seal and a Secretary of State seal. Since we are going through Florida, they only need the Secretary of State seal to certify a Florida notary.

5. This is probably the most important part. Remember it all starts with the notary. It doesn’t matter what state or states your documents are from. It is a chain of authentication, starting with the notary. You will only need ONE letter of certification from the Secretary of State certifying the notary. The individual documents do not need to be certified…only the notary needs to be certified. This was a BIG problem for us. No matter how we tried to explain to the State Department that we only needed ONE letter certifying the notary, they kept telling us, “No, we don’t do it that way.” So, here is a simple way to get your gold seal from the Secretary of State. ( Actually, I’m hoping it is a simple solution, because I won’t know until Monday if it worked.) Only send the State Department one document to be certified. Keep it simple and send the letter from the doctor, which is not a legal document. Have the letter copied and notarized, then send it off to the State Department asking them to certify the notary for that one document. Hopefully, we should receive a letter from the Secretary of State with the state seal certifying that the notary is a true and legal notary in the state of Florida. That is our golden ticket!

6. We chose to use a courier service to deliver our one document to the State Department of Florida. For us, it was cheaper than driving to Tallahassee to get the certification. But, most states have a walk-in service at the Department of Apostilles and Certifications. Our first attempt ended in failure because the notary didn’t use the right form on the document. So, today, we called the notary in from vacation ( he was on his way to Oregon for a week) and had him redo the notary form that was required by Florida.

7. Once we receive the GOLD SEAL from Florida, then we can take the completed packet to the Nicaraguan Consulate in Miami, FL. We’re flying to Miami next Tuesday. We found an inexpensive guest house on Flagler Street ( try to find an inexpensive place to stay in Miami! Whew!) near the Nicaraguan Consulate. We plan to hand-deliver our documents. The cost is $50 for same day authentication. The Nicaraguan Consulate only needs to see the GOLD SEAL from the Secretary of the State of Florida to authenticate our documents. Apparently, each of the six Nicaraguan consulates in the USA have copies of the gold seals in their states of jurisdiction. Florida goes through the Nicaraguan consulate in Miami. In November, I used a notary in Pennsylvania, thus if I would have obtained the illusive GOLD SEAL from the Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, I would have had to send my documents to the Nicaraguan Consulate in NY.

8. Make sure you have plenty of time for everything! First, all the original documents are dated. In our case, they were dated November 1st. That means, we have 6 months to get our authenticated documents from the USA to the immigration office in Nicaragua. Once the USA process is complete, then it will take 3-4 weeks for our Nicaraguan lawyer to have all the documents translated into Spanish, and 4 copies made of everything including all the pages of our passports and 6 photos each. Once all the packets are finally delivered to immigration, time stops. As long as our documents are delivered before the end of April (that’s when they expire), we are in good shape.

9. Be patient. Everyone will tell you something different. There is a way to work around the bureaucracy, but it requires patience, fortitude, and a lot of luck!  Remember, it starts with the notary. Choose a state where they understand Latin logic. Your documents do not need to be individually certified…only the notary needs to be certified. Make sure you have plenty of time because your documents expire in 6 months from the date they are issued. If you let your documents expire, you have to start ALL over again. It gets expensive traveling back and forth to the states, so be forewarned of all the problems you will encounter and have plenty of time for correcting mistakes, sending documents to the right place, and having them returned REJECTED, only to find another way to work around the problem.

10. Part two will start when we receive the GOLD SEAL from the State of Florida. Keep your fingers crossed for us…it’s been a long, stressful journey..but I’ve learned a lot about the process. I’m searching for the Golden Ticket and as Willy Wonka says, ” Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.”

6 thoughts on “Part One: In Search of the Golden Ticket

  1. Your journey is very well documented and so very much appreciated by those of us already living out of the states and looking to go thru this.
    I do have a question, did you get your medical exam/report done in the US or in Nicaragua?
    And your police report, assuming you weren’t Florida residents when you left the US, how did you get that from your previous state of residence and properly stamped?

    Thank you for taking the time and keeping a journal of the adventure.!

    • Thanks for your questions, Eden. Since we received our cedulas, Nicaragua has become a member of the Hague Convention. That means, for USA citizens, the process has changed. We had a doctor friend of ours from the states write 2 sentences on his letterhead saying that we were of good health and had no communicable diseases. That’s all Nicaragua requires..two sentences. Our police report was from TN, where we are still considered residents because we own a house there. At the time of our application, the notary was the most important part of the process. We took all of our documents to FL, had them all notarized by the same person, then certified by the State of FL that the notary was a legal notary of FL, then took all those documents to the Nicaraguan Consulate in Miami to have them authenticated. Now, you can’t do that. Instead, for each document, you need to send the document, individually, to the state department from which the document originated to have it apostilled. For example, if your police report is from TN, then you would need to send the police report to the TN State Department to have it apostilled. If your income verification is from PA, you have to send that document to the PA State Department to have it apostilled. If your marriage certificate is from CA, you have to send it to the CA State Department to have it apostilled. Basically, it cuts out the notary and the authentication process. Each state may have different requirements for the apostille stamp. Some states may require a notary stamp on the document. Depending on where your documents originated, you will need to check each state requirement for the apostille stamp. I think this whole process can be done through the USA State Department, too. But, I’m not sure of the process. Let me know if you have any questions.

    • Jejeje, Tamara. You crack me up. Thanks for the laugh…I really needed it today, especially when we needed to return to the notary and have him redo the notary form…and we caught him just in time before he left on vacation. Then, we had to spend $22 more dollars to overnight it to Tallahassee…the second time. 😦

  2. I wish you much Luck! at this time, I am happy to just make a border run every 90 days, rather than go though all of that.but I am very glad to get your advice, and I think if I decide to do it, I will do it in Florida. What is this lifetime income business? tax returns for life? That one will be a dossy for me, I have nothing to prove income for life. Most of my life i never made any money anyway, being a hippie

    • Well, I’m glad I can write out my frustrations, Whick. 🙂 It helps get rid of all my stress. One of the documents required for the pensionado visa ( the retirement residency) is a statement saying you make at least $700 a month for your lifetime. It can be from Social Security, or like us, from our pension plan because we aren’t old enough yet to collect Social Security. Although, believe me…I feel like I’ve aged ten years throughout this process. I wrote to my pension company, told them that I needed an income
      verification form and it had to say that I received this pension monthly for
      my lifetime. That part was easy. There are other ways to get residency in
      Nicaragua if you are not retired. I’m not sure what is involved, but we needed to apply for the pensionado visa, since we are retired. I’ll let you
      know if Florida is the best state to start the process in a week. Hopefully by
      next Thursday, we’ll be back in Nicaragua ready to continue with the Nicaraguan part of the process.

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