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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cedula- A National ID

We are legal aliens! We got our cedula renewed!

When we were younger, Wally and I did a lot of traveling together and we also, lived in several countries. We did that last feat by doing what millions of tourists do, we went into a country as tourists but then we stayed! A US passport can get you into most countries for about a stay of up to 3 months. After three months time, many countries allow you to extend a tourist visa for a short time. You can also, just simply cross the border and go into another country, get your passport stamped then come back the next day, or so and start another three month stay. Countries don't really want "Perpetual Tourists" living in them this way, "forever" but many people choose to do this. Some people do this because they are part-time residents, spending only 6 months at a time in a country of their choice. When we lived in Germany, eons ago, we rather enjoyed these forced border crossings, in search of a passport stamp that would start the period over again. We visited such places as Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, and Belgium to name just a few. When we lived in Portugal we crossed into Spain.

However, when we choose to "retire" here in Uruguay, we knew we would be here to stay! We also wanted to do things the right way and get legal residency. After all, we were buying a house here and would live here 24/7, not dividing our lives between multiple places.

 So from the very beginning, we arranged to get our immigration papers in order. We hired some help. Before even coming here, our Birth certificates and our Marriage certificate had to be "legalized" at the Uruguayan consulate, in the US. Even though we were legally married in the USA, we had to be legal in the eyes of Uruguayan law. Arriving down here, we then had to have an FBI check and get fingerprinted. We got health tests done, and our marriage and birth certificates translated into Spanish. After all of that, we had to go to the Immigration department in downtown Montevideo, for our final approval.

We were then, issued our National Identity card or Cedula as it is called here.

A Cedula is somewhat like a cross between a "Green Card", allowing you to legally work here and a USA Social Security Card. However, the identifying number on it is NOT a closely guarded secret like your SS card would be. So it is also, used as a general ID card, which it is. On the back of it, it states that we are legal residents. It has our thumb print and our place of birth, the State and the country in which we were born. I still, have to get used to the fact, that in Spanish the "USA" abbreviation letters, representing the United States of America are instead written as E.E.U.U. This card also has an expiration date.

On the front of the Cedula, it has my cedula ID number, my name printed out and my signature. It has my picture on it, taken by the Immigration department. The photo is somewhat like a Driver's license photo. The card is light green. It says, Direccion Nacional De Identificacion Civil (DNIC), on it.

A cedula is a very important card to have here, in this land of "red tape" and bureaucracy. Without this card, I would have to carry around my passport as many, facets of life, here are tied to having an ID number of some-kind. When I wanted to get a "points card" at the big supermarket here, they asked for my ID card, a Cedula or Passport being the only ID numbers accepted. A Driver's license with your photo would not be accepted as an ID, which would be in the USA. When setting up customer accounts with a company your Cedula is asked for. When we were buying lots of lights for our house remodel, the lighting store asked for our Cedula number. When you use your credit cards like MasterCard or Visa you have to write either your Passport number or your Cedula number on the credit slip. Your identity is really tied to this number and people keep files on you. This is a scary image for people from the US but it is just the way it is here.

As an example, on how well this system works, I'll mention what happened yesterday. When I paid our car insurance premium, (back in August) at a general pay center, I wasn't given a windshield sticker to put on my car showing that I had insurance, since the girl was new. Normally, Wally pays this, so I was "new" as well, to the routine. Wally realized yesterday, that I didn't have a sticker on the car. He went into the pay-center (this month of February) and explained that we were lacking the sticker. They asked to see his Cedula and then using the computer and his cedula number, they saw that a sticker hadn't been scanned out and assigned to us. They gave an insurance sticker to him "right then and there" (after scanning it).

A cedula card has an expiration date on it, unlike a Social Security Card. For foreigners like us, it expires every 3 years! Since it is a National Identity card, even Uruguayans have to apply and get a card. Children as well as adults have their own numbered cedula (ID card). For a native Uruguayan until the age of 21, a child has to get a new card every 5 years. After the age of 21, a native Uruguayan's cedula's expiration date is every 10 years, until they reach 70 years old. Then the card doesn't expire until they do, literarily!

Yesterday, Wally and I went down to the DNIC or Direccion National De Identification Civil office and renewed our 3 year cedula. The office closest to us is located in a shopping mall!

   In preparation for our cedula renewal we had to first, make an appointment. We did this last month as you are not allowed to schedule this appointment too far in advance of your expiration date. It may take several weeks to get an appointment date available, so a whole month ahead of time should be planned on. You can make an appointment by telephone by looking up the government office. However, unless your Spanish is excellent, this can lead to miscommunication, so that was not an option for us. You can get an appointment online (clicking this link will take you there) but you need a Debit card PIN code number from an ATM to pay for it and you need to have online banking capabilities in place before hand. Santander, Banred, Banco Republica, Antel, Abitab and Redpagos can all be done online. We found the online route "okay", then realized, we had never, "set up", our online bank account (ability) yet, so Wally exited that program. Finally, just like in the book, "Goldilocks and the three bears", we found a solution just right for us! We made our appointment,  in-person, by going to our trusty Abitab center (or a RedPagos center would do) We simply went to the counter and said to the girl "Necesitamos obtenir nosotros cedula renovación" All of those words are so close to English that you can figure them out and possibly memorize them. The woman behind the counter took it from there. It was so easy having her do all the work!  The only thing she asked us was, what day/date did we want to show up on. She asked us to choose (a date) by using a list of available appointments. We were allowed to peek at the computer and see the list of what available times (day and hour)  were empty. We were allowed to book the two of us, at the same time, on the same appointment day. You just let them know how many people you want on the appointment. She asked, if we wanted the appointment at Géant.

Géant is like a Walmart store. The shopping mall, where the DNIC office is located in, is known locally by that store's name.

It cost us about $145 pesos each, at the time of our making that appointment. That includes the cedula price and any charges by the center. You will be given a receipt and an 8x10 paper with the date and time of your appointment on it, stamped that you are paid up! Guard this reservation paper!

Second, before your appointment day arrives, go to the main Montevideo Immigration building shown in the picture (remember, this is where you originally went 3 years ago). That office is near the port and banking area (old town) on Missiones (street/calle) You are there to buy a, "Certificado de Llegado". That is a legal certificate saying you live here. That is the only paper and documentation you need. Nothing else needs to be legalized or translated. In case any problems arise, it is best to get this certificate before your scheduled appointment date. Go to the front desk, (for Tramites ) no number is needed for this line. Tell the clerk that you want to Renovación (renew) your cedula. This desk, then gives you a number. Sit or stand and wait for your number to show up on the large TV screen. It will post your number and show what number window to go to. When you go to that window or desk they will ask for your address. Take an electric bill or something else that shows your address. They write the address down, then they send you to the cashier to pay. Wally and I each needed to buy our own certificates. The cost was a total of he two certificates was $228 pesos or $114 for each one. After paying at the cashier, you wait near until they call your name and you approach that desk.That desk gives you your certificate right then and there! The certificate is very official looking! Keep all receipts!

Third, on the day of your appointment go to the Géant mall, if you booked that location. Stay on the main level.  There are benches in front of the door to the office, in the mall corridor, grab a seat. It's not worth arriving too early before your appointment time. You are not allowed to get in line, until your scheduled time!!!

The office doesn't open until 3 o'clock or 15:00. The last group scheduled is at 7:50pm or 19:50 hrs. The office closes at 9 o'clock (21 hrs).  Our appointment (for the two of us) was at 15:40. We quickly realized that, that was not our exclusive time slot  but was a group slot. About 12 people will have that time slot.

A man will call at the door for the 3:10 /15:10 group (the starting group) then 12 people, in that time slot, will enter the office and check in. You will show your 8x10 appointment letter reservation with the stamp and receipts that you have payed. You (and the 12 or so other people in that slot) will take a seat in front of a large TV screen. You will wait for your Cedula number to show up on the screen and a window number. You see how unsecured your number is!!! The rest is easy!

 When you see your cedula number and window number displayed go to that desk area and show your certificate that you brought with you, of where you live, the certificado de llegado which surprisingly doesn't show your address! (It just says you live in this country) So tell the person your address, he will ask for it. I always keep it written down on a scrap of paper. Then he takes your thumb print and your picture (so show up looking good). He asks what you do for a living or your workplace information, I said, "I'm retired" and I am a "ama de casa" or a housewife. That was good enough. The one helping me was great! He even said that we were neighbors because he lived in Salinas which is next to my community. He spoke a little English and we hummed to the Beatles song which was playing. After taking my picture he showed it to me and said how nice I looked it it! Then he handed me some paper towels and directed me to a sink where I could wash the ink off of my thumb. He said I might have to wait another 10 minutes to receive my cedula I was to wait with a group of people leaning along the back wall, until my name was called . I waited about 5 minuites. They called my name and I received my new, laminated cedula card good for another 3 years!

The cedula renewal process is easy! Everyone in the country whether Native or foreign born has to do it.  So you don't feel like you are being picked on because you were not born here.

After getting our cedula s, since we were in a mall, we went into a store and bought some cat-food that was on special (oferta), 4 bags for the price of 3. Then we treated ourselves to an ice cream cone.

Here's some "on the cheap" advice. There's a special on at the McDonald's ice cream Stand. Our cones only cost $35 pesos each. The cones were filled with ice-cream from Lapataia, the dairy farm in Punta del Este. The ice cream is not the normal McDonald artificial stuff and the cones came with a chocolate covered cookie stick. What's more they were filled with dulce de leche, of course! Not bad for $35p.

All in all, it's nice to have our identities intact again!


~Em said...

Wow. That was very interesting, informative and specific. Thank you for sharing. I was wondering how concerned the Uruguayans are about ecology and pollution ... in general. Are the city streets clean? Are there many national parks? Do the businesses have to be legally responsible for the pollution they create? That kind of thing. I continue to enjoy your blog!
Em Dykema

Denise said...

Dear Em,
in the future I will try and add some posts about the ecology efforts here. The tourist department uses the slogan Uruguay/Natural and many people see the need to protect the environment here. Still the city streets are not really clean. I'll try and find out the answers to your other questions and answer them in future posts!

Anonymous said...

hi denise and wally,
glad you two are reunited and "relegalized". Thanks for a great post - I saved it to my uruguay folder.
hope to see you in the not too distant future.
john from hollywood
ps...denise, how's your veggie garden? got any pics?

Denise said...

Dear John,
So good to hear from you!
Sadly, our veggie garden is still not functioning yet. I have the collard green seeds and we WILL have a garden! However, finishing it got put to the bottom of the list while Wally was away. I instead finally finished my kitchen by having the back-splashes and stove area tiled! The garden will be the culmination of our house's remodel. I did plant 2 cape berry plants given to me by an Expat. They seem to be trying to grow. We'll see!