Countries south of the border commonly require cedulas, a government issued ID card. We got one in Panama. It took about 5 months and a lot of paperwork. We really don’t get anything extra for it but it means you have closer ties to the country. It is used as your official ID for many things including domestic flights. More importantly, it is not required.
When we came to Colombia, we knew that we had to get a cedula here. Since we are moving here in February, we thought we could complete it then. No, we need one yesterday as everything is tied to the Colombian cedula.
David saw that a local grocery store has cooking classes during the week. He was told that it was not a money program, it was a points reward program. No big deal, just join the points program. Except you can’t without a cedula.
We have to buy minutes cards for our phone because you cannot get a phone plan without a cedula. You cannot get a Metro pass without a cedula. This is an important card.
We want this beautiful apartment but, as extranjeros, we need a fiador. A fiador is a person that promises to pay our rent if we don’t. I don’t know how many people would sign up for that task. Obviously, we do not have one so we said we could pay several months in advance. Our realtor said we could get by without one if we have a good balance at a Colombian bank – except – you can’t get a bank account without a cedula.
So we wait for the little card and the special stamp in our passports that will allow us to be participating members of Colombian society. We were told it should only take a couple of weeks.
As disruptive as it will be for the next few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about this topic in the US. Panama and Colombia require official proof that every new resident has enough funds that they will not become a burden on society. Panama does an FBI background check to weed out felons. Traffic checks, of cars and buses, are frequent and the officers look at either your passport or cedula. Without either, you are ordered to appear in court. Yet, the US says there is not way this can be done. If there is a necessity, then it can be done.
Getting a cedula is not free. If you are a natural born citizen, getting one is cheap and fast. But, for expats, immigration takes a few weeks and the cost is several hundred dollars.