I was talking to my coworkers and my mom about this whole ID renewal process, so I figured I’d share it with the world. If you don’t like reading the blog when I rant about Tico Bureaucracy, then maybe you’d prefer looking at some pictures of our house that I just put up?
OK, begin rant: See, I have a cédula de residencia, which is basically the national ID card that Costa Ricans carry, but with a slightly different design (which includes the vaginal-looking Costa Rican national orchid). Also, for them foreigners like me, they are only valid for a year, after which you have to renew it. This sounds easy enough in theory, but of course it isn’t.
See, my cédula expired in October, so I wanted to make an appointment to get a new one. The catch is that you can’t make an appointment to renew the cédula until the actual month of expiry. So, I had to make the appointment in October. The appointment can’t be made at the Ministry of Migration; instead, you need to call a 900 number to make it. That also takes extra steps to get your telephone set up to be able to call 900 numbers. Many foreigners are fleeced by unscrupulous people who wait outside the building and offer to call the 900 number on their cell phones, and then charge the foreigner 10 dollars or more for a phone call that only costs 20 cents. So, that’s the first step: requesting an appointment by phone.
Second step: Get the date of the appointment. Mine was for March 24th. Oh, cool! Only 5 months after my ID expires. I asked many, many questions during my 900-number call about why this was so, but no one could tell me. Also, despite getting the new ID in March, it will still expire next October, and I can’t renew it–or request to renew it, that is–until next October. This will be the case for the first 5 years I have a cédula, apparently. After 5 years, they’ll be good for 2 years each. After 10 years of this, they’ll apparently good for 5 years at a time, but if that’s the case, perhaps a foreign power will invade this army-less paradise in the meantime and institute some logic and order to the immigration process (Germany? Austria? Turkey? Any takers…?).
Then, if you want to leave the country in the 5 months while you’re waiting for a new ID, you need a third step. I had to get a little document that says I’m waiting for my new cédula, so that I can use it to go through the Migración lines at the airport when Angela and I go to the US over New Year’s. Said document is literally a form that has a long declaration that the cédula is in process, and then it has four spaces that need to be filled in by the Migración officials; the spaces are for “name,” “ID number,” “date of appointment,” and “time of appointment.” Oh, and it has a rubber stamp! That’s literally all the document says. It would make sense to just give you this document when you make the appointment for the renewal, but since that’s over the phone, it doesn’t work that way. Also, you’d think that the Ministerio of Migración could set up some sort of “internet system” so that their officials at the airport would be able to see that people are waiting for their new IDs. But that’s not the case; you have to go to the ministry in person with a photocopy of your ID and request the little paper. Depending on the whim of the attending agent and also depending on who you actually talk to, you’ll have to wait from one day up to two weeks to actually pick up the paper. It will never happen on the same day, though.
So actually I went to Migración on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Once to drop off the request, and a second time to pick up my little rubber-stamped piece of shit.
This should work till March 24th, the day I go to get my new cédula. Wait, did I said “get my new cédula”? I mean, “go ask for it again, for some fucking reason.” Because I’ll go in on March 24th, but that’s just to drop off a letter asking for a new cédula, as well as a proof that I’ve deposited 58 dollars in Migración bank account. I don’t actually get the new cédula until two weeks after that, at which point I’ll have to go back to Migración to pick up the little printed-off piece of plastic shit with my ugly mug on the front and a hologram on the back.
Thankfully, next February Angela and I will celebrate two years of official, state-sanctioned marriage, if you remember that. After that point, I’m legally allowed to apply for Costa Rican citizenship, and it also appears that I won’t lose my American citizenship. I’ve gotta investigate it more, although it goes through the Civil Registry, which is another, completely separate bureaucracy. Still, I’ll be willing to try anything that lets me avoid going back to Migración for a few (or seven) more appointments every year.
(By the way, I took the above picture near the highway. It’s about the only indication of how to actually get to the main building of the Ministerio de Migración. Oh, and “Musmanni” is the name of a bakery near the Ministerio…)