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Obtaining a Cédula de Extranjería / Foreigner ID in Colombia

Feeling a little daunted as to the process of becoming a resident here in Colombia? I read this post by a guy called Jeff Paschke, the founder of a very nifty site called Medellin Living, and thought I could add something to it. This post really stems solely from my recent experience here in Colombia in obtaining my Cédula de Extranjería.

How to Register your Visa and obtain your Foreigner ID

Doing this is a good insight to the service you will be receiving here in Colombia. Before I start, the best advice above all when dealing with this place is to get an appointment. It is optional. Visit the official main information page for this here. Unfortunately, it is a bad English translation. Follow on from that page through to their appointment booking page. I had to use the Spanish online form as the English one seemed broken and missing some input fields that you get on the Spanish one. Once you've done this move on to the application if you haven't already.

The Application

I had to register an RE visa that I obtained in the London consulate. You have to do register/validate this visa in Colombia within fifteen working days at a Migración Colombia office (list of offices) I did mine at the Cancillería Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores office in Bogotá. Google directions do a great job of directing you on public transport otherwise Uber searches the office fine.

Do not just rock up at the office. The best advice I can give here is, to an appointment to register your visa (Registro de Visa). As part of registering your visa, you will also be applying for a Foreigner ID (Cédula de Extranjería).

What you'll need for the application:

  1. It's just one application form. Complete sections 2,3,4,5,8,9. I found that you will need to enter your forenames into the surname field and vice verse as it'll be converted the end into the reverse fields. (Just checking again now in the last few days. You are not directed to this form and tick "Cédula de Extranjería". Having said this. I am confident you can still use the before linked to form as the same form is what is printed and available in the offices.)
  2. Your passport with one copy. (black and white and original size is fine)
  3. Your visa in your passport. (Not sure if you just have the separately printed visa. Receiving the visa this way and not stuck in your passport was an option that I had when I received my visa from the London consulate. Feel free to contact me or comment below and let me know an answer to this.)
You'll need to know your blood type. This might be a problem if you're from a system that never required it. Some people have said that you'll need a doctor's or lab's note confirming your blood type. I had these but they were disregarded and accepted the blood type that I entered on the above form.

Rock up to the entrance tell the guard that you have an appointment (show the online appointment reference number and don't worry about the time of the appointment as he doesn't bother to check any details. He'll point you to a queue that is for people with appointments. This will be much shorter than the long line of people turning up without an appointment. So this is your first win. Thank me in the comments section below. The image here shows the queue for those without an appointment. Those with an appointment can pretty much walk up to the next available reception desk through to the left where the pillar is.

The person at the desk merely checks your application is complete. They'll enter some details on their computer and will direct you upstairs (1st floor). This person knew simple American English, enough to ask a question and direct you onwards.

Processing the Application

On the first floor to the left from the stairs, there's another bulk of people waiting for their name to be called. As far as I gathered, applications with appointments get priority as my name was called almost instantaneously. You merely hand this person your documents and they ask you to wait again. This person sequentially enters more of your information into their system and your documents get handed out to other desks beside. When the clerk on that desk gets to your documents you'll be called again. As far as I could tell, applications get priority with your documents featuring at the top of the pile, of the clerk's workload. However, waiting for this clerk to call me took the longest with a wait of about 30 to 40mins.

Once called, you wait while they enter more information, seemingly creating your ID card on screen (which they will ask you to verify is correct on screen) and then scanning all your documents and providing a six digit number (This is your actual ID number) which is written on your application. You'll then pay. The best advice here now is to pay with a card. It's COL$173,000.00 (About £45). Pay with a card even if you have to use another currency card. It is worth any fees, as otherwise, you will need to leave the building and go through the hassle of finding a bank and paying the fee there. Asking how long until I receive my ID card I was told five days and had been pointed to a telephone number on a leaflet to find out. You'll be handed all your documents back including your passport with the payment receipt and directed to wait in another area of the first floor, which is to the right from the stairs, for your photograph.

This last wait here is to have your photo taken, all fingers and thumb prints taken with your signature recorded too. All this is done electronically and conducted by the same person. They will ask you if you are happy with your photo and signature before letting you go.

Collecting your Cédula de Extranjería

Instead of calling the provided number, you can check if your Foreigner ID card (Cédula de Extranjería) is ready with the six-digit reference number that was written on your application, online here: Visiting this link brings you to a page to download of that day's updated list of available reference numbers. This is a rudimentary PDF that is in numerical order. Just press ctrl+f to search for your reference/ID number. When you see your reference in this PDF, you know that yours is ready. You can return to the office and tell the guard that you are collecting (reclamar). He'll point you to a desk on the ground floor, next to the reception desk that you attended on the very first day here. Here, I found a bored person on their mobile (using WhatsApp). You'll give them your passport and they'll look through a pile of cards and hand you yours. Check it lastly. You then need to sign a form, quoting your ID number and be off.

To learn Spanish in Colombia The Whee Institute is the place to go.

A few things to say...

Now for the review of this place. The staff do not know enough English. The website has almost unworkable English. The website is broken in many parts. Staff are inattentive. It is not made clear what the next steps are that you need to take, beforehand and particularly when in the building. The place is crowded. Staff are not professional, choosing to chat with one another and playing with their mobiles than do their job. Desks are understaffed. Guard at door is unwelcoming. Again, my advice is to book an appointment before turning up.

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