One of the biggest bureaucratic hurdles in Ecuador had been cleared – we had our resident visas. Time now to go after the cedulá. As I mentioned before, the Ecuadorian cedulá is a government ID card similar to a driver’s license in the states. For us gringos, however, it’s more like a Green Card.
As we mentioned in our previous post, when we discovered that we had to wait an additional five business days to apply for the cedulá, we also realized we had forgotten to get our apostilled birth certificates translated and notarized. We went straight away to a nearby translator who took great care of our needs within our timeline. Five days later we were back at the Civil Registry in the early morning only to be greeted by a huge line of people. Lucky for us, the line for foreigners was much shorter than the line of locals. We handed over everything, including our newly-translated birth certificates, only to find that they didn’t want the birth certificates!! It turns out they are no longer required to process a cedulá. I wish someone had shared that tidbit before we shelled out $150+ to order them, apostille them, translate them and notarize them. Oh well, better safe than sorry. This is a shining example of how the requirements change day-to-day around here.
As the registration official reviewed our documents, it was time for another surprise. On the notarized application form, we missed some details. In the field that asked for your spouse’s name and nationality, I forgot to put Stephanie’s middle name, and we both neglected to list each other’s nationality. Now why do they have to ask for two things on one line? LOL. The data on the application needed to match our visa info EXACTLY. The reason this was a surprise was that when we first tried to apply they looked over our stuff and told us everything was A-OK. Ha.
The scavenger hunt continued as we went back to the notary. There we learned that the concept of a line doesn’t really exist. Need something from the girl behind the desk? Just walk up and shove your papers in her face while she’s helping someone else. (This is literally how it works, no exaggerations! – Stephanie.) After twenty minutes of waiting politely, we finally shouldered our way up to the front. No one seemed to mind. It took her no time at all to pull the old page, throw the new one in, re-staple, and stamp stamp stamp. Yay! No cost to us. Since they had assured us the week before that they verify everything is filled out correctly, they were lucky they didn’t *try* to charge us!
Back at Civil Registration, our docs were found to be in order (for real, this time), and we joined the long line at the cashier to pay $5 apiece for our cedulás. With our receipt came a ticket for each of us with a number. We had about thirty numbers to go as we sat and waited to be called. When they finally got to us, they would not let us go together. We each had a number, and had to see someone separately. Maybe this was some high security stuff. How would we handle not having each other to help try and figure out the ten-foreign-words-per-second flying out of the official’s mouth?
Down at my private cubicle, the guy behind the desk checked every piece of information meticulously, took my fingerprints, took my photo, took my signature and even asked me my favorite color. (I never did find out why.) After having me verify everything, he pointed me to yet another section of the building, and told me to wait about 15-20 minutes for them to call my name. Right about here was when it dawned on me, that we weren’t merely applying for our cedulás, we were getting them right then and there! Had I known that the cedulás were a same-day thing, I would have shaved.
I headed back over to Stephanie who was still being processed. Her processor-lady didn’t like the fact that her bangs spill down over her forehead, and her bangs just were not cooperating. Luckily I was there to help out. And Stephanie confirmed that she had also been asked her favorite color, and did not know how to say it in Spanish.
We waited with all the other cedulá applicants as their names were called. Eventually, the guy behind the glass motioned to me to come over. I guess he didn’t want to risk butchering my name over the microphone. (Fair enough.) Minutes passed and Stephanie was mildly irked that our cedulás weren’t ready at the same time because I got to check the cool new ID out before she did. But as I reviewed my info, there hers was too.
Could the red tape really be over for the time being? This was the last thing we needed to do, as far as Immigration is concerned. Now when we use a credit card at the supermarket or pick up a prescription, and they want a cedulá number, we have one to give them. My cedulá has supplanted my U.S. driver’s license in my wallet, and I am one step closer to being an Ecuatoriano. Wheeeeeeeeee!