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.

Migración Colombia Bogotá Office

Migración Colombia Bogotá Office

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 topic.is 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 more 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 the left where the pillar is.

Reception Desk Queue on Ground Floor

Reception Desk Queue on Ground Floor

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.

Processing Area on 1st Floor

Processing Area on 1st Floor

Processing Area on 1st Floor

Processing Area on 1st Floor

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 is 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.

Waiting Area on 1st Floor for the Photography Room

Waiting Area on 1st Floor for the Photography Room

Photography Room

Photography Room

 

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: http://www.migracioncolombia.gov.co/index.php/es/cedulas-para-reclamar. 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.

Me and My ID at Migración Colombia Bogotá Office

Me and My ID at Migración Colombia Bogotá Office

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.

Relaxed Staff Chatting

Relaxed Staff Chatting

Empty Desks

Empty Desks

  • Mara

    Thanks for your step-by-step of the process, I found it quite helpful. I am heading to register my cèdula in a few days after getting my visa in Bogotá last week. After I got my visa printed in my passport, they sent me to a guy who helped me to make an appointment to register my visa/get my cédula right then and there. I assume they are doing this to avoid a huge line of people who didn’t make appointments.

    He told me that the physical form for the cédula is no longer being used and people now have to fill out the application for a cédula online, similar to the online application for the visa. He didn’t give me the website, so it took me a little bit of searching. This is it:

    https://apps.migracioncolombia.gov.co/registro/public/formularioRegistro.jsf

    This is also a link to the migración website that might be helpful when trying to figure out what documents you need to have when registering visa/applying for the cédula.

    http://migracioncolombia.gov.co/index.php/es/noticias/2-uncategorised/1791-requisitos-cedula-de-extranjeria

    Hope this is helpful!

    • Ray Collins

      I read both the blogs by Stuart and Jeff before going to register my visa and apply for my cédula yesterday. Both were helpful, but from decades of experience working in the US government and with many foreign governments I can add a few more insights.

      First off, I need to state a couple of things about my background because a lot of my circumstances aren’t something that can be generalized to everyone, but some things in my experience could help anyone. I’m retired from the US military and spent nearly 3 decades working out of various embassies and consulates in lots of countries, so during that time I experienced this and similar processes from both sides of the window or table, applying for travel documents and granting them; so I understand better than most people how the bureaucrats who process these things think. It helps a lot to know what they want.

      Most importantly, bureaucrats, in whatever type of office they work, like things being simple and easy. When they encounter an application with everything complete, in the order they requested it to be submitted, and organized so they can find each item instantly, they move it to the top of their inbox and do it first and quickly because then they can show their bosses how productive and efficient they are. If you make life easy on a bureaucrat, they’ll make life easy on you.

      As Mara mentioned, the online form is how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing this now. One thing to watch out for is that when scanning your documents you have to scan them all as a single, .pdf file (the web site won’t allow you to upload multiple files). When you scan them make sure to organize them in the order the Ministry requests, that makes life easier on the bureaucrats and shortens your wait time (as well as the wait of everyone behind you in line).

      Stuart was right about the system being organized in two separate waiting lines. I got a look at the screen of the machine that produces the turn numbers. It offers the employee operating it the option to select “Turno” (Turn) or “Turno Preferencial” (Preferential Turn). The resulting ticket will either say “T” or “TP” followed by a sequential number and throughout the process the TPs always get called first.

      I scheduled my appointment and went to the office during the first hour of the day it was open (a logistical challenge as anyone familiar with Bogotá rush hour traffic well knows, but worth it). I was in-and-out in perhaps 30 minutes or less. Some of that may be due to my experience navigating such offices and working with these sorts of agencies but more of it seemed to be from simply getting there before a long line had developed.

      One thing I noted that I haven’t seen in any other blogs is that the area allotted for this office is inadequate. When we arrived (I went with my wife and mother-in-law who had other appointments in the same area of the city after mine with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) the guard at the doorway told us my wife and mother-in-law had to wait outside and only I could enter. Once inside I understood why; Each waiting area is approximately the size of a typical Colombian apartment living room. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs permitted the accompanying family and friends to enter, the waiting rooms would all be standing room only and as packed as Transmilenio. Having also entered with family members and waited in other Ministry of Foreign Affairs buildings where they facilities were larger and the waiting rooms more ample this clearly isn’t a Ministry policy to keep family and friends out, they just don’t have a big enough building in this case. That aspect of working conditions may adversely impact the employees’ attitudes that Stuart mentioned earlier. As to a recommendation on how to handle that, there is a coffee shop next door; that’s where my wife and mother-in-law waited and I actually finished my application processing appointment before they could finish their coffee.

      I hope this adds some insight and reduces some frustration.