Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From ACLU Card to National ID Card: Getting Residency

I can see the light at the end of the Borgian tunnel—and it is illuminating my very own Argentine National Identity Card! Hip hip hooray!

The prospect of carrying the government-issued ID card next to my ACLU membership card strikes me as a perfect metaphor for the kind of mental gymnastics you need to live here, where freedom is secondary to bureaucracy.

Once I have this card and accompanying official booklet, the government will be able to track my purchases, my hotel stays, my trips, any changes of residence or spouse, and even my voting record. Scary, isn’t it? Not that any one here seems to think so!

Of course I’d rather not need one of these tracking devices. But it beats the 90-day tourist visa!

Obtaining one was not easy—at least not the way I went about it! I moved here in August 2003 to live with and later marry my Argentine fiancĂ©. We planned and celebrated our spiritual union first (importing my Unitarian Universalist minister for the first UU wedding in South America). Then, as only civil unions are recognized, we asked to get legally married here.

As we had both been married previously, this required eighteen months of submitting documents, waiting for replies, getting requests for more documents (including proof of my ex-husband’s address at the time of divorce), and even a retranslation of my divorce decree.

Finally we stood side by side, with our witnesses, in a small chamber in the Civil Registry and listened to two officials read the scripted list of matrimonial obligations and rights. We signed the ledger and walked away with a certificate. I was no longer a legal concubine! I was married—and eligible for residency!

All the documents have been submitted to the federal immigrations office via the local Naval Prefecture office. . . and in a couple of months, I should have that new little booklet and card. So now let’s move to the important stuff: these documents will need a lovely new Argentine leather wallet to protect them and show them off! Do ID cards go better with carpincho or calfskin?

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