Getting that Residency Here

By Neal Graham

Yesterday I became a Nicaraguan again.  I was a legal resident in Nicarauga for ten years, but my second five year term expired in February, 2018.  During 2018 (the year of terrible troubles), I was in Nicaragua six times trying to renew my residency.  I sometimes had to skirt roadblocks to get to la oficina de inmigracion in Managua.  Each time I was disappointed and sent away and told to wait.  I could not imagine having to enter Nicaragua as a tourista after having been a resident for so long.  Yesterday I was feeling sad, thinking I will go to la oficina una mas vez, not expecting to receive my new cedula.  The cedula is the Nicaraguan identity card that everyone has, indicating if you are a citizen, resident pensionado (retiree) or business resident (usually the owner of a hotel, restaurant, real estate agency or someone simply employed by a Nicaraguan business).  My first cedula in 2008 actually had a bit of a green tint, so I called it my “green card.”

Before my trip to la oficina yesterday, I wrote a very pretty letter in Spanish (with the help of Google Translate just for added confidence).  The letter began, “Most Esteemed Señor/Señora,” and contained many “porfavor’s” and “puede ayudarme’s” (can you help me)?  I took my friend Jose along on the trip, but I knew he could not come to the window with me to help with translation, if I needed it (and I surely would).  The policy had changed during 2018, and anyone brought along to the window was told rather harshly to go away and sit down.  When I told an expat acquaintance about this experience, he said, “Don’t feel bad.  They told my Nicaraguan lawyer to sit down.” 

Yesterday, after I presented my letter and other documents at the service window, I was told, as usual, to sit down and wait until they had a chance to review my case.  I fully expected the same outcome as before, but much to my surprise, I heard an announcement over the microphone:  “Senor Neal Graham, deberias ir ahoro a la puerta #27” (you should go now to the door #27).

I knew that was the room where they had the camera and the fingerprint machine.  Could this really be happening?  I went to room #27 and to my great surprise, my friend Jose soon joined me there.  The woman outside had called him to the window and told him he must go with me to help me with translation.  What kind of policy shift was this?  The man on the other side of the window had all my original documents that I had submitted more than a year ago:  the application, the police report, the statement of financial capability, the doctor’s report and the photograph which I had liked very much and was proud to submit.  For some reason, the man processing the cedula would not use that photo, but insisted on taking a new one.  It turned out to be the typical driver’s license photo that looks horrible, but who cares.  I was sent to the cahsier’s window to pay the 5300 Cordobas ($161.00), then returned to room #27.  In ten minutes, I was presented with my new cedula, unflattering photo and all. 

I left la oficina de inmigracion feeling relieved, exonerated and, most of all, welcomed back into the folds of Nicaraguan residency.  No longer would I have to carry my passport to the bank, the rental car agency and to stores where they didn’t know me to make credit card purchases. I am Nicaraguense once again:  at least, insofar as it is possible without being an actual citizen.  Es un buen dia por cierto!


DB – Getting a cedula here is an art, not a science. Requirements change often and it greatly depends on who you are working with at Immigration. Also the day of the week, the lunar phase, etc. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is difficult. I have a friend that has been here many years and upon renewing his residency, had to provide more documents than for his initial residency then was told it would be a year before receiving his cedula. Amy and I gathered the necessary documents and received our approval from Immigration in one afternoon but it was five months before we received the cedulas. I hear some countries are even more difficult yet some are relatively fast like Panama.