Obtain a Cuban identification card

Foreign students, who study more than three months in Cuba, may apply for Cuban identification card (carnet). Having a Cuban identification card often means being able to pay lower prices on entry into museums, nightclubs and local bus transportation.

To obtain the identification card, I had to submit necessary documents to the person who is responsible for visa matters at the university.

She then forwarded the documents to an immigration office. A week later, I had to go to the immigration office to provide my fingerprints for the identification card.

The immigration office is located on Miramar’s neighborhood. I didn’t know this area very well. Therefore  a couple of days before the deadline I found the location. I didn’t want to spend time for looking on the day (I had to miss one lesson, as the office is open only in the morning). When I arrived at the address, which I got from the university, one guy approached me and volunteered that the immigration office isn’t located here and he gave me directions to the correct place. On the way, I asked  another guy once more for directions. As typical in Cuba, he guided me in a completely different direction. In Cuba, you can never be sure that directions are correct, usually one person leads you to the left and other one to the right. After some adventure, I was finally able to find the right building. Standing out front, I didn’t see any indications or signs that this building is the immigration office.

On the day I had to go to the immigration office, there was other setback for me as my documents were not ready for signing. The clerk flipped through a folder two times, but the result was the same. It was explained to me in the university that there are so many students actively seeking an identication card from the immigration office, that they are not able to prepare all documents in time and suggested to go back in one week.

On the second trip to the immigration office, I hoped that my documents were ready and I could provide my fingerprint. The clerk took the folder from a cupboard and started to flip through the applications. I had an uncomfortable feeling when she had flipped through half of the applications without success as I was scared my papers were still not ready. Each application she skimmed increased my concern as some  were stamped with “cancel”. I had a feeling that maybe they had refused to give a visa to me and I would have to pack my stuff and return home. It was huge relief when nearing the end my application appeared. My happy feeling didn’t last for long as the clerk started to complain about my photo. I was on the photo with a sleeveless shirt. According to her, it is not appropriate for a legal document. I had received confirmation from the university that this kind of photo was suitable for the identification card. At first, I thought that her complaint was just for fun as she started to fill in my identification card and I provided my fingerprint to it. I was then faced with reality when she explained that my identification card will not be processed further until I provide an  appropriate photo as I cannot be naked on the document. I couldn’t complain and left the immigration office again defeated. After the harsh lesson, I dressed up properly and took appropriate pictures for the identification card.

On my third time inside the immigration office, they tested my nervous system again. There were other women at the reception desk, who were looking for my documents from the folder and this time without success. I was afraid that they had lost my papers. Luckily, the other woman, who didn’t like my original photos, appeared. She recognized me immediately and took my documents from another shelf.

Approximately one week later, I received my identification card from the university, the long wait was finally over.

The identification card is very powerful in Cuba, especially for foreigners. For instance, an entrance to a museum cost 10 CUC (ca 10 EUR) for tourists, but local people have to pay only 10 CUP (0.4 EUR), the difference is 25 times.

Several times I have disappointed ticket sellers at nightclubs as I have given 2 CUC for an entrance fee after they have stared me down with large eyes expecting to get an extra 3 CUC (tourists are often charged 5 CUC). For that reason, I present my Cuban identification card and they accept 2 CUC.

Once we had a problem with taxi when we wanted to drive from Havana to Varadero. A taxi driver refused to pick us up, as allegedly he didn’t have a license to transport foreigners. When we presented our Cuban identification cards the situation resolved to our benefit.

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