DNI at long last

I waited three years and three months for this
I waited three years and three months for this

I’m now classified as just another Argentine. It’s official. I have DNI, the national identity card.

It has taken a ridiculous amount of time, mainly because of my own cock-ups and getting the paperwork wrong, but it’s such a ridiculous sense of achievement that I feel. I beat the system, I won, simply because I finally have it. I did it the tedious, time-consuming way but it cost AR$15 and I didn’t use contacts or anything. As I don’t have any. But what I did do at a key moment, however, was burst into tears, and that was pretty helpful.

I’ve got permanent residence so why did I even need DNI? My employer, the Buenos Aires Herald, insisted I needed it to work, indeed they got rid of a load of foreign staff and interns, oddly enough, on the basis that they didn’t have DNI. Mine was in process, so I got to stay in the job, as a freelancer, for that simple reason.

But my UN contact insisted that they were wrong. Besides permanent residence I’ve also got CUIL, a social security number, which means I can be hired, according to the law. In fact, Mr. UN told me I could sue them for not rightfully employing me.

Ha. Actually becoming employed happened in the space of a week. And this is the chain of events. The boss was being an idiot again, threatening me with “you’ll have to leave if you don’t get DNI.” It’s not nice, working in a menacing environment like that. Anyway, I’d just written a story about the UN contact’s wife’s dental projects http://www.todosjuntos.org.uk/ out in a provincial slum and it was on the cover of the Sunday supplement.

Fiona forwarded me a nice email from some readers and feeling a bit professionally precacrious and in need of some support, I asked her to send it to the letters page. I explained that I was being hassled about not having DNI and she pointed me in her husband’s direction, the head of the International Organisation for Migration in Argentina.

Boink. He should know. I emailed him Monday. Met him Tuesday. Wednesday night he sent me the legal blurb. Thursday was a bank holiday and by Friday when I went to pick up some wages, I signed, and human resources sealed and delivered.

“Why didn’t you show me this info before?” asked the HR buffoon. “Because I hadn’t written a story about villa dental projects for free out of the goodness of my heart, and caught ringworm from a toxic kitten when I visited the slum,” I said.

Anyway, DNI. You don’t need it to work. I don’t think I need it to enter or leave the country although it acts like a passport to other Mercosur countries. Don’t think I can vote with it. Already have bank accounts. But I can only get a driving licence with DNI. Fact.

Quick DNI horror story. A mate, Nige of 0800 VINO http://www.0800-vino.com, applied for temporary DNI. It took so long to process that by the time he collected it, it had already expired.

It takes a hell of a long time to go through. Nine months were wasted when everything was returned to me because I supplied the wrong documents in Mar del Plata. Why did they even let me submit then? That one still bothers me…

I decided to start the process in Pinamar, closer to home. They told me I couldn’t even apply for DNI. Villagers. So I decided to do it in Buenos Aires. I turned up, ready to submit in April 2008, and was given an appointment in October. Turned up in October with a legalised, translated, sealed photocopy of my birth certificate. They turned me down on the spot. So I cried. Big, snotty snobs got me a ‘No queue, come back when you want’ card. Ha. Tears will do it every time.

Anyway, the paper was then ‘bought out’ (read as swapped for a printing debt by the previous owner) and sorting out the translations and legalisations became more pressing issues.

In Argentina, married women keep their maiden names. In my passport, I am Sorrel Cittadino. Nada que ver. So that was a tricky hurdle to get over. Then, because I was using a a birth certificate copy, as in not the original, neither of my parents figured on it. (A real immaculate conception.)

Next to put this even further back was when swine flu hit Argentina this winter. Schools were closed for a month instead of two weeks for winter and public employees also had that time off. So collection day arrived and I was told to come back two months later.

Kerrrrrrrrrrrrrist. Was I ever going to get my bloody DNI? Was I? Two months later was last Wednesday. I took my chances, headed down, and after queuing for a mere hour, finally got my hands on the little burgundy booklet. Which has my previous San Telmo address in it.

I’ll probably leave it a while before I change that.

Advice? If you are starting the DNI process, try and find a mate to do with it. It’ll make passing the time of day a lot more enjoyable. Getting DNI is like starting a whole new relationship so be prepared for build-up followed by rejection. Bring out the waterworks if necessary. And always, always have a book, snacks and water with you.

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