Identity papers

Yesterday I finally acquired my Cartão de Residência, the permanent residency card. (US readers: think green card.) While I am delighted to be freed from the annual stress of reapplying for a temporary one-year visa, I do have one question.

My temporary visas were plasticized cards, the size of credit cards, which fit nicely in my wallet and were easy to carry around. But my permanent residency card is a sheet of thick paper — paper! — which is folded in thirds and which will never fit into my wallet. Not only that, but I’m going to have to find a plastic pouch to house it, or it will fall apart long before it expires.

So my question is, why in the hell is an annual, temporary visa in hard plastic ID card format, while the permanent residency card is just a piece of paper? Didn’t anyone in the bureaucracy look at that and say, “Hey, this is exactly backwards”?

It makes me think of all those spy thrillers where the police demand to see the protagonist’s identity papers. I never realized until now that the phrase “identity papers” is literal.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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14 Responses to Identity papers

  1. Scout says:

    Congrats! But Fletcher, why does your permanent residency card expire?

    • oregon expat says:

      Thank you! As for the card…well, even a US green card only lasts 10 years. I would guess that governments build in expiration dates to make sure the foreigners have to check in now and again and prove that they’re still qualified to remain as residents.

  2. Kugai says:

    Probably true Fletcher.

    I guess the reason the Permanent Residency Card is actual paper is because of history, bureaucracy and the fact that it seems more of a ‘Real’ document rather than a plastic card.

  3. M. says:

    Congratulations! 🙂
    Maybe you don’t have to carry around your permanent residency card? Maybe it is needed only on rare occasions?

  4. oregon expat says:

    Possibly true on both counts. Though I have to say I think of a plastic card as more of a “real” document than a paper one! The citizen card is plastic…guess I’ll just have to strive upward. 😉

  5. Styx says:

    Around 20 years ago, in France, the residency card was a plasticized card and the identity card was made of paper. then, they decided that the identity card would be on the same unforgeable plasticized card. And of course, at first, we called them our own residency card.

  6. maria says:

    make it simple, carry a photocopy with you and keep the original document at home.

  7. Beth Goodman says:

    Do you need to carry your “green card” with you in Portugal? In the UK folks don’t carry any ID — not even their driver’s license (it’s kept at home in a safe place.) I got my green card equivalent a couple of years ago, and it’s just a fancy sticker in my passport!

  8. oregon expat says:

    Beth: You don’t even carry your driver’s license? What if you get pulled over for a ticket? I am agog. But in answer to your question, no, I don’t need to carry it at all times. I just need it to prove my identity in various official situations — one of which is collecting any packages at the post office.

    maria: I’m thinking the post office would not accept a photocopy. But I do plan to keep the card at home unless I know I’m going to need it.

  9. xenatuba says:

    That does seem backwards. And the big paper seems inconvenient, but important. How was the chocolate?

  10. Inge says:

    There are a few European countries where carrying these papers around is not required (like the UK as mentioned before). This goes back to the second world war in most cases. The Germans required you to carry them and as such it was easy to select the less required elements (jews, roma,..) and sent them to a concentration camp. After the war, many countries decided that you did not need to carry identification papers so this kind of selection could never happen again.
    By now some countries have reversed that decision, but some still very much hold on to this decision.

  11. Beth Goodman says:

    @Fletcher — If you get a ticket here, you have to go to the magistrate’s office to show your license and proof of insurance! It all seems quite odd after always carrying ID in the States.

    @Inge — thanks for the info!

  12. Inge says:

    With pleasure 🙂

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