A CURP is a national identification number that is unique to the recipient, it is similar to what people in the U.S. know as their Social Security number. Per our friends at Wikipedia, it is officially the Clave Única de Registro de Población and is a unique identity code for both citizens and residents of Mexico. Each CURP code is a unique alphanumeric 18-character string intended to prevent duplicate entries.
Why do you need one?
As a national identifier, a CURP is required for most government related services. If you think you might need one at some point, then you should probably take the time to get one. The process is pretty easy, free, and usually doesn't take too much of your time to get done.
Here are just a few examples of why you might need one: Mexican driver's license, file Mexican taxes, get on Mexican free healthcare (needs based).
Get it done!
Me Time: 35 mins – 2 hours 15 mins
Total Time: 1 week
1) Organize 10 mins
2) Drop off Request 5 mins
3) Retrieve CURP 20-120 mins
First get together the required documents.
You must have:
Copy of passport
Copy of immigration doc
CURP request letter
The CURP request letter is nothing more than a document that officially says I want a CURP. The trick is that the government offices can be very picky about the wording of this letter. If they don't like it they will send you away. You have two choices 1) Use this Word template that I got from a law office in 2013 or 2) Go to a legal shop (usually all around the immigration offices) and tell them you need a CURP request letter (get two copies).
Get your two CURP letter requests and set one aside. You will need one copy to make the request and another copy to pick up your CURP.
2) Drop Off Request
Take one CURP letter request (signed), your passport copy, your immigration document copy, and your actual passport and immigration document to the local immigration office. Most offices have a check in counter where you sign in. Go to the check in counter and sign in to the log book (if they have one) then talk to the person at the check in counter and show them your request letter and copies. They will likely take your docs right then and there and they will tell you to return in x days. Sign out of the log book and enjoy the next few days.
3) Retrieve Your CURP Number
Wait the allotted time and return with your copy of the letter. Sign into the log book and the show your copy to the guy at the check-in and tell him you need to pick up your completed CURP. Make sure he understands that you already dropped off paperwork a few days ago. He will either retrieve your CURP for you or hold your request letter and tell you to sit and wait while someone else retrieves it for you. This could take a few mins or quite a while. When they are ready they will have you sign for your CURP and you are DONE!
Things to keep in mind:
Anything can happen, so be ready for unexpected delays. This is a general rule in Mexico, but especially with government office. When I first went to pick up my CURP they told me their computers were down and I should try back in a few days.
Lines can be long. The immigration office lines can be pretty long, so be prepared to sit around if you need. Bring a book.
Office hours tend to be short. In Playa del Carmen the immigration office is only open from 9am-1p. As long as you get in before closing you are fine. It is not uncommon for people to be in the office hours after closing as they process everyone. I think closing at 1pm is there way to ensure they can actually go home at 5pm. It is best to get there well before closing.