By JAVIER MANJARRES
During a recent trip to Bogota, Colombia, I went through the usual U.S. Immigration and Customs process leaving the United States, before having to go through the same process upon arriving in Colombia. You know, answering the usual questions about, what is the purpose of my visit? Where will I be staying, and for how long?
But what really struck me as odd, and interesting at the same time, was when I went to check into my hotel shortly after my arrival.
As I checked in, the hotel owner, who just happened to be there, processed by reservation, and asked me to fill out and sign a special immigration register. I quickly asked her what this was for, and told her that I had never seen anything like this before, prompting her to explain that this was a new feature in Colombia’s immigration reform policy.
The hotel owner explained to me, as she confirmed by reservation matched my U.S. Passport information, that hotels are now asked to have their guests (foreign nationals or Colombian residents) to resubmit the same information that is requested upon their arrival at any customs checkpoint within the country.
How it works is simple. After the hotel’s immigration register is completed, the hotel then logs onto the country’s online immigration website and enters the hotel guests information. The hotel is required to keep a daily log of the guest’s comings and goings.
Colombian authorities then proceed to scrutinized and run the hotel guest through immigration “lists” or whatever the country uses to ‘vet’ individuals, for a second time. If a hotel guest(s) is flagged by the immigration system, authorities can, and have, go to the hotel and question, or in some cases, haul off any suspected guest(s) who may have outstanding warrants, or are being sought by any domestic or foreign policing agency.
Here is what the Colombian government’s official immigration and customs website says about the “Hostelero” program, and its requirements. (This is a Spanish to English translation the site provides)
Hosting Services: In hotels, pensions, hostels, residences, hostels and other establishments that provide the hosting service and camps in any form, are authorized to request identification presentation to foreigners for purposes of registration or service delivery and keep a daily log of foreigners with continuous numbering of entry and exit of the users of these services, which containing the following information: full names, nationality and identity, date of birth, gender, profession, place of origin, destination and arrival and departure. These establishments will report daily to the Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia, the news about the entry and exit of foreign definitive means established for that purpose, subject to the revision that may be made at any time the immigration authorities.
The owners or managers of real estate, estates, apartments, houses or properties for the hotel, who leased or serving lodging and camping in any form to foreigners, must inform the Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia in writing or in the form provided for this. Finally, within five (5) business days of having made the formal surrender of the property, for which you must enter the same information provided in the first paragraph of this Article.
The immigration authorities are empowered to exercise control of these facilities at any time.
Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia regulate the information required in the preceding paragraph by administrative act. The owners, managers, charterers, forks and bailees of hotels, pensions, hostels, residences, apartment, farms, houses apartments and other service establishments providing lodging and camping in any form, provide information to the Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia, on registration of Colombian citizens, when so required.-migracioncolombia.gov.co
Here is the scanned immigration registrar of the hotel I stayed at in Colombia.
The fail-safe immigration plan of Colombia is a bit intrusive, but could be a necessary evil, as the country is still dealing with the Marxist Terrorists group, FARC, which is responsible for conducting numbers terrorist attacks within the country every year.
I don’t foresee a system like this to be implemented in the United States, but considering that the U.S. and its interests, are a constant target for foreign terrorists, a secondary line of defense like this could be a smart move down the line.
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