Government departments in Mexico are using the CURP number (personal id number) for more and more purposes. In this article I’ll explain what it is, why you need it, and how to get it.
What is a CURP
A CURP Clave Única de Registro de Población (pronounced “coo-erp”) is a identification number used to uniquely identify a citizen or resident of Mexico.
It’s similar to a Social Security Number in the US, a Social Insurance Number in Canada, National Insurance number in the UK or Tax File Number in Australia.
Unlike those numbers, which were initially introduced for just social security or tax and then got (mis-)used for other purposes, the CURP was introduced from the start to be a number to be used by all government departments when dealing with citizens and residents. That hasn’t happened yet, many departments still use their own numbers, but it may eventually.
The “number” is actually a series of numbers and letters, 18 characters long (see ”clave” in the picture alongside of the front of the card).
The numbers and letters consist of your date of birth, and various letters from your names, in a complicated fixed format that makes it unique to you.
There are special rules if the letters extracted from your name form an “inconvenient” word – for example “LOCO” – the first vowel is usually replaced with an X. If you’re curious about what “4-letter words” you should avoid in Spanish, there’s a list in the (Spanish) CURP procedures manual: Instructivo normativo para la asignación de la Clave Única de Registro de Población (Anexo 2 on page 59).
Why you need a CURP
In some area of Mexico, a CURP has always been issued to FM2 and FM3 residence permit holders. This hasn’t been the case in San Felipe, but it is changing. When you renew your FM2 or FM3, you will now be required to provide your CURP. For most residents in the San Felipe area, this will be the main reason to now get a CURP.
When you register a mobile phone, you currently have the choice of using a passport (in person), or using a CURP number (from the phone). So a CURP isn’t essential for this yet here, but may be eventually.
You will now need a CURP if you have any dealings with IMSS (social security). An example would be when you have the social security payments for the workers on a construction project put under your name (as you should), you now need a CURP for that.
In many areas of Mexico it has also been a requirement to provide a CURP to open a bank account, but that hasn’t been applied locally yet.
How to get a CURP
In Playa del Carmen it’s located upstairs with several other Government office behind Domino’s pizza.
If you’re elsewhere in Mexico, it varies greatly where you can get your CURP. Sometimes municipal offices, sometimes a rural police station, sometimes a tax office, in Mexico City it’s at the offices of INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), and so on – you will need to ask locally.
Anyway, once you get to the municipal office on Mar Blanco Sur, ask at the desks on the left hand side with your FM-3 for “coo-erp por favor”. They will enter your details on the computer, and print off your CURP information there and then.
It should be possible to get your CURP with just an FM2 or FM3 (no electric bill needed), but taking your passport as well might help (especially if you come from a country other than the US, as that causes confusion in the office).
When I got my CURP, I was also able to get the CURP for another person (who wasn’t present) by taking their FM3 along.
The CURP you are issued with is on a couple of bits of paper, one of which has a “card” you can cut out and fold into a credit card size (take a copy first).