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Puerto Ricans in Florida can now get their vital documents in Orlando

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Orlando Sentinel, October 17, 2018 | comments
Orlando Sentinel The burgeoning Puerto Rican population in Florida can now more-easily obtain birth certificates and other vital documents at a new service center in Orlando, expediting an often time-consuming process for island-born residents.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration inaugurated the first Integrated Services Center (CSI in Spanish) outside of the island, where residents can obtain birth, marriage, and death certificates, and certifications of child-support payments.

“We wanted to make it possible for Puerto Ricans to have access to vital documents, and for that process to be easy... [so] that it isn’t so complicated as it usually is in Puerto Rico,” PRFAA Executive Director Carlos Mercader said Wednesday. “For those of you who live in Puerto Rico, you know what I’m talking about.”

Before the opening of the CSI office, Puerto Ricans away from the island could only request vital records online or by mail, a process that usually takes between 30 and 45 days. For some who arrived in Florida after Hurricane Maria, the slow response time was an additional challenge when applying for jobs and government assistance.

“Sometimes you think the process was made to create barriers,” Mercader said.

The center, located at 6925 Lake Ellenor Drive, Suite 100, will be open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Copies of birth certificates will be $5. Additional copies are $10, as well as marriage and death certificates.

Documents will be issued immediately.

Other Central Florida officials joined Mercader and PRFAA’s regional director in Orlando, Ilia Torres, including U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Darren Soto of Kissimmee, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando and Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings, all Democrats. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs was also in attendance.

“No longer will Puerto Rican-born residents of the Sunshine State have to travel back to Puerto Rico or to grant a family member or a friend still living on the island the power of attorney, or take any other time consuming steps to get the documents that they require,” Murphy said.

Cortes said the office’s opening could benefit his own family.

“Folks like my parents, who have been living here 20 years, I brought them back in 1998. My dad and my mom still do not have a birth certificate from Puerto Rico,” he said.

Mercader said the office would help Puerto Ricans transition to life in Florida, and to eventually become civically active.

“What we’re seeking is that, once you have these documents that are so important — to have your license, to be able to attend school, to receive medical services, and other state services ... you can also insert yourself in those processes here,” he said.

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