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Register your mobile phone in Colombia

Ahh Colombia… When you buy a sim card in Colombia you will be asked to register your mobile phone EMEI. This is to reduce the stolen phone and resell market in the country.

What is an EMEI number

It’s an unique 15 digit code. You might need to find your IMEI number if you want to unlock your device to use with other networks, or for some insurance policies. You will find your IMEI number by entering *#06# on your phone’s call screen.

What happened to me

I bought a “prepago” SIM card as soon as I arrived in Colombia. I actually grabbed it at the Cali airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón. Downstairs, there is a little shop where they sell Tigo and Claro SIM card. The lady was very nice and helpful. I needed a local sim card for the two months in Colombia.
I looked at what was available online before to go and I chose Tigo. As I could do a monthly package good enough for my need and not expensive.

So I got my sim card, working all good. A few days after I received a text message from Tigo saying I need to register my device otherwise my service might be blocked. You have some time to do this.

I let it go for a while, then I received another text saying I have 14 days to do it. I tried to do it online with the Tigo website. It didn’t work for me. I got in touch with the online chat help. I chatted to a lady but she said I could do it with a call, didn’t work either. She said the only solution is to go to a Tigo office to do it. I replied I will wait and hopefully nothing will happen.

However, my phone got blocked. Meaning I couldn’t use it anymore. Luckily I had a second one so I used my sim card into this one. I finally went to the Tigo shop, queued to ask to unlock it. You need your passport not a copy of your passport. Online it says you also need a proof of purchase, I downloaded my invoices from Amazon on my phone, but they didn’t ask me for it. I successfully registered my second phone.

But they weren’t able to unlock my phone (the first one) as I only had my passport and not Cédula de Extranjería. So my phone is now locked forever in the country of Colombia… I was really annoyed explaining I am only there for a short period of time and the phone is my phone, costing more than the sim card. The agent explained the solution would be to have a Colombia person to come to Tigo with my phone and register it under his name. Obviously, no one is going to spend the time to do that, doing the queueing etc.

So I gave up. Moral of the story, do the registration before they lock your phone. It’s free to do, it takes a bit of time but that’s the Colombian law…

6 thoughts on “Register your mobile phone in Colombia

  1. Hi Denis,

    The same has just happened to me! Will the phone still work in my home country of the UK though?

    Kind regards,


    1. Yes it should work, normally it’s only blocked in Colombia. I don’t think I checked once back as I have my second more modern phone.

  2. No, the moral of the story is that Colombia should make it so that you can actually do this without having to go to a headquarters store. They even give you instructions and prompts on how to register your device, but apparently you cannot do it with a passport, only with a cedula extranjera. Well that is not logical because you do not need a cedula extranjera if you are just a tourist in Colombia. That is for foreigners who are working in Colombia.

    1. I live in Colombia with a Colombian cedula, and still have problems with Claro. They just locked my IMEI again, and now need to visit the stupid Claro store for hours. Due to fraud obviously, everything here difficult and takes hours and sometimes days.

  3. I’m a tourist in Colombia and Just had my phone locked. Same story. I bought a SIM card. Installed it. No one said anything about registering the phone. Luckily I have a second phone. It’s working and the next step is to register it. How inconvenient and pain in the ass.😃

  4. Exact same thing just happened to me. I’m in Colombia for a week every 6 weeks or so for work so I bought an unlocked phone to use there. It worked the last trip, however this most recent time my phone was blocked and the local Claro store couldn’t do anything. I needed to taxi 30 minutes away to the central store and wait in line for 45 minutes to have the device ‘unblocked.’ She said I still need to open up the bands, but I am hopeful that I can get it working again.

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