This is slightly off piste for my blog which, naturally, is mostly about tourism: this might be of more interest to expats living in Argentina, or those looking to spend Sabbatical time here.
But since I know several Americans who spend plenty of time in Buenos Aires, and some lucky folk who even have holiday homes in Salta’s wine region of Cafayate, this might be helpful.
(And hopefully the rest of you will find it vaguely amusing…)
So join me as I enter the Kafkaesque world of Argentine bureaucracy to renew my driving licence….
While I have had my British licence since I was 18, and it remains valid until I’m 60 years old, in Argentina, once over the age of 45, all Argentina tour operators driving passengers on escorted tours have to renew their professional driving licence every year.
The first thing I have to do, and remember to organise at least a week before my licence expires, is to corral a couple of my neighbours to accompany me in person to the local police station to testify that I actually live where I say I live.
I’ve been in the same house for 15 years, but every year I still need two witnesses to prove I’m not lying about my residence.
I think this is to avoid people from the Salta city abusing the system by coming to our town and getting their driving licences here, where the process is apparently easier than in the city (though I find that difficult to believe).
The Certificate of Residency is required for my Provincial Criminal Records Check, for which I also need two passport size photos, a working thumb to make a print, and copies of my DNI (national identity document), existing driving licence (or, if this is the first time, birth and marriage certificates translated and verified by a lawyer if you were born in a different country: I kid you not).
Interviews at Salta city police are only allocated for the next day from 11pm.
At least now I can log in and register online: in the old days, you had to go in person to the police station just before midnight to get an appointment for the next day.
This, incidentally, is in addition to the National Criminal Records Check I also have to get: welcome to the federal system, folks (does this happen in the USA, I wonder?)
Once armed with my two clean CRCs, copies of my DNI and old driving licence, I can now properly begin the process of renewing my driving licence.
I get to the local traffic police office as soon as it opens, as it’s first come first served, and queues get long.
There, you’re given a piece of paper to go to the local courthouse and check you haven’t got any outstanding fines: if you’re lucky, you only have to pay 1,500 pesos for admin costs.
OK, that’s only four dollars, but still: it’s another queue at the Post Office which has consumed 40 minutes of my ever-dwindling life.
(Despite opening at 8am, according to the blackboard outside, the day I went the PO only deigned to let in customers at 8.45am, while the queue grew longer and longer).
As one disgruntled but typically patient fellow customer observed, “state employees do what they like, nobody controls them”.
Then it’s back to the traffic police, to get a form for the hospital: here, I get weighed like a bag of vegetables, do an eye test and have an interview with a psychologist (4,000 pesos).
Assuming I get the all-clear from the hospital, I now return to the traffic police, who give me another chit to pay at the local council: 1,690 pesos.
Returning with proof it’s been paid, I’m handed my new driving licence. Until next year when I have to do all this again. (This all takes three or four hours.)
By the way, all this and more (heart monitors, brain scans, hearing tests) I also have to do every year to get the Licencia Nacional de Transporte Interjurisdiccional to join the list of nationally recognised drivers transporting passengers or goods.
Why I have to get two licences I really don’t know, but I suspect it’s that pesky federal system again.
I hope if you’re on an escorted tour of Argentina with Poncho Tours you’ll find this rigorous process reassuring!