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Bureaucracy in Brazil is a running joke but it’s no joke to Brazilians who encounter in their everyday lives. I was reminded of the ugly arm of Brazilian bureaucracy when my girlfriend needed to transfer the ownership of her car from her father’s name into hers.

A quick consultation of the gov.uk website tells me that in order to transfer car ownership in the UK you need to complete section 6 on a form, sign section 8 of the form, get the buyer to also sign section 8 on the form, give the buyer part of the form and send the rest of the form to the DVLA. No fees, no proof of identity, no authenticated impressions of the car’s chassis and engine number plaques.


engine number

You’ll have to get an authorised impression of this little baby if you want to register your car in Brazil

Even if you don’t have the correct form you only need to write to the DVLA with vehicle registration mark, make and model, exact date of sale, name and address of the new keeper, and your signature. Oh how trusting we are in the UK.

In Brazil it requires an initial visit to your local Detran which, if you work in another area during the week, means a visit on a Saturday where they will helpfully inform you that your signature needs to be verified by a Cartorio, a public notary, which you will discover does not open on a Saturday.

Having certified your signature during the week you return to Detran the following Saturday where, not having checked the previous week, the staff inform you that the finance company your father used to buy the car had still not notified Detran that the car had been paid for despite the finance company had been telephoned to confirm this transfer would happen the previous year. Obviously the finance company does not open on Saturdays.


call centre

Armies of call centre staff are waiting to make your life as pleasant as possible

The week is spent speaking to individuals in the finance company who insist it is necessary for the father to go to Detran personally to declare his ownership of the car despite the fact that he lives hundreds of kilometres away and does not have a car as he has sold it to his daughter – the one currently threatening to sue the finance company if they do not transfer the ownership by Saturday.

Various additional trips are required to Detrans who, on each occasion, inform said daughter of other requirements/fees/documents/hoops which require to be fulfilled/paid/obtained/jumped through before the transfer can be made and all the time the transfer deadline is looming after which time fines will also be levied.

Her experience reminded me of my first experience of Brazilian bureaucracy when I first arrived. For those arriving in Brazil to work or, like me, on a permenant visa, there is a requirement to register with the Federal Police and obtain a foreigners identity card.

The Federal Police website, though difficult to follow, did contain information about where I should go and what I should take with me so off I went and, after a two and a half hour journey from Sao Bernado do Campo, where I lived, to Lapa, where the Federal Police live, I joined the queue at Window Two on the second floor where the helpful staff had directed me.


federal police

The beautiful Federal Police building in Lapa

After a considerable queuing period the helpful member of staff at the window informed me that the items of identity I had brought with me were not actually the ones they wanted but, not to worry, she had a helpful sheet of A4 paper which listed all the things I did need and that once I had collected all these things I should return.

This I did, with a spring in my step confident that I now had documentary proof of everything I would need to get my foreigners card and, having gathered the now growing pile of papers together headed back on the two and a half hour journey to Window Two where the helpful member of staff told me it was all very nice that I had bothered to bring everything they had listed on the A4 paper but that there were a couple of extra things I would also need that they hadn’t bothered to tell me about on my previous visit.

No matter, these additional requirements could be fulfilled easily enough by visiting a local internet cafe, if I could find one. Eventually, after trudging around the streets of Lapa in 30 degree heat, I did find one and managed to print the missing items and hot foot it back to the Federal Police building where the entire staff appeared to have gone to lunch for a couple of hours.

After another consultation which resulted in a trip to the bank, to join another queue, to pay the application fee, I was now in a position where I could be given a time to join a different queue to wait for the person whose job it would be to type my application into a computer.

The Brazilians the Federal Police employ to perform this task reminded me strongly of the kind of teenagers who fill their summers working in holiday camps or as chalet staff. They seemed to spend a large amount of time gossiping about one thing or another and much less time typing actual data into actual computers.

At last, one Friday, my opportunity arrived and I took a seat opposite someone who looked like they enjoyed baladas (Brazilian night clubs) and funky (Brazilian…er…well not quite music) considerably more than inputting data into a computer. Tap tap tap…the first three letters had been entered, how exciting, and then….oh dear…the system has gone down.

Interestingly, this was the last of my 30 days I had to register before I became a member of the criminal fraternity by flouting Federal Police immigration rules. Two more queues, one to get a new appointment and the second to extend my the 30 days by the required period to cover the new appointment date.

I returned on the appointed date. My details were input by another balada/funk loving teenager. I was handed another piece of paper and told to wait in yet another queue for photographing (despite the requirement to supply a number of passport photos) and fingerprinting. This completed, the piece of paper became by temporary identity document for the next year while my actual identity card sat in a queue waiting to be laminated. The only problem with this was that the piece of paper was only valid for six months, so after six months I had to return to get a stamp saying my six months could me extended for another six months after which I returned to the Federal Police for what I hoped would be the final time to collect my lovely card which I now treasure having been through so much to get it.



Collecting all the documents I needed to get my ID card