Last year, Wally blogged over several days about his experience in obtaining a Uruguayan Driver's License, ( Dec. 22, 2009), Now it's my turn! My experience isn't as exciting as Wally's was, so I won't take 2 days to write about how I am now (as of May 24) legally licensed to drive in this country.
When we first arrived in this country we had a facilitator help us through the process of getting our Permanent Cedulas. I do and did appreciate being hand- held during all the steps it took, to receive this document. Not speaking any Spanish, overwhelmed with moving to a new country, a new hemisphere and not knowing the streets etc... was stressful enough, so yeah, I could now after 2 years probably do it all by myself but it was a benefit to me back then to receive help.
As most of you know moving to a new country involves lots and lots of paperwork, I even had to get our marriage license "translated" into a Uruguayan one, also my birth certificate, our immigration guide Peter, helped everything go smoothly. The problem was with the word "translation". Marriage and birth certificates do need a translation and years ago US citizens could get USA drivers' licenses translated like the other documents, but the US Embassy now no longer helps provide this. I was told, I would need to start all over again and take a "REAL" drivers test, Practical and written and all in Spanish (which I don't speak). So I procrastinated, my original Washington State License was expiring and I was fast approaching one year of residency and still thinking why bother if I have to take the basic tests anyway?
Well, long story short, You do not need to translate a USA State Drivers license. The new word to learn is Homogeneous (uniform). If you have your Cedula, a current (valid) USA State Drivers license, a quick medical examination at a health clinic (SUAT for example) and have been in this country less than 1 year you can go to MVD (Montevideo) City Hall ( The Intendencia) and they "Homogenized" it or absorbed it or roll your existing license into a valid Uruguayan National one. Don't even bother saying the word Homogeneous. We saw it written on the paperwork, that's their pigeon hole for the process.
My experience was this: My Washington State license was able to be renewed online! They e-mailed me the option to renew online. Before I moved here, I should have (in person) walked into the DMV Office and given them a new mailing address or post box., because I didn't do this the renewed license was sent back as undeliverable even though I paid online. I was able to call them and request a replacement license which they informed me would not have my photo on it. It could not be used as a Valid ID because of not having a photo but it would be a Valid Drivers' License and they could then send it to my Sister-In Law (who sent it on to us). With this photo-less Drivers license and my now expired photo D. License, my next step was to leave the country and return. This would put a stamp in my passport that said I was now in the country less than 1 year! Wally and I went to Buenos Aires as you have read before.
The final advance preparation in getting my Uruguayian Drivers license involved my getting a small "okay to drive" examine from one of the approved clinics used for this Driving purpose. We tried a nearby SUAT Clinic but they said MVD was where we had to go. They said, we would need to call first and make an appointment (an Hora) not true. I took the #21 bus from the Geant Mall down to the SUAT clinic located in the Futbol Stadium and just asked for "the examine needed to obtain a drivers license"(Licensia de conducir) and immediately filled out some paper work then I went downstairs to be examined. It was a piece of cake! The Doctor asked me if I needed glasses, wore contact lenses or had any health problems. I said no! Then he took my blood pressure, next he had me cover each eye, then while he pointed at an eye chart I said the letter he pointed at out loud. Finally the funniest test was the Hearing Test! The Doctor goes behind a screen an "whispers" a few numbers (like 1, 7, 6 Etc...) and you have to repeat it, first covering one ear then the other! He even spoke the numbers in English for me to make it less stressful/confusing which it wasn't. He wished me well, I went upstairs and paid $461 Pesos and was given the necessary paperwork to bring to the DMV Bureau.
Getting back on the #21 Bus, I went directly to the Intendencia (City Hall). Finding the appropriate room, I waited in line (no ticket needed). I gave the girl at the window box everything! Passport with the new BA stamp, (Under 1 year), My Cedula, both my Washington State Drivers licenses (just in case) and the clinic report/receipt. She stamped it all ( Wally saw the word Homogeneous on it).
Next, you have to wander around upstairs looking for the place to pay for all of this ($815 Pesos). I took a photo, then was told not to (by an armed guard), but here it is, so look quick! Next going back downstairs to the original room but towards the back you wait for your name to be called. (no ticket, which was good as the machine was empty) My name was called and I handed the man everything, he had me place my index finger on a machine which photo copied it into the computer (no mess!) Then He took my picture for the Drivers license. I was directed to wait with other applicants for our names to be called. Less than 10 mins later my name was called and I received on the spot!, My photo laminated, Republica Oriental Del Uruguay, Licencia Nacional De Conductor (Drivers License of Uruguay!)
I don't know if it's because I'm younger than Wally or because I had that renewed Washington State license but My Uruguayan license is valid till the year 2020! unlike Wally's D. License which (this first time) is only good for 2 years! (2011) Next time he can apply for a 10 year one. Great for me!
Well this account of MY Turn, didn't take 2 days to blog but was so detailed it probably felt like it, so here's a photo taken outside of City Hall I thought you'd appreciate. It's me of course showing you my Drivers License! What else would you be looking at?