Should you choose to embrace 'challenge' in your life there are many opportunities to push yourself up to, and sometimes beyond, your limits. Climbing Mount Everest, walking the length of the Amazon, swimming the English Channel, or using your nose to push a marble from Lands End to John O'Groats, are all great example of how mankind seeks to conquer adversity.
I believe that we may have found another, previously undocumented life challenge, that must rank amongst these other great feats.
I'm willing to try anything once... except Morris Dancing and watching 'Big Brother', but permanently importing a car into Spain is not something that I'd recommend, in fact I'd go as far as to actively discourage it.
After returning the big red van to the UK, it having served its' purpose admirably (excusing the blown intercooler hose), we needed a car to bring ourselves, our remaining possessions, and Bonita back to Spain. You may remember that we purchased the left hand drive Xena the Zafira with the intention of re-registering her, and keeping her for a couple of years before upgrading to a 4x4.
I'm sure that it doesn't really need to be this difficult.
We knew we'd have to use a solicitor, we knew that there would be taxes to pay (so much for free movement of people and goods within the European Union), and we knew that it would take a while. But we'd not been prepared for over two months of aggravation.
What it has meant is that we must have the safest car in the World. Xena is now the proud holder of a valid Portuguese safety certificate (obtained by the previous owner), a UK MoT until May '15 and now a Spanish ITV Test until May '16. Safe in three countries, it's a good job that it can't fail a test due to the horrendous, head-ache inducing, road noise from a couple of low-profile tyres criminally fitted to the rear axle by the previous owner.
In the first week of January, we innocently sat in front of our solicitor. After handing over all the necessary paperwork and I asked, 'how long is this likely to take?'. Our legal expert assured me that she'd done this before, and it normally takes ten days from her submitting the paperwork. I was quite impressed, but also it appears with 20:20 hindsight, quite naive.
There were several hoops to jump through. First we paid our taxes, based on one percent of some ridiculously inflated book value of Xena, then we paid an engineer to certify that the car is a standard European model, and attended a thorough ITV test which included taking umpteen measurements of the car to make sure that it matched the technical specification and hadn't grown or shrunk in the ten years since it rolled off the production line.
The ITV required two trips to Foz the location of our closest test centre (a 100km round trip up the coast), one for the test and the second a few days later to pick up the paperwork, which for some reason they cannot post. We were already racking up quite a bill.
And then we waited...and waited...and waited.
A call from the solicitor brought bad and surprising news. Apparently our application had been rejected. Not because there was a problem with the car, not because we'd not paid all our taxes, and not because of any issues with the test. The problem was that my Spanish identity number (NIE) certificate was 'too old'. The odd thing is, there is no end date on an NIE certificate, they don't expire!To move us from the impasse we had to drive to the police station in Lugo and complete
the paperwork requesting a certificate to say that I had a valid NIE certificate. Sounds ludicrous doesn't it?
The best of it is that we had to pay (7 euros) and it would take three days to process it and issue the paperwork. Three days later we drove the 100km round trip to Lugo, for the second time in a week, to collect a bill, to take to a bank, to get a receipt, to take back to the police, to collect the document. All that we had to do now was get an electronic copy to our solicitor to forward to the Director of Trafico, who would issue us the number plate the following morning.
And then we waited...and waited...and waited.
It turned out that the Director of Trafico wasn't in the mood to play ball!
Two days after we should have had the number plate we contacted the solicitor. We'd been rejected again, this time because we'd not submitted the original NIE document. We'd sent a colour copy, but they claimed they needed the original. Our solicitor had then successfully argued that this was nonsense and had resubmitted guaranteeing us that we'd get it the following working day.
We waited...and waited.
In the afternoon of the following working day we called. Rejected again. This time because the electronic application had been submitted with 'large family car' box ticked rather than 'small family car'. We had to wait another twenty-four hours before it could be resubmitted. Another day passed and we were rejected again, on another technicality, which now even the solicitor couldn't explain.
All credit to our by now embattled and embarrassed solicitor. She offered to lend us her personal car as she was concerned that we were driving without insurance (over 90 days after we left the UK), or alternatively she volunteered to pay for our car hire.
Finally, over two months after being told it would take ten days, we got our Spanish number plates and permanently exported Xena to Spain.
It had cost us; 750€ in taxes, a €200 engineers report, a 90€ ITV, 200€ in solicitors fees, a 60€ tank of diesel for two trips to Foz and two trips to Lugo, and five wasted half days on a Galician paper chase.
Insuring an imported car was simpler, and cheaper, than I'd suspected and thanks the very persistent Fernando to Linea Directa, who must have spent our premium in phone calls chasing our business and now we're now fully covered.
Now twelve hundred euros lighter in the pocket we have the new plates and most of the paperwork. Sadly the new registration contains a 'Z' making the car resemble an IRA getaway car (for those of you who know about UK car registrations), but beggars can't be choosers.
Xena is now officially a Spanish citizen, which is more than can be said for Amanda and I, but that is a story for another day. I have a feeling that both Morris dancing and 'Big Brother' may be more pleasurable than the bureaucracy involved in getting our residency papers.