Importing Your Car to Another Country - Portugal
This should be easy, right?
Are you trying to import your car into Portugal? It should be a straightforward process, but beware, there are some pitfalls. The bureaucrats are used to dealing with a one-size-fits-all scenario and if you do not fit that bill, it may cause you a world of hurt trying to import your car into Portugal.
We had a very frustrating year trying to legalise our Irish car in Portugal. None of the authorities seemed to know what they were doing and it got to the point where they were asking for absurd paperwork when the documentation we gave them should have sufficed.
We drove the car over from Ireland to Portugal in 2010. The car was in my partner’s name. He is Portuguese and worked in Ireland for three years. Unfortunately, he never registered with the Portuguese embassy in Ireland, although it is not obligatory to do this if you are from the EU. Because we had owned the car for a year we believed bringing it to Portugal and legalising it would go smoothly. I nearly threw up when they first rejected our application and started hinting at figures in the thousands to import the car.
The First Snag
The Customs offices at Alfandega de Peniche were lamenting about my partner not registering with the Portuguese Embassy when he lived there. What’s the big deal, we argued, we could prove he lived there with other documentation. But they had a real bee in their bureaucratic bonnets about this and would not let it go. They seemed to think we could get a letter from the Portuguese Embassy in Ireland for €250, although they were not clear about what this letter was called, or why it cost so much. So we rang the Portuguese Embassy and an official told us that we would not get any letters from them, in fact no embassy in the world would backdate a stunt like that.
I emailed the Irish Embassy in Lisbon and supplied them with tax records, bills... etc and they sent us out a letter confirming that my partner had lived and worked in Ireland for three years and that we had owned the car for one. Still, customs would not accept this. They told us we needed to get a letter from the Irish police showing when my partner arrived and left the country. They would not even accept a letter from my partner’s employer, showing the start and finish dates, confirmed by Revenue’s P.45 and P60s. So I had to ring the Gardai (police) in Ireland to see if I could wangle a letter out of them. They laughed at me and hung up.
When we told Portuguese customs that the Irish police don’t do those types of things, they asked us to get a letter from them saying they don’t do those types of things. Then they cited an example of some other Irish man that had been able to provide them with such a letter (I suspect the authenticity of the certificate in that story...).
Somebody Fix Me!
How to import you car into Portugal if you are not Portuguese
- You need to have owned the car for 1 year.
- You need utility bills for the past year. They accepted copies of everything we had. It would be wise not to send any originals.
- You need a certificate of conformity from the manufacturer of your car. Volkswagen in Portugal quoted us €100 for the certificate, so we rang Volkswagen Ireland and they sent us one for nothing!
- You will need to change your right hand-drive headlights to left hand-drive ones. They cost us around €150.
- You have to register with the council showing you are resident.
- You need a Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF).
- If you have been working in Portugal before bringing the car in, you will need to show a declaration of income tax and social welfare from Revenue/ Social Welfare.
- Once you get the go ahead you will have to do an NCT/MOT. The initial inspection will cost more than all the following inspections and they are very strict about the car following all the specs on the certificate of compliance.
Because my partner is Portuguese, he had to produce a tax clearance certificate to show he was up to date with all his income tax and social welfare payments. Shock and horror! There was a gap in his payment history just before he left Portugal that he had overlooked. We contacted social welfare to scheduled repayments and they sent us a letter confirming his compliance.
Time was running out, but after numerous phone calls customs finally made a concession to us. They would allow our file to stay open for a short period of time and we could bring the car in my name. But there were a few conditions we had to meet:
We had to get a letter from a state authority in Ireland confirming that we lived together for a year. They told us to get a letter from the council; however, they wouldn’t accept that fact that councils in Ireland don't do this. They collect your motor tax, they keep the streets clean, they look after water and sewerage facilities, they don’t keep records of who lives with who.
We had letters, bills, bank statements and tax records, but none of that documentation was in joint names. The only thing we had in joint names was our house lease and our son’s birth certificate. This wouldn’t do, they had to have a letter and the one from the Irish Embassy was not good enough either.
They also wanted a letter from the Irish police confirming when I left Ireland. It was ridiculous, the Gardai don’t give a damn about who emigrates, nor do they keep records of such activity. Lucky for me I registered with the council as soon as I arrived in Portugal and they accepted that instead.
Wondering where I would get this coveted letter, I rang Social Welfare in Ireland. I told them about my predicament. At that time I was on maternity leave in that address and I had filled in a form to get children’s allowance. So they had documentation with our Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers on it and could confirm that our two PPS numbers were residing at the same address at the same time. I begged the woman to write me a letter, strongly outlining that they are the only authority in Ireland that can confirm social welfare activity, not the Gardai and not the county councils. And I asked her to confirm when my partner received his PPS and to give a schedule of his payments from commencement to cessation.
Are We There Yet?
Basically all this information could have been drawn from the various documents we had given them, but it seemed like they wanted to be spoon fed the information in a letter. Now I guess I can understand that to a point. Looking at a P.60 equivalent from another country can be a little confusing. But, what I don’t get is that they were prepared to bend the rules by allowing me to import the car without my partner first transferring the car into my name.
Lucky for us Social Welfare in Ireland came to the rescue, and not a minute too soon, as we were coming very close to the end of the rescheduled deadline. We sent off the letter and crossed our fingers. The letter that came back told us our application had been approved. We were finally allowed to change the licence plates. In the end it took us ten months, dozens of phones calls, letters, emails, trips to and from customs and a stress-related ulcer to import the car into Portugal.
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