As with most things here in Chile, obtaining a national driving license is quite complicated. We have been trying to get ours for about a year, and are no closer now than when we began. There are quite a few hoops that we are having to jump through before we can even sign up for the driving license process. I’ll take you start to finish through the process (or what we understand of it as of now).
Step 1 – Permanent Residency
Thankfully we already completed all the paperwork for this several years ago. Getting a driver’s license wasn’t on our mind at the time because we didn’t have a vehicle. It’s a good thing that this was done because it took over a year to complete all the requirements for this step.
Step 2 – 8th Grade Education
This may sound simple to you just as it did to me when I first heard it. After all, both Sandra and I have high-school diplomas and a 4-year Batchelor of Science (Golden State Baptist College). Proving that we have at least an 8th grade education shouldn’t be that difficult. Well, that is where we were wrong. For an academic diploma to be recognized by the Chilean government, it must be 1.) Legalized by the country of origin, 2.) Stamped by the Chilean consult in that country, 3.) Stamped again by the department of Foreigners in Santiago (there is only one office in the country that does this), and 4.) Translated by the same department (but this must be done as a completely different step because you must pick up your document and then turn it in again to someone on the other side of the room, after having waited in line to pick it up, and than again to turn it in), and finally 5.) Stamped by the department of Education. Your diploma (which by now will have a minimum of 4 stamps on it) must be taken to the Government office in your area. Then, and only then, can you procede with signing up for the driving class.
We were about to send our diplomas back to the USA to have them legalized when we were told by the regional head of the department of education that EVEN IF WE COMPLETED THAT WHOLE PROCESS, OUR DIPLOMAS WOULD NOT BE RECOGNIZED because only Spain and Japan have an academic treaty with Chile. Apparently the rest of the world’s education systems don’t hold a candle to that of Chile!
Because our elementary education is not valid here, we are going to have to take an elementary version of a Chilean GED. The only problem with this is that it is only administered once a year in our region (and you can only take it in your region of residence). You must sign up in March, and then by October you will have had your one chance to take it that year. Don’t fail or you will need to sign up in March again! I’m pretty confident that Sandra and I can pass most of the tests, but the one that worries me is National History. We’d better start studying.
Thankfully we found a loophole in this insane system. We can get an international driving permit (issued from the USA) that allows us to drive for up to a year in Chile. That being done, we should be OK until we can finish jumping through the rest of the hoops.
Step 3 – Driving Theory Test
Step 4 – Driving Practice Test
You may now drive legally in Chile.