If you want to arrange any legal affair in Brazil, you will soon have to deal with what the Brazilians call a “cartório”. Cartório translates to “notary’s office” and they are the physical manifestation of something Brazilians love and fear the most: bureacracy.There are different cartórios and it is not always easy finding the right cartório for you. The cartório for commercial affairs is different from the one for property affairs which is different to the one for private affairs. Once you found the right cartório it is not easy getting your stuff done, because you have to find out which line to chose and wether or not you have to pick a number or just wait in line until you can talk to one of the officials in the booths. Cartórios can be very full (the picture shows a rather calm day in a big cartório).

The cartório is a official, state-run notary’s office, that does many things: from registering marriages to filing documents to buy, sell or rent a house. There are big and impressive desks with many stamps, holographic seals etc. And many, many officials working on things. The atmosphere is busy and for Brazilian standards very “official”. But that makes sense, because bureaucracy is big and important in Brazil. There is always a person somewhere handing you out a number or a paper you have to pass on to someone else. There are rules and regulations which are not to be discussed, just to be followed – and Brazilians tend do be very German about these things. And even if you found the right cartório, have all the papers you need to do what you want, waited in line to file your request, discussed the matter with one of the officials, there are hours or days you have to wait, until your papers are finished, and of course there are fees to pay. I guess it is expensive to keep an organization like this alive.

One nice example for Brazilian bureaucracy was, when my wife and me went to the carório to have our marriage registered in Brazil. We basically had all our documents ready and with us, we even did not have to wait in line very long. But then came the moment, when something was missing. It was the flight ticket of my wife. Why? Because she only has 180 days after coming back to Brazil to register the marriage, if you miss this deadline, you have to pay a fine or worse: get a new certification of the Brazilian embassy in which the marriage certificate was issued. We did not have a ticket, because we flew KLM and you only get e-tickets there. Furthermore the Brazilan embassy in Germany had registered the marriage less than 180 days ago, so there was absolutely no sense in asking for an airline ticket. But there is no way out. We had to go home, print the confirmation of an e-ticket and bring it back, to prove that we entered the country less than 180 days ago, which was abvious, since we had prove from the Brazilian embassy in Berlin. Once the printout of our ticket was there, everything went smooth (of course there was about an hour of waiting time again). Interestingly enough the people at the cartório agreed, that the regulation made no sense in our case, they told us, that it was the first time, something like this had happened and that they would file a request at the administration to change the regulation in cases like our’s in the future (A process I don’t even want to imagine).

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