Don't let the law drive you mad - register that car

You can see them everywhere, the police on the streetcorners, waiting to pull over unsuspecting drivers. Even those who aren't doing anything wrong get checked, particularly those with foreign plates. To make things easier on yourself, make sure your papers are in order. The whole process is not too bad, if you know what to do; just realize that it differs depending on whether the car is a personal or business vehicle. To register, head to the police station at Kopčianska ul. 84 in Petržalka (tel: 821-233); they are open on Monday from 7:30 to 12 and 12:45 to 17:30, on Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:30 to noon and 12:45 to 15:15, and on Friday from 7:30 to noon.

You can see them everywhere, the police on the streetcorners, waiting to pull over unsuspecting drivers. Even those who aren't doing anything wrong get checked, particularly those with foreign plates. To make things easier on yourself, make sure your papers are in order.

The whole process is not too bad, if you know what to do; just realize that it differs depending on whether the car is a personal or business vehicle. To register, head to the police station at Kopčianska ul. 84 in Petržalka (tel: 821-233); they are open on Monday from 7:30 to 12 and 12:45 to 17:30, on Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:30 to noon and 12:45 to 15:15, and on Friday from 7:30 to noon.

To register a personal car, you must present proof that you have permanent residency in Slovakia for at least one year, the "technický preukaz," or technical pass, the original deed showing where the car was purchased and for how much, and the green temporary license plate. If the car was bought on a lease, bring the original leasing contract as well, plus the "splnomocenie (the document that secures proxy rights) from the leasing company.

For a business car, bring the firm's official stamp, documents from the business register or "podnikový" as well as the "živnostenský list" or business license; and the identification number of the organization. Only an employee authorized to sign for the company can apply for the registration. Both personal and company car registrations also require a special 300 Sk stamp.

Another option is to ship a car in from home. But according to the Corstjen's group, a moving company that ships cars overseas, that can be even more complicated. They say car owners must submit a copy of their passport, documents showing they are allowed to stay in Slovakia for more than a year from the place of employment and with accommodation. In addition, Corstjens needs to have a copy of the technnický preukaz for the car, a notarized paper stating the owner has had the car for more than six months, and another agreeing that the moving company has all moving rights to the car. American Rainbow Air Cargo Services, which has an office in Prague, will also ship your car over to Slovakia, but the price, they warn, will be high. Contact either their Prague office or one of their U.S. locations for more details.

Once you have your car, you'll need to insure it. Poisťovňa Otčina and Union will register company cars only, and only up to 500,000 Sk; the car must have an alarm and an immobilizing device and a Slovak license plate. Allianz will insure personal cars for foreigners, but they must be registered with the police and have a technický preukaz. Companies must present their business license and sign a paper giving full rights to the insurance company.

Slovenská Poisťovňa, the largest Slovak insurance company, needs to see your technický preukaz, the car's deed, and how big the engine is. Cars up to 1,500 cubic centimeters can be insured for 6.4 percent of their selling price; larger cars can be insured for 8-8.7 percent of the selling price. They will only insure cars that pass European standards, and will not insure American-made cars unless they have a Slovak license plate.

It seems like a lot to go through -and it's unlikely that many officials you meet along the way will speak English - but the next time the police wave you over and ask to see your license and registration, you'll be ready.

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