Are you a US Citizen and a new resident of Portugal?
If so, you may be interested in exchanging your American drivers license for a Portuguese drivers license.
The process is not straight forward, so in this article we will explain the process in detail.
Is an American Drivers License Valid in Portugal?
Yes. Lucky for you, the law recently changed and Portugal now recognizes American drivers licenses. Even if you have a residence permit in Portugal, you do not need to exchange your licence for a Portuguese licence. From 1 August 2022, people with driving licences from member states of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will not need to exchange them for a Portuguese licence. The United States is a member of the OECD. You can now rent cars and drive throughout Portugal on your American drivers license.
It’s worth noting that this only applies to Portugal. The benefit of a Portuguese drivers license is you would have greater ability to drive throughout the European Union.
Even though it is somewhat optional, if you still would like to exchange your Portugal, keep reading on.
According to the US Embassy in Portugal:
U.S. Citizens are entitled to drive in Portugal with their U.S. issued driver’s license for a period no to exceed 185 days, provided they are not legal residents. After acquiring legal residency, U.S. citizens have 90 days in which to request the exchange of the driver’s license without being required to take a driving test. During that period, U.S. citizens may continue to drive with their driver’s license. After exhausting the 90 days without making the request, U.S. citizens will not be allowed to continue driving, but they will be allowed to request the exchange without being subject to completion of driving test. They have a deadline of two years counting from the date of acquiring residency to make the request.
Required Documents to Exchange Your American Drivers License for a Portuguese Drivers License
To successfully exchange your drivers license, you will need
- Filled out IMT form
- Your state-issued US drivers license
- The original CRUE
- A copy of your NIF
- An apostilled copy of your American driving abstract
- A Certificate of Authenticity of your Drivers License from your local Portuguese Consulate in the USA
Once you have all your docs, you can apply here.
How Do I Get an Apostilled Copy of my Driving Abstract?
The driving abstract is obtained from the licensing agency of the state where your license was issued. You must request it from the entity that issued the driving license or at the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in the USA. This document might be called the ‘Certified abstract of complete driver record’ and is different than a simple status record.
Once you have the driving abstract, you will need to get it apostilled.
The apostille is available in Washington or at the state level from the secretary of state office for the state in which you reside.
Do I need a Certificate of Authenticity of My American Drivers License?
We have confirmed that to exchange the driving license issued in an OECD country, it is mandatory to present the certificate of authenticity of the driving license.
Unfortunately, the United States of America Embassy in Portugal doesn’t provide that document.
The Certificate of Authenticity is supplied by the Portuguese Consulate serving your region of the US. You provide them with a copy of your driver’s license and your driving abstract and the Consulate gives you the official translation of your current license (Certificate of Authenticity).
Some consulates require the copy of the DL to be notarized. Check with your consulate to confirm.
Is There a Time Limit To Exchange Driver’s Licenses?
We have heard that you need to exchange your license within 2 years of getting residency in Portugal. If you do not exchange your license during this time, you need to ‘start again’ and take a drivers test.
Does The Portuguese Drivers License Get Issued on the Spot or Mailing to Me?
Upon approval, your new Portuguese driver’s license will need to be delivered by mail to a Portuguese address. It might take several weeks or several months to arrive, so ensure it is an address that you can receive mail!
Do I Get to Keep My American Drivers License?
Skip the guesswork and develop your ideal Latin Life Plan with our consultation services: