Preparing for the Move to Portugal

How To Transfer a US Driver’s License in Portugal

Getting a driver’s license in Portugal isn’t too hard. You need certain paperwork and a lot of patience to deal with bureaucracy and language difficulties. Go to the Institute of Mobility and Transport (IMT) – Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes – as early in the day as possible as they are always busy.

Here in the United States, I have a commercial driver’s license.  I have endorsements that also allow me to drive tanker trucks, hazardous materials, and motorcycles.  When I move to Portugal, I don’t know if I will drive heavy trucks for a living or not. Eventually, I will buy a car over there…and possibly a motorcycle.  I might even rent a car for day trips from time to time until I buy one. I know that I will need at least a regular driver’s license for driving a car.

Getting a Driver’s License in Portugal

Getting a Portuguese driver’s license is not necessary for people who plan to visit for a short period of time. If you do not plan to move to Portugal, your non-EU driver’s license will be valid for up to six months. If you plan to live there, you must obtain a Portuguese driver’s license within sixty days of establishing residence.  As long as you have the correct documentation, this should be easy.

The documentation necessary to exchange your US driver’s license includes the following:

  1. Your original, valid, US state issued driver’s license
  2. Proof of Portuguese residence, your residence ID card
  3. Your Portuguese Tax Identification Number
  4. A medical certificate 
  5. DMV driving record from your home state certified and authenticated (apostille)
  6. Psychological report (for category B, C, and C1, which is the equivalent of the commercial driver’s license

I plan to get the highest class driver’s license that I can just in case I decide to drive trucks over there for a living, but I will be happy with at least a regular driver’s license. 

Car, Motorcycle, or Commercial Driving

With a regular license, you are able to drive motorcycles up to 125 cc’s.  Those are pretty small for what I’m used to driving.  I had a Harley Davidson for many years which had a big 1584 cc V-twin motor.  A big twin thumper is a luxury that most Europeans probably don’t experience, but I’m okay with that.  I just hope to possibly get a mid-sized motorcycle that I can take on weekend excursions around the countryside.  

As far as commercial driving is concerned, I think I might be a little intimidated. What I’ve seen about European roads and driving is a bit unnerving. However, if a good opportunity leaps out at me, then I will certainly consider it.  I’m pretty sure they don’t call it commercial driving over there, but the heavy truck class of driver’s license is different.  I think the US has far more restrictions and requirements for a CDL than they do in Portugal. I will be glad to report my findings regarding the differences that I discover once I get there and possibly get a job.

We don’t plan on bringing a car over there. The difficult nature of getting it to be compliant with their requirements, plus the import taxes, is prohibitive.  I think it will be better to try to find a decent used Fiat or some other small car that is common to that area.  I hope to become very familiar with public transportation rather than driving everywhere that I want to go. With my typical American mentality, having a car will greatly increase how much freedom I’ll feel that I’ll have in society.

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