Since we’re planning on staying in Portugal, we figured it would be smart to switch our US driver’s license to a Portuguese License. It’s good we did so. In Portugal, you must make this change within 90 days of getting your residency (so 90 days after you go to your first SEF appointment). I suggest you make this a priority as soon as you get your residency. This way you don’t need to take a driver’s test or pay crazy amounts of money for classes and your license.
How to Change your US Driver’s License to a Portuguese Driver’s License
You need to go to your local IMT (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes) office. There are two offices that I know of in Lisbon:
- Av. das Forças Armadas 40 (Alvalade)
- Av. Elias Garcia 103 (Avenidas Novas Neighborhood)
The offices open at 9 (although Google has the time as 9:30 am). I suggest you get there early, the lines are long. I got there at 8:30 and it took me about an hour the first time I visited to get information. They close for lunch from 1-2 and close again at 5 pm. I’d suggest getting there 1 hour early so you can be first on the line. When you walk in, make sure to pull a ticket. This is key as without it you won’t be seen.
What You Need
- Have a current & valid US Driver’s License and a certificate of validity with an apostille from the secretary of state from the state where your license was issued
- Be of Portuguese driving age
- Be physically and mentally fit (Atestado Medico – requires a citizen’s health card)
- Proof of residence in Portugal (We used out residency card)
***You can request the apostille for your state by finding the Secretary of State for your state here or if you are short on time, you can have it expedited with Apostille.net (they were fast and a pleasure to work with – highly recommended).
What Happens When You Arrive
First, you take a number and wait. There is a person up front who can guide you on what button to press on the machine. Once you are called, you will enter the room and present your paperwork. The woman at the counter didn’t ask any questions. When she was done, she asked me for payment, gave me back my number and told me to wait to be called again to take my picture. A few minutes later I was called and a digital photo was taken and I was done.
There are multiple costs attached to this.
- License abstract. This document serves as proof that your license is, in fact, valid in the states. I downloaded mine directly from the NYDMV website. The cost was $7USD and I was able to download it as PDF.
- Apostille. The cost will be determined by your state. You will also need to pay for shipping the form to your state and for having it sent back to Portugal.
- Atestado do Medico Electronico. This is a document your doctor will fill out attesting that you are sane and of good health. It will include your vision status as well. This will vary by doctor and insurance. Mine cost a mere €15 since I have Medis as my Portuguese Health Insurance.
- The actual license. There is a cost of €30 to make the change.
What Happens When You’re Done
You will be given a temporary document – basically a piece of paper with your info – which is valid for driving in Portugal for 2 months. Your new license will be sent to your Portuguese home address by mail. Your US license will be sent back to the USA.
Note>>> The paper you get will probably expire before you get your physical license. If this is the case, simply go back to the IMT and ask for an extension. It’s super simple, they just take your temporary paper license, stamp it, and fill in the new expiration date. We only had to renew or temporary license once. It took 5 months for the new license to arrive and it was hand delivered by the CTT (they didn’t just put it in the mailbox, they rang the doorbell to deliver it). I assume that if you’re not home, you’ll be left with a “pick up at the CTT office notice”. If this is the case, go to the address on the CTT notice and bring your Portuguese ID. Still pretty simple stuff.
Have questions for us about the process? Just leave your question in the comments section!