In the immigration process, the move to Portugal is finally accomplished, as a rule, by obtaining a residence permit – either issued by the SEF or by the competent bodies in the case of European Union citizens. The issuance of this document formalizes the beginning of the period of legal residence in the country and, from this moment on, other aspects inherent to the change can be formalized, such as obtaining the user number, transferring the tax residence and, also, exchanging the driving license from the country of origin to a Portuguese driving licence.
The exchange of the driving licence is a process which, as mentioned, can only be initiated after the issuance of the residence document and, until recently, was mandatory for all foreign nationals who intended to drive in Portuguese territory, after six months of legal entry into the country, and who were not holders of a driving licence issued by another Member State of the European Union – these citizens are given the possibility to drive with the European licence without needing to replace it, at least until the date on which the said document expires.
However, since the entry into force of Decree-Law No. 46/2022, of July 12, the nationals of some third states have also been allowed to drive with their national driving licences, in specific circumstances, without the obligation to switch to a Portuguese woman.
The measure covers nationals of member countries of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), such as: Angola, Brazil, United States of America, Israel, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand – among others. However, it should be noted that the exchange of the license remains mandatory for people from the aforementioned countries who are over 60 (sixty) years of age, so it is necessary to take into account whether the citizen in question is covered or not by this new resolution.
It is important to mention that the exchange process remains possible and, in general, beneficial: the aforementioned Decree-Law is not applied in other European Union countries, only in Portuguese territory. Therefore, for residents in Portugal who wish to drive legally in other EU countries, a change to a Portuguese document is necessary. The process is submitted to the competent Portuguese authority, the IMT, and it is necessary to present the documents requested for this purpose and pay a fee of 30 euros.
Finally, for citizens from countries that are not signatories to the above agreements, the process of converting the letter of origin to a Portuguese one remains mandatory – in the case of letters issued by countries without a bilateral agreement with Portugal and/or not adhering to the international road traffic conventions, practical proof will also be required, which will have an associated extra cost.