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U.S. driver's licence exchange

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tomonoak
11/9/2018 08:16 EST

I have just gone through the process of exchanging my U.S. driver's license for a Portuguese one, and I want to describe the experience for others who do the same in the future, but I have a question first for anyone who has done this recently.

The temporary license I received on A4 paper (good for six months; the real wallet-sized plastic license is supposed to arrive in the mail in five months) has a space for a passport size photo marked "Fotografia (colada)", but the clerk didn't put a photo there, and I didn't think to ask about it until after I'd left. Is there supposed to be a photo there? I'm slightly tempted to glue a passport photo there myself, but I suspect that that would just be inviting problems. Does anyone else have a temporary license with a missing photo?

Now for the process. My Título de Residência is dated early August, and the driver's license exchange has to happen within 90 days of that, so I figured I was getting close to the wire and my procrastination had to end. But I see from this very useful webpage: http://maracujaroxo.com/2017/05/10/como-trocar-a-minha-cnh-brasileira-em-portugal/ that it is in fact a question of 90 working days, not 90 elapsed days, so I wasn't procrastinating as much as I thought. But it may not necessarily be easy to convince the clerk at IMT of this - if you're in this situation you may want to bring a copy of the regulation.

Before leaving the U.S., you need to go to the consulate for your region with your driver's license and a copy of your driving record for that license. In the state where I had my license, this could be obtained online in both 'unattested' and 'true and attested' versions; I got the latter and it was mailed to me after a few weeks. The consulate will translate the license and the driving classes it's endorsed for, as well as the details of the driving record, and put them in a signed. stamped, and sealed document that you will need when you get to the IMT in Portugal. You should probably consult your consulate beforehand for details on their exact requirements.

Once in Portugal, you then wait for your Título to arrive. I don't know if you can go to IMT with just the receipt from the SEF Título interview; I suspect not, though.

You will need a medical exam for your Portuguese license. This is a very cursory exam that can be done by any doctor, who will then electronically report the results to the IMT. But for this reporting to happen, you will need a Numero de Utente from a Centro de Saúde, even if you never use the public health service ever again. Not all Centros de Saúde issue numbers, and those that do have limited hours for this - check ahead. You will need Título and passport for this. I see from the web that you might need an Attestado de Residencia from your freguesia, but I didn't. (After all, my address is on my Título.) I went to the Lisbon Alameda Centro de Saúde, where my wait was a mere three hours. I wouldn't be surprised if you could have the exam done by a doctor right there, but with the difficulties of figuring this out, plus the prospect of another three hour wait, I didn't bother, and went instead to a private doctor.

You can now go to a nearby IMT branch (mine was Av. Elias Garcia 103, Lisbon). My wait there was under two hours, which actually was faster than waits I've had in DMVs in the U.S. Give them the translation of the driver's license/driving record, the medical exam report (even though it's been transmitted electronically) and your U.S. license. The clerk had a problem with the fact that U.S. driver's licenses don't list a date of the driver's exam, but we found a date on the driving record which was acceptable to her. After an amazing amount of futzing around in front of the computer screen she gave me an A4 sheet of paper, stamped and signed, that will serve as a temporary license while I wait for my real one to arrive. She then photographed me and said goodbye, keeping my U.S license. The temporary license is good only in Portugal, so I can't drive elsewhere in the EU, or back in the U.S. until I get the real one.

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realspear
11/9/2018 19:08 EST

You do not need to have any documents for the license exchange translated of they are in English and you do not need to go to the consulate with your documents. IMT accepts documents in English. I just went through this without any to to the consulate or translation.

You do need an apostilled copy of u driving record, your residence card, and your medical exam results in the IMT system.

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tomonoak
11/10/2018 04:52 EST

From our experiences, it looks like either path works: you don't need the apostille if you have the certificate from the consulate with translated license and record, and vice versa. It wasn't at all obvious how to get an apostilled document out of my state's notoriously inefficient motor vehicle department, or if it was possible, or even how to ask the question. As I needed to go to the consulate anyway for my visa and also a certificado de bagagem, I took them up on their suggestion to go with their certificate, which wasn't very expensive and got done in a few minutes. And IMT was happy with it.

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realspear
11/10/2018 08:36 EST

You get documents apostilled by the Secretary of State in most states. The DMV isn't involved.

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Joebabe
12/17/2018 04:23 EST

Thanks for this, very useful information, and a lot easier than my experience in France books2read.com/u/b5MnAO

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dalai
12/17/2018 06:30 EST

did you keep you US license??
if so how come
looking at the second last line of your post

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dalai
12/17/2018 06:30 EST

did you keep you US license??
if so how come
looking at the second last line of your post

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tomonoak
12/17/2018 06:43 EST

No, the IMT took it. (The present participle phrase "keeping...." refers back to "she" earlier in the sentence - sorry if that wasn't clear.)

I've seen one web post that says that IMT sends the license back to the US, and another that says it holds onto it and will return it in the future in exchange for your Portuguese license. I don't know if either one of those is true.

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realspear
12/17/2018 08:25 EST

I've never heard of anyone ever getting their license back. I also haven't heard that licenses are definitely sent back to the US.

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tomonoak
12/17/2018 14:01 EST

On this web page:

http://maracujaroxo.com/2017/05/10/como-trocar-a-minha-cnh-brasileira-em-portugal/

Which describes the process a Brazilian women went through to exchange her license, she says:

Você não perde a sua CNH brasileira. O IMT fica com ela, arquiva e, quando você voltar para o Brasil você pode fazer a troca novamente se desejar.

(i.e. they file the license you can exchange it again if you return to your home country, Brazil in her case)

On this web page:

http://blancavalbuena.com/how-to-change-your-us-drivers-license-to-a-portuguese-license/

Which is the site of an American couple in Lisbon, she says:

Your new license will be sent to your Portuguese home address by mail. Your US license will be sent back to the USA.

I don't know which is true, or if either is - you'll have to check with the IMT.

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Wallvestor
12/17/2018 14:19 EST

We went to the Portuguese Consulate in Florida (a lower level Consulate that does NOT issue expat Visas, but 1) will sign off on the document needed to ship your stuff to PT, 2) Will issue a certification that your US driver's license is in good standing. They took our US license and affixed it to the document with a gold foil seal. They told us not to remove it and that when we got to PT and applied for the Portuguese license, they will take our US license and send it back to the US.

We also had to sign a document surrendering our US residency. This document and the driver's license certification each cost $36.00. Total $72.00.

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realspear
12/17/2018 15:35 EST

I don't understand why you would have to surrender US residency for those documents. I used my state government to get the driving record certified and did get my document for shipping without duties and was not asked by anyone to surrender US residency.

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Wallvestor
12/18/2018 13:42 EST

realspear, there may be more than one way to skin this cat. The way we did it left me feeling assured all will be good. I suspect, the Florida Consulate had us sign the Surrendering Residence document so they could show Florida DMV. That way we can't apply for another license in Florida.

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Wallvestor
7/8/2019 13:35 EST

Well, I elected to not get my Drivers License Authenticated by the Portuguese Consulate, instead I expected to get it once I return for the certification of baggage regarding shipping our stuff after buying a home.

Home buying here is not quick, so I'm running our of time for the 90 days. Thus, I took it upon myself to attempt the exchange with everything except my driving record or the authentication from the Consulate. To my surprise the clerk insisted:

1) that the driving record by itself was NOT sufficient. It had to have the document from the Consulate.

2) the date of my appt. with SEF as indicated on the paper receipt (still waiting for the beloved card), WILL be the date used for computing the 90 days.

3) the 90 days IS calculated using weekdays only. Not including holidays or weekends.

Since I am in Portugal, what should I do? How in the world is one supposed to do this if they are in Portugal already?

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