AFPOP Matters – Driving licences and impounding of cars

An article in a local magazine has caused concern among expatriates in Portugal. The editorial stated that the police will immediately impound vehicles of foreign residents who do not hold a Portuguese driving licence. This is not true – the police have no powers to impound cars for this reason. AFPOP, the association for expatriates living and working in Portugal, has checked with the Direcção-Geral de Trânsito (DGV), the Brigada de Trânsito and the PSP and all have confirmed this. (The police do have powers to impound vehicles for document irregularities, but AFPOP has been assured that this refers to documents relating to the vehicle and not to driving licences. AFPOP will, however, keep checking to confirm that police powers are not being extended to cover licences.)

Readers of the erroneous article are under the impression that this information has come from the AFPOP office. Once again this is not true. AFPOP has never told anyone that the police could impound cars if the driver fails to produce a Portuguese driving licence. In fact, when asked about this, AFPOP has specifically stated otherwise.

The association has checked again with the DGV in Lisbon and they still have not decided what ‘registering’ means with regard to the new Código da Estrada. As soon as we know, we will let AFPOP members know via normal channels.

In the meantime, if you go to register with DGV and they say, as they have done recently, that there is no need at this time, AFPOP suggests that you ask them to give you a brief note to say that you have visited their office at a certain time and date. That way, if stopped, you can prove that you have tried to comply with the new law. Registration is not required for foreign residents who already hold a Portuguese driving licence.

For more information about AFPOP and the benefits of membership, contact the AFPOP office on 282 458 509 – by e-mail on [email protected] or visit the AFPOP website at