By: DAISY SAMPSON
WITH SCORES of expatriates waiting long periods for their new Portuguese driving licences (The Resident, edition May 2), a solution is available for those wanting to travel outside the country.
The problem can be overcome by obtaining an international driving permit, which allows people to drive in various countries worldwide and is valid for 12 months.
A reader told The Resident that it took him just one hour to obtain this document and staff at the Direcção Geral de Viação (DGV) had recommended this as a temporary solution while waiting for the official Portuguese licence to arrive.
But what exactly is the situation regarding driving licences in Portugal?
If you are a British citizen on holiday here, then you are able to legally drive on a UK licence thanks to directive 91/439/EEC, which was fully implemented on January 1 1997. This allows the UK licence to be mutually recognised throughout the European Union.
For those who stay in Portugal for less than 180 days, and all others considered to be non-resident in Portugal, then the UK licence is also acceptable.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK states that residents of any EU country are able to drive legally on a UK licence.
However, Portugal maintains the right to encourage the exchange of UK licences for Portuguese.
As a result, a unique situation has been allowed to occur whereby you can hold a British driving licence as a resident in Portugal but the address will be wrong because the DVLA does not issue licences with foreign addresses. And to be a resident in Portugal, you need a Portuguese address. This means you are liable to be fined by Portuguese police for incorrect details on your licence – but you won’t be fined for having an unrecognised licence. This applies equally in the UK.
To avoid such a situation, and to be in full compliance of Portuguese law, it is advisable to exchange a UK driving licence for a Portuguese one.
A temporary licence will be issued, with the date for expected return of the new licence printed on it. A temporary licence is a legal document in Portugal but if you intend to leave the country then an international driving permit can be obtained for 40 euros from the Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres (IMTT).
The IMTT is responsible for the uniting transport systems and administration and will eventually replace the DGV in Portugal. The Algarve office is in Rua Aboim Ascensão, 10/12, Faro. Call the IMTT in Faro on 289 870 130 or visit their website www.imtt.pt (only available in Portuguese).
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