FOLLOWING my first article regarding the new Portuguese Road Safety Code, I received a number of enquiries from EU citizens living in Portugal, who seemed a bit confused about the situation regarding their driving licences and the legal procedures concerning that matter.
In Portugal, rumours tend to spread like fire in a cotton field and it seems the same happens within the ex-pat community living here, which means an excellent adaptation to the Portuguese culture! However, these rumours can lead to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings. Fortunately, in what concerns legal matters things are clearly regulated. An example of this are the regulations involving driving licences of EU citizens living in Portugal.
There are two main sources to look at in order to know the correct procedures: the new Road Safety Code and Decree-Law number 45/2005 of February 23, which bring into the Portuguese Law the EU Directive number 2000/56/CE of the European Commission. They are both recent pieces of legislation.
Starting with the Code, article 121.º states that only a person legally entitled to do so is authorised to drive a motor vehicle on a public road. According to article 122.º, such legal entitlement is accomplished by having a document known as a ‘Carta de Condução’ (Driving Licence).
Number 12 of Article 122. º states that those who live in Portugal and hold a driving licence issued by one of the member states of the European Union must inform the Portuguese authorities responsible for issuing driving licences (Direcção-Geral de Viação) of their residency in national territory within 30 days, in order to update the driver’s registration. Those failing to do this can be fined for an amount of between 60 euros and 300 euros.
The reason for informing the Portuguese authorities is not to exchange your original driving licence for a Portuguese one. It is to have your foreign driving licence registered with the authorities as belonging to a resident in Portugal.
Decree-Law number 45/2005 states what is considered a residency in Portugal. You are considered resident in Portugal if you live in the country for a minimum of 185 days a year. It also states that each person can only have one driving licence issued by a member state of the EU. As a consequence, even though it is possible to exchange your original driving licence for a Portuguese one (article 128.º of the Code), there is no legal obligation for you to do this. Should you exchange your original licence for a Portuguese one, your former licence will be cancelled.
However, in a situation where your original driving licence has been apprehended, for instance following a driving offence, a Portuguese one will be issued afterwards that will replace your original one.
In my next article, I will continue with more issues relating to the Road Safety Code.
• Gonçalo Figueira of Neville de Rougemont & Associados can be contacted via email at [email protected]