Renewing a Portuguese driving licence

Exchange of your driving licence for a Portuguese one. Beware!

Dear Editor,

I am 66 and, upon returning for good to Portugal from Switzerland in October of last year, went by the rules and started the procedure to exchange my Swiss licence for a Portuguese one.

The first part of the procedure with IMT is online and it took some time to get the documents they would be satisfied with (Switzerland is barely considered a civilised country and one has to get documents from the Swiss administration that demonstrate that the Swiss licence is not just given to anyone and is the result of taking the appropriate tests). So that stage was achieved shortly before the end of the year and an appointment given to me to go to the IMT office in Faro.

There we discovered that there was still one more step, which was to go to our local Junta de Freguesia in Almancil where we would need two witnesses living in Almancil to prove that the person with just one given name (Georges as per my Swiss licence) was the same as the person with also a middlename (Georges Nicolas as per my passport). Anyway, on January 2, I returned to the IMT office with that document, also gave my original driving licence and received in return an A4 document that I could use as a surrogate for my licence, but only valid in Portugal.

This is where I was not cautious enough (not that it would have changed anything….). Obviously, I thought I would get the Portuguese licence there and then (they took my picture and everything).

We are now close to the end of June, and I am still waiting for my Portuguese licence. I did send them an email early March as we had planned a road trip to France and Italy, but after sending the email several times, finally just received the reply that applications were treated in chronological order and that I should be patient.

So now I have a trip to the UK planned for next month that includes having to rent a car. Obviously, with the A4 document I have, there is no way a rental agency will accept it. What do I do now? Do you know of any other country where you have to give your original document before you get the new one in exchange? This is where one gets punished for following the rules.

Main points:

  • Nobody will expect the process to take six months
  • They take your original licence at the beginning of the process, not at the end when the new licence is ready
  • The temporary document they give you is not valid outside the country
  • They don’t tell you that it will take six months (I have gone through the same process in France, Germany, the UK and Switzerland where it is a matter of days and, anyway, they swap the documents when the new one is ready). This is why I had no problem giving my original licence, I thought I would get the new one very shortly. I should have started worrying when I saw that the temporary document they gave me was valid for six months…

Georges Kiener
Encosta do Lago