Whether you are here in Portugal briefly on vacation or doing business, visiting your own property regularly, or settling into a new life as a permanent resident, you need to understand important rules and laws.

Our administrative systems and laws are subject to change, so last year’s rules may be different now. Don’t always believe stories you hear from friends or accept everything you read on the Internet. Much of this is outdated or misleading and could land you in trouble. If it does, telling the police or a judge, “Sorry, I didn’t know” will not be accepted as an excuse. 

Here are some of the most common questions (with answers) regarding the usage of foreign registered vehicles, foreign driving licences and residence in Portugal asked by ‘estrangeiros’. 

Renato Dias
Advogado / Lawyer

  • VEHICLES & THE LAW
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  • 1. About: Driving in Portugal with a Non-Portuguese licence
     

    1. Driving with a licence issued by another EU or EEA member country.
    Valid driving licences issued by any EU-member country are considered valid in Portugal, as are driving licences issued by countries within the European Economic Area. (EEA countries include: member States of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). Portugal, in common with the other states mentioned offers reciprocal rights to drivers from within these areas, provided the following  listed conditions are respected:

    • (a) The licence is valid in its issuing country.
    • (b) The licence is valid for the category of vehicle being driven.
    • (c) The driver meets or exceeds the correct minimum age for the relevant licence category of the vehicle.
    • (d) The driver has not been suspended or barred from driving in the country that issued the licence.
    • (e) The licence was not issued while the applicant / driver  was barred from driving or being issued a licence in Portugal.

    2. Driving with any international driving permit from outside the EU or EEA.
    Drivers holding licences issued by any country other than above must be in possession of a valid International Driving Permit issued in their home country before entering Portugal. This permit is only valid for use in Portugal for 180 days.

    3. Make yourself aware of these essential facts:

    • (a) No driver may simultaneously hold more than one driving licence issued by any of member state of the European Union or European Economic Area.
    • (b) Holders of driving licences issued by any member state of the EU or EEA and holders of international driving permits are only allowed to drive motor vehicles in Portugal during their first 180 days in the country. (artigo 125 / 3)
    • (c) From the date on which a licence holder establishes formal residence in Portugal, He or she must:
      • (c.1) Advise IMT of the correct residential address within 60 days.
      • (c.2) Exchange their Non-Portuguese driving licence for a Portuguese licence within 90 days. (artigo 125 / 4)
    • (d) IMT (Instituto da Mobilidade dos Transportes) will contact the relevant authority in the EU / EEA country that issued the driving licence to check if there have been any restrictions, endorsements, suspensions etc.
    • (e) All drivers resident in Portugal have a duty to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles (IMT) office of any change of residential address within 60 days. (artigo 15)

    FAILURE TO OBSERVE THESE LAWS MAY RESULT IN A HEAVY PENALTY.

    Source: Nº 1, artigo 125, Lei No 114/94, 03 de Maio.
    Source: Nº 2, artigo 15, Decreto-Lei No 138/2012, 05 de julho.

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  • 2. About: Exchanging an EU driving licence to Portuguese
     

    Exchanging an EU or EEA Driving Licence for Portuguese licence.
    If you wish to obtain a Portuguese driving licence in exchange you must meet the following requirements:

    1. 1. Minimum legal age required by Portuguese law for the driving categories to which you are entitled. To drive an ordinary car, this is age 18.
    2. 2. You must be physically and psychologically fit to drive the relevant vehicles in view of the specific demands each makes on a driver.
    3. 3. You must be able to prove residence in Portugal.
    4. 4. You must have a Portuguese tax identification number (NIF).
    5. 5. Your licence must not be subject to any ban, disqualification or prohibition.

    You'll find the procedure and application form here >

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  • 3. About: Modifications or repairs made to a vehicle in Portugal
     

    Any modifications or structural repairs made to a vehicle in Portugal must be inspected by the IMT and the alteration be approved and noted on the vehicle's record. e.g.

    1. Following repair work to the vehicle as the result of an accident.
    2. For example: The fitting of a tow bar. The tow bar should be from an approved manufacturer the fitting method of the tow bar must be approved.
    3. Failure to have a vehicle which has been subject to structural or functional alterations approved by the IMT inspectorate can result in a fine of €250 to €1250

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  • 4. About: Driving offences and penalty points
     

    Driving Licences and Points System.
    In some countries, a “clean license” is one that has no violation points or endorsements due to misdemeanours such as speeding. Points for offences are then added up to a maximum allowed; at that point, a driver is “banned” for a specified period from operating a motor vehicle, and may have to re-qualify to drive.

    However, in Portugal, the system works in reverse. Drivers receive a license with points and have them deducted if they commit misdemeanours. A “clean” Portuguese licence has 12 points  - the maximum allowed when it is issued. For every violation-free period of three years, 3 points are added to a driving licence - up to a maximum of 15 points.


     1. Traffic Offences: Points are deducted on a sliding scale - depending on the seriousness of the violation.

    • (a) If licence points are reduced to 4, the driver must undergo road safety training.
    • (b) If licence points are reduced to 2, the driver must take the written theory section of the driving test (in the Portuguese language).
    • (c) In the case of the licence's points being reduced to 0, a driving ban is imposed for 2 years. Following the expiry of that period, the banned driver must take the full driving exam – both the practical and written parts.
       


      2. Road Crimes: These may involve more than one offence and thus result in multiple deductions, heavy fines and a possible prison sentence.
      For example:

    • (a) Dangerous / negligent driving
    • (b) Causing death or injury to other road users
    • (c) Driving without a valid licence
    • (d) Driving with a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 1.2g/l
    • (f) Refusing to undergo a breathalyser or blood test (unless because of a medical condition such as haemophilia)
    • (g) Submitting a false declaration and or documents
       


      3. Very Serious Offences: 5 points are deducted for each one.

    • (a) Driving on the wrong side of the road
    • (b) Speeding - for cars & motorcycles in a non-urban area, exceeding the speed limit by up 30km/hr.
    • (c) Speeding - for cars & motorcycles in an urban area, exceeding the speed limit by up to 20km/hr.
    • (d) Speeding - for other vehicles (trucks etc.) in a non-urban area, exceeding the speed limit by up 20km/hr.
    • (e) Speeding - for other vehicles (trucks etc.) in an urban area: exceeding the speed limit by up to 10km/hr.
    • (f) Driving at a speed considered unsafe for the conditions, including adverse weather, traffic or roadworks
    • (g) Failure to maintain a safe distance between vehicles
    • (h). Dangerous overtaking or reversing in an unsafe place
    • (i) Stopping or parking on the side of a motorway or national road
    • ( j) Disregarding traffic rules or signs
    • (k) Not giving way to pedestrians using designated crossing areas
    • (l) Cars not having all lights functional and/or operating during conditions or times required
    • (m) Motorcycles and mopeds not using dipped headlamps (in daylight hours)
    • ( n) Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, e.g. with a blood alcohol level at or above 0.5g/l. * See the scale of fines below.
    • (o) In case of a breakdown, accident or necessary stop on the road, failure to use legally required safety equipment and warning signs of danger ahead (fluorescent tabard, flashing warning lights, red reflective triangle.
    • (p) Using a mobile phone, computer tablet, electronic game, or programming a device such as a GPS unit while driving 
    • (q) Stopping or parking cars in lanes and areas marked for pedestrian crossing or cycles
    • (r) Driving without use of seat belts
    • (s) Driving without the required passenger safety accessories, such as correctly fitted rear seat safety belts and child seats
    • (t) Riding on a motorcycle, tricycle, quad-cycle or mopeds without an approved safety helmet.
    • (u) Driving a vehicle without liability insurance (third party cover as minimum)

    Fines for neglecting these rules normally range from from €120 - €600.


    Fines for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    1. 1. From €250 to €1250 for a blood alcohol concentration between 0.5g/l and 0.8g/l-
    2. 2. From €500 to €2500 for a blood alcohol concentration between 0.8g/l to 1.2g/l .
    3. 3. The drug and alcohol limits referred to above are reduced to 0.2g/l and 0.8g/l for all drivers under probation, and for drivers of rescue or emergency vehicles, passenger minibuses/public service passenger carriers, taxis, heavy vehicles,  transporters of dangerous goods and vehicles used for the collective transport of children under 16 years of age.

    Source: Nº 1, artigo 146 - 148, Lei No 114/94, 03 de Maio 2016

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  • 5. About: Tolls Roads in Portugal
     

    You'll find the Toll Roads in Portugal are modern, well serviced, and apart from peak holiday season around Lisbon and down to the Algarve you'll find them relatively quiet when compared to the autobahns of northern Europe.

    Types of  Toll Roads in Portugal.

    Via Verde Lane / Toll Gate

    Gated-Toll-Roads: At the entry point to the toll road you will find the majority of lanes are gated and have a machine from where one can collect your toll-ticket. If your vehicle is not fitted with a Via Verde Device you must make use of one of these "ticket lanes" 
    On exiting a gated toll-road present your ticket to the toll-booth clerk and pay the fee using cash, a credit or debit card or debit card validated for use in Portugal.
    Note: At entry and exit points of a gated-toll-road you will also notice the left hand lane is marked with the Via Verde logo and is not gated. This lane is strictly reserved for those vehicles fitted with the Via Verde Device. 

    Via Verde Gantry with Scanner

    Overhead Scanners

    Non-Gated-Toll-Roads: Not all toll roads have Toll Gates but, this does not mean that you can skip paying the toll fee. Both gated and non-gated toll roads monitor all traffic from cameras mounted on overhead gantries spanning the road.

    It is your responsibility to ensure that you pay any toll fees that are owing within five days. Failure to do so will lead to you being billed plus additional penalty costs.

     


    Toll Fee payment options for Portuguese registered vehicles:

     1.  Via Verde Device 

    For vehicles not fitted with the device:

     2. Payment by cash, credit or debit card

     3. Post Payment

     4. Multi Banco Payment


    For visitors to Portugal using hire cars: Most rental companies will offer you the add-on rental of a Via Verde electronic device for convenient use of Toll Roads and toll fees will be charged direct to your credit card.


    Toll Fee payment options for foreign registered vehicles:

    1. Via Verde Temporary Device (Pre-paid option for Visitors to Portugal)

    For vehicles not fitted with the Device.

    2.  Toll Card

    Virtual Pre-Payments

    Pre-Defined Paths

    If you are  a self driver visitor to Portugal can buy the Via Verde Device from any Post Office (CTT) at a price of €29.50 including VAT. You will need your Passport or EU ID card and to complete a registration form. You can make pre-payments to load your account with credit. The minimum credit balance acceptable is €25. It takes a maximum of 48hours to activate your account.

    You can further load your device with credit by making payments at any Post Office (CTT) or by using any ATM in Portugal (under the "Payment for Services" option) using your Via Verde account number.
     
    7.Via Verde devices can be bought or rented at any CTT Post Office in the country as well as all Via Verdes stores and many service areas. The service centers are usually contained within a toll route and allow you to rent the device with cash. There’s a weekly rental cost (currently 6 Euro the first week and 1.5 Euro each week after plus a refundable deposit). The rental is only valid for 90 days unless recharged before that time.

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  • 6. About: Living in Portugal, Non-Citizens, up to 3 months
     

    As an EU national, you can live in any EU country if you have:

    1. 1. Private health insurance cover in Portugal (available for those under 65), or state-provided services in your country of origin that are reciprocated under EU/EEA laws in Portugal. For example, UK citizens with a valid EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) can present this when registering at their local SNS – Serviço Nacional de Saúde.
    2. 2. Sufficient income to live without needing Portuguese state income support. This income could come from a pension, savings or any other source of revenue.
    3. 3. To stay in Portugal for a period of less than 3 months, for EU/EEA and Swiss citizens, the only requirement is to hold a valid passport or national identity card.
    4. 4. During the first 3 months of your stay you are not required to register your residence, but you can do so if you wish. By registering as a permanent resident, you can begin to show documented evidence of an intention to stay that can be useful in future, e.g. to apply for Non-Habitual Tax Status.
    5. 5. You can register as a permanent resident at your local Council – the Câmara Municipal -  which will issue you with a 'Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia'. There is a fee; in 2016, this is about €30 per person.

    * NOTE 1: Be aware: For UK citizens, legal rights mentioned  may be affected by Brexit.
    * NOTE 2: While in Portugal, you must carry either your passport or ID card with you at all times. You will also be asked frequently to show your N.I.F. (Numero Identificação Fiscal) or unique tax payer number. If you are only visiting, you don’t need one. If you intend to buy property or stay permanently, you must register for one at the Finanças office – usually also within your local Cãmara Municipal building.

    Source: Nº 1, artigo 6, Lei No 37/2006,  de 9 de agosto.

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  • 7. About: Residence in Portugal, Non-Citizens, more than 3 months
     

    As an EU national, you can live in any EU country if you have:

    • 1. comprehensive health insurance cover in your host country
    • 2. sufficient income to live there without needing income support.
    • 3. Income could come from a pension, if you are a pensioner, or any other source of revenue.

    You need to carry either your passport or ID card with you at all times

    • 1. n.b. After a 3 month period of residence in Portugal, you have 30 days in which to register with your local Câmara Municipal office and be issued with a 'Certificado De Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia'. You need to produce proof of identitiy and residence. e.g.:
      • (a) Whether renting or owning the property you reside in, it a requirement by law you be in possession of a resident's certificate issued by your local Municipality.
      • (b) In the case of renting a property a copy of your rental agreement with the owner.
      • (c) An electricity account having your address on the invoice.
      • (d) A Portuguese tax identification number.
      • (e) Passport.
      • (f) There is a fee of about €30.
    • 2. The residence certificate is valid for 5 years from the date of registration.
    • 3. Should at any time you change your residential address you must report this to your local C.M. and obtain an updated certificate of residence.

    Source: Nº 1, artigo 6, Lei No 37/2006,  de 9 de agosto.

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  • 8. About: Permanent Residence in Portugal
     

    If you have lived legally in Portugal, meeting the conditions to stay in the country for a continuous period of 5 years you automatically acquire the right of permanent residence there. This means that you can stay in the country as long as you want.

    Your continuity of residence is not affected by:

    • 1. Temporary absences (less than 6 months per year)
    • 2. Longer absences for compulsory military service
    • 3. One absence of 12 consecutive months, for important reasons such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, work, vocational training or a posting to another country.

    You can lose your right to permanent residence if you live outside the country for more than 2 consecutive years.

    Permanent residence document.
    This is different from the registration certificate which is compulsory in many countries. The permanent residence document is not compulsory.

    The permanent residence document can be handy when dealing with the authorities or for administrative formalities. The authorities may no longer require you to prove that you have a job, sufficient resources, health insurance, and so on.

    The document should be valid for 10 years and is automatically renewable without any condition or requirement.

    To get one, you must submit:

    • 1. Proof you have been living legally in the country for 5 years. Authorities could for example ask you to produce a valid registration certificate issued when you arrived and/or other supporting documents (such as work contracts, tax returns, rental contracts or utility bills) or
    • 2. Proof you have stopped working and meet the conditions for earlier permanent residence.

    Should you want to obtain "Permanent Resident Status" in Portugal you are welcome to contact me : it will certify your right to stay in Portugal unconditionally.

    Source: Nº 1 e 4, artigo 10, Lei No 37/2006,  de 9 de agosto.

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  • 9. About: Driving a foreign-registered vehicle in Portugal
     

    You are allowed to drive a foreign-registered vehicle in Portugal for a maximum of 183 days before you either matriculate it to a Portuguese registration or return it to the country of origin for a further period of not less than 183 days.

    If you are driving a foreign-registered vehicle in Portugal, it must be taxed, tested & insured in its country of registration throughout its time in Portugal. If the GNR or police catch you with an overstaying vehicle or one without tax, valid test or insurance, they can (and often do) permanently confiscate the vehicle, which they will then be sold or destroyed.

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  • 10. About: Matriculating a foreign registered vehicle in Portugal
     

    Each adult immigrant is allowed to import to Portugal one motor vehicle, free of import tax, subject to the following criteria:

    1. 1. The vehicle must have been registered to the importer for at least 12 months, in the country of origin, before importation to Portugal.
    2. 2. The vehicle should fully comply with the manufacturer's standard.
    3. 3. Should any alterations or modifications have been made to the vehicle´s structure or functionality; e.g. fitting of a tow bar. It must be a suitable model from an approved manufacturer.
    4. 4. The matriculation process for the imported vehicle must be initiated within 6 months of the applicant being granted residence.
    5. 5. Road tax is calculated on engine size & emissions and priced as per a new car on the date of matriculation not on year of manufacture. If you do go the tax free import route, you are not allowed to sell the car for 5 years unless you repay the tax you've avoided on a pro rata basis i.e. 20% per year.
    6. 6. If you pay the import tax, it is calculated on age of vehicle, engine size & emissions not on value & is often VERY expensive, especially for cars with large engines/high emissions & some cars can cost in excess of €20k.

    When you have transferred your residency to Portugal you can then apply to you home country's embassy for an importation certificate for the vehicle you wish to import into Portugal.

    British subjects can find information at:
    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/notarial-and-documentary-services-guide-for-portugal

    Portuguese Form Modelo 9 IMT>>

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Further useful information for drivers can be found in English at: ANSR – Autoridade Nacional Segurança Rodoviária
National Road Safety Authority: FAQs