By Volker Ruther
This is one in a series of helpful articles by Volker which are a collection of information and experiences about how and where to get documents and permissions, or how to resolve bureaucratic subjects and matters in Brazil as a foreigner.

Note that although the best efforts have been made to ensure the information is valid, we cannot guarantee that it is 100% correct, as the article is based on a mixture of personal experiences and information that has been collected from various sources like Internet sites, official documents and an exchange of experiences with other foreigners in Brazil. Also even Brazilian law is subject to change, and often difficult to interpret.

Always check your own situation via a suitable source e.g. consulate or appropriately qualified lawyer, before proceeding.

In Brazil the driver’s/driving license is known as the Carteira Nacional de Habilitaão (CNH). A foreign driver’s license can be used for up to six months, but has to be in combination with an official translation into Portuguese stamped by the traffic authority, Departamento Estadual de Trnsito (DETRAN).

An International Driver’s License can sometimes avoid the need for the translation, but it will depend on what languages it has within. If it doesn’t have Portuguese then an official translation will still be required, but in either case the stamp from DETRAN is still required.

If you stay more than six months in Brazil you have to apply for a temporary driver’s license for foreigners, valid for one year. If you are still waiting for your CIE (which take 2 or 3 years) the temporary driver’s license can be extended for another year.

You have to apply for the driver’s license at the office of the local state’s traffic authority, DETRAN.

For the temporary driver’s license for foreigners you will need to present the following documents:

  • Passport (original + photocopy of the page with the personal data)
  • Your national driver’s license (original + photocopy)
  • Official translation of your national driver license (original + photocopy)
  • Proof of fitness to drive (from a doctor indicated by DETRAN)
  • Prove of residence in Brazil (original + photocopy) e.g. phone or electricity bill
  • CPF (original + photocopy) if you have already one
  • You will receive a payment form to pay the administration fee (approximately R$13) in a bank indicated by DETRAN. After you have paid the fee you can hand in the documents. If everything is correct they will immediately issue the temporary driver’s license.

    Note that the regulations covering the temporary driver’s license may be different in each state (e.g. in the state of Rio de Janeiro and some others, they do not issue temporary licenses).

    Once you have the CIE you must apply for a Brazilian driver’s license. The temporary license cannot be used. You will need to present the same documents listed above and the fee will be approximately R$53. It is very important that you keep the result of the medical exam in a safe place, because the exam is valid for five years. The Brazilian driver’s license is validated by the medical exam, (e.g. if the medical exam was done in 2000 for a temporary driver’s license it will still be valid until 2005. Hence a Brazilian driver’s license issued in 2001 will be also valid until 2005.)

    When the driver’s license expires you will need another medical exam to apply for a new
    license valid for another five years. The fee for the medical exam is approximately R$60. The new
    driver’s license will be issued within two weeks. You can find the homepage of the DETRAN responsible for your state of residence on the this site:

    To contact Volker, as well as get a copy of his free eBook (PDF) of this information, send an email to

    Previous articles by Volker:

    Understanding Brazil: The CPF
    Understanding Brazil: CTPS – The Work Card
    Understanding Brazil: CIE – Foreigners ID CardUnderstanding Brazil: The Permanent Visa

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