How to Get a Brazilian Driving License

Details on the theory and practical tests needed to obtain a Brazilian driving license…

A full Brazilian driving license can only be given to a foreigner who is legally resident in Brazil and who meets the Brazilian State Transport Department requirements. The license must be applied for by the individual in person or a Despachante representing the individual. The following documents will be required:

  • Original and copy of the Foreigner's identity card (Cédula de Identidade para Estrangeiro - CIE, which contains the Registro National De Estrangeiro - RNE the identity number for non-nationals)
  • Original and copy of the Individual Taxpayer’s Card (Cadastro de Pessoa Física - CPF)
  • Copies and originals of proof of address from the previous three months (utility bill, bank statements)
  • Original temporary or full driving license

These documents must be presented at the Setor de Atendimento ao Estrangeiro (Service Area for Foreigners) of the local DETRAN office.

The applicant may be required to take medical and psychological exams; this is decided by DETRAN on a case-by-case basis (for example, if the original foreign driving license is close to expiring).

Obtaining a Provisional Driver's License

To begin driving instruction, an individual will need to apply for a provisional driving license. A provisional driving license can only be applied for at a driving school (autoescola) directly, or at a driving school through a despachante. It is only valid for driving lessons, until the person passes the practical test, and a holder of a provisional driving license cannot drive alone with it.

The documents required when applying for a provisional driving license are as follows:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of address
  • Individual Taxpayer’s Card (Cadastro de Pessoa Física - CPF)


Despachante is the term used throughout Brazil for a professional who works in the area of vehicle documentation and registration on behalf of a vehicle owner.

Amongst other things, a despachante can apply for new or lost driving licenses, register vehicles and oversee the transfer of a vehicle from one person to another.

It is highly recommended to use the services of a despachante when dealing with vehicle documentation administration in Brazil.

The Driving Test in Brazil

The driving test in Brazil consists of four main parts. These tests must be organized through a driving school (autoescola) and cannot be arranged directly through the issuing Brazilian State Transport Department (Departamento Estadual de Trânsito - DETRAN) office.

Most driving schools offer packages whereby the whole course, including being taken to DETRAN for the necessary tests, is included. One fee is paid directly to the school and they make all the required payments for the exams and tests involved.

The Brazilian driving test involves four steps:

  1. Medical test (exame medico): This involves a general medical exam and will also include an eyesight and reactions test. This must be done at a DETRAN recommended medical clinic.
  2. Psychological behavior/logic exam (exame psicotécnico): This test is to assess the person's mental suitability to drive. When completed, the individual will receive a certificate, which allows them to proceed to the next stage. This must be done at a DETRAN recommended medical clinic.
  3. Road theory and law instruction and test (teórico de legislação de trânsito): A minimum of 30 hours of instruction regarding the highway code, driving law and theory conducted by a public instructor or a qualified private instructor in Portuguese is required. At the end of the instruction, a written test in Portuguese must be successfully completed at the DETRAN office closest to the residence of the applicant, and can only be booked by the driving school (auto-escola). When the exam is successfully completed, the individual will receive a certificate which allows them to proceed to the next stage.
  4. Practical training and test (exame pratico): A minimum of 15 hours of guided instruction in a vehicle is mandatory. A certificate is issued to confirm completion of this training, after which a practical test at DETRAN must successfully be completed. Appointments for the test are made by the driving school. During the test, a government inspector accompanies the applicant through a series of manouevres. The applicant is notified immediately of a pass or fail on completion of the practical test.

It is not possible to take the theory or practical test with an interpreter or a translator, and the test cannot be taken in English.

Once a candidate has successfully completed each stage of the driving test, they will be issued with a probationary license (this usually takes two weeks to process). The probationary license is valid for one year and allows the individual to drive any vehicle in their license category. If any violation is committed in that year, the license is revoked. If no violations occur, a Carteira Nacional de Habilitação is issued immediately.

License Renewal

A Carteira Nacional de Habilitação is valid for either five or ten years. For each renewal, the license holder must re-take the medical exams which include a blood pressure test, eye-sight test and a hearing test.

It is up to the individual renewing their license to arrange a medical exam with a doctor accredited by DETRAN. A small fee is payable for the exam. On successful completion of the medical exam, a certificate and receipt are issued and these are taken to the DETRAN office closest to the applicant's residence with two recent passport-size photos. A new Carteira Nacional de Habilitação will then be prepared and issued to the person immediately.

Lost or Stolen Brazilian Driving Licenses

If a CNH is lost or stolen, a person must apply for a replacement card (segunda via or 2ª Via).

A replacement CNH can be arranged in person, through a despachante at the DETRAN office closest to the applicant's residence, or via the Internet.

The following documents will be required:

  • Original and copy of the Individual Taxpayer’s Card
  • One recent color passport-size photo
  • Copy of the declaration of loss notarised at a local registry office
  • Proof of residence from the previous three months (bank statements or utility bills), as well as a photocopy of each

These documents must be taken to the setor 2ª Via da CNH (Division 2) at the local DETRAN office, where an application form will be available. The applicant will then need to pay a tax at the Banco Noss Caixa (in São Paulo this is next to the DETRAN building). Applicants should then return to the setor 2ª Via da CNH with proof of payment to collect their new card.