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How to Get Your Puerto Rico Drivers’ License: Guide To Caribbean Roads

As the allure of Puerto Rico beckons, envision yourself driving in San Juan Puerto Rico, cruising along coastal roads, the warm breeze in your hair, and the vibrant spirit of the island accompanying every turn. Whether you're a U.S. resident seeking a slice of paradise or an international dreamer captivated by the island's charm, the first tangible step toward making this haven your own involves obtaining a driver's license in Puerto Rico. 

Key Takeaways

  • Tourists and short-term visitors can travel in Puerto Rico using a valid license from their home country, while international visitors may need an International Driving Permit.
  • For extended stays or residency, individuals must obtain a Puerto Rican driver's license within 30 days of registering residency, involving fees, medical certification, and proof of income.
  • The reciprocity agreement with U.S. states allows the use of a valid driver's license from any U.S. state without taking additional driving or written tests, provided certain requirements are met.
  • Using an expeditor service can simplify the process of obtaining a Puerto Rican driver's license, especially for non-Spanish speakers, though it comes with additional costs.

Do You Need A Puerto Rico Driver's License?

For Tourists and International Visitors

 In Puerto Rico, especially when driving in San Juan, tourists from the United States and international visitors are generally not required to obtain a local driver's license for short-term visits, making it easy to travel to Puerto Rico with driver's license from their home country. Tourists often wonder, "do you need a real ID to go to Puerto Rico?" They can be reassured that they can typically use their valid license from their home country or a U.S. state for driving during their stay. International visitors need a valid license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico and legally drive in the country. 

For Extended Stays and Residency

If you're planning an extended stay or looking into establishing residency in Puerto Rico, getting a Puerto Rican driver's license and securing your Puerto Rico vehicle title involves several steps. Whether purchasing a car or shipping your current vehicle, you must get a driver's license to drive the streets of Puerto Rico legally. You must do this within 30 days of registering your residency, a process simplified for those with a real ID in Puerto Rico travel contexts.

The process will begin by determining your eligibility for obtaining a Puerto Rican driver's license, which is part of learning how to establish residency in Puerto Rico based on your extended stay or residency status. Locate the nearest Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) office in your area, which is the Centro de Servicios al Conductor (CESCO) in Puerto Rico, and if required, schedule an appointment for your driver's license and car registration in Puerto Rico.

Expect to Pay for Fees for a Puerto Rico Driver's License

While the expenses may vary depending on the applicant's situation, you can still expect to pay a combination of fees, including a written test for $17 and a driving test for $17. The Internal Revenue stamp, code 5120 is $15, while the Internal Revenue stamp, code 0842, is $2. The Internal Revenue REAL ID stamp is $17. You may also be required to pay for your proof of income for $11 and medical exam for $20.

What is the Reciprocity Agreement with U.S. States?

Thanks to the reciprocity agreements between all U.S. states, territories, and Puerto Rico, individuals can use their driver's licenses on the island for a specified period, which aligns with the convenience of having a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico. With reciprocity states, as long as you have a valid driver's license and a U.S. driver's record, there is no need to take the driving or written test. You still need to pay the applicable fees, provide a medical certificate from your doctor, and fill out the forms to process your license. It is different if your driver's license has expired, as you must take the written and driving tests.

It is also essential to surrender your current regular license to avoid holding two driver's licenses. Make a copy of your state license before you hand it in in case you need to provide future proof.

Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Driver’s License 

Getting your driver's license in Puerto Rico is not as complicated as one might think. Here is what you'll need to do:

Get an Application

The transfer of what you are doing from your state to Puerto Rico is what you call “Reciprocidad.” You need to get the Solicitud de Reciprocidad application, which you can obtain online at dtop.pr.gov. You can print it and fill it out there, and you have that ready. 

Book an Appointment with CESCO

For those wondering if you need a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico and subsequently drive, booking an appointment with CESCO using the CESCO website or the CESCO app is a critical step in the process. This aligns with the requirements for both tourists and residents planning to drive. A reservation system was implemented in 2020, making the process easier. Make sure to come up early on the day of your schedule. You will be notified via email or text when it is time for your date.

What You Need to Bring

When going to a CESCO office, you will need to bring the following:

Proof of Identity: Valid U.S. passport, valid I.D., or other government-issued photo I.D.

Social Security Number: A Social Security card or a document that includes the Social Security number is crucial when using your real ID to travel to Puerto Rico (required for REAL ID compliance).

Medical Certification: You can print this online and have a doctor fill out your medical certificate. 

Two forms of Proof of Residency: Electric utility bill, rental agreement, or other documents that establish your stay in Puerto Rico.

Copy of Your Driving Record: Since June 2019, a recent addition to the requirements includes a copy of your driving record from the state that issued your driver's license, which can be paid for less than $10. This service, like the application for a real ID in Puerto Rico for travel, can also be requested online, streamlining the process for applicants.

Current Driver's License (for Renewals): If you are renewing, bring your current, valid driver's license, which will also give you the same driver's license number.

Additional Documents for International Residents:

Proof of Legal Presence: Non-U.S. citizens may need to provide additional documentation proving legal presence in Puerto Rico.

Translation of Documents (if applicable): If your documents are not in English or Spanish, consider providing translations or obtaining an IDP as needed.

Purchase Stamps

Go to the local CESCO office where you plan to obtain or renew your driver's license and ask the staff about license stamps (sellos). You can also get them online.

A non-Real I.D. driver's license will require a "Sello de Rentas Internas" Internal Revenue Stamp (Code 5120) for $15, while a "Comprobante de Rentas Internas" Proof of Internal Revenue Stamp (Code 0842) for $2.

In addition to the above stamps, you'll need to purchase the "Comprobante de Rentas Internas" Internal Revenue Stamp REAL ID validation stamp (Code 2028) for a REAL ID-compliant driver's license for $17.

Pass the Online Test

Once you get your stamps, you will have to attend a free hour-long online course about alcohol and other drugs, which is offered at all CESCO offices. Each module ends with a short multiple-choice quiz.

Complete Your Vehicle Registration

Image Source: flickr.com

Registering a vehicle in Puerto Rico as a U.S. citizen involves specific steps and requirements. Here is a general guide on how to complete car registration in Puerto Rico:

Check Eligibility: The CESCO office will again ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for registering a car in Puerto Rico and review if you are an island resident. Make sure to have your driver's license in Puerto Rico or other papers proving your address.

Get Auto Insurance: You must have auto insurance coverage before registering your car since this is mandatory for all Puerto Ricans. Contact an insurance provider and obtain the necessary coverage for Puerto Rico.

Gather Required Documents: Prepare the necessary documentation for your car registration, including:

  • Proof of identity (passport or other government-issued I.D.)
  • Proof of residency in Puerto Rico
  • Vehicle title
  • Automobile inspection certificate
  • Proof of auto insurance
  • Bill of sale (if applicable)

Visit the CESCO Office: Go to a local CESCO building. CESCO handles driver's licenses and automobile registration services. You may consider visiting offices in less populated areas outside San Juan, with fewer crowds.

Complete Application Forms: Fill out the required automobile registration application forms and provide accurate and complete information.

Vehicle Inspection: Puerto Rico requires car inspections for safety and emissions compliance. For less than $50, you can schedule an examination at an authorized inspection station. Once your vehicle passes inspection, you will receive an automobile inspection certificate.

Submit Documents and Pay Fees: Submit all required documents and the completed application forms. Pay the necessary registration fees, including automobile property tax and other applicable charges. DTOP will issue you a car sticker called "marbete," which will cost you $100 and should be renewed annually.

The term "marbete" refers to the full annual car registration process. It pertains to the sticker affixed to the right side of the vehicle's interior window. Failure to display the marbete sticker or not having the most recent printed registration for your car renewal could result in a fine of approximately $125.

Receive Registration and Plates: Two weeks after your application is handled, you will receive your automobile registration documents and license plates from DTOP.

An Easy Alternative to Getting Your Puerto Rican Driver's License

Using an expeditor can be a convenient option for U.S. citizens who want to streamline getting a PR license. An expeditor is a service that assists individuals in navigating bureaucratic procedures, such as obtaining licenses or permits, often by expediting the application and handling paperwork on behalf of the applicant.

While hiring an expeditor is optional, it can make getting your Puerto Rico license easier for an extra fee. This service is more expensive than doing it yourself. However, many have found that relying on an expeditor is worth paying, especially for those from a foreign country who don't speak Spanish.

Double Check Your Driver's License

After every process has been done, make sure to double-check the expiration date and the information on your new driver's license. The CESCO office may only verify your information after they print your license, so typing errors are possible. If that happens, have them reprint your license and correct the incorrect information immediately.

Conclusion

Whether you are a fleeting visitor or a future resident, securing your Puerto Rico driver's license is the key to unlocking the island's diverse landscapes, including the answer to what side of the road they drive in Puerto Rico as you experience driving in San Juan Puerto Rico, through Miramar in Ponce de León Avenue, or steer through the best houses in Palmas del Mar. From navigating CESCO appointments to acquiring the essential stamps, each step is a stride toward freedom. Armed with your license and the marbete sticker, Puerto Rico invites you to explore its roads, from coastal drives to the bustling streets of San Juan.

Ready to make Puerto Rico your home? Discover how long does it take to drive Puerto Rico and explore exclusive luxury properties in PR with Christie's International Real Estate Puerto Rico and open the door to a life where every drive is an opportunity to discover something new.

FAQ's

Can I drive in Puerto Rico with a US license plate?

Yes, you can drive in Puerto Rico with a US license plate. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States that recognizes all valid US driver's licenses. This means your state driver's license is sufficient for you to drive legally on the island.

Similarly, this would extend to accepting vehicles with US license plates for driving within Puerto Rico, as long as they meet local requirements and the driver has a valid driver's license.

Is it easy to drive in Puerto Rico?

Driving in Puerto Rico can be straightforward, with well-maintained main highways and modern navigation aids like Google Maps. However, urban areas like San Juan may have dense traffic and aggressive driving behaviors.

However, following Puerto Rico's driving side rules—driving on the right—can help navigate these areas more safely. Additionally, drivers should be cautious during rainy conditions, as some roads may flood and visibility may be reduced.

What countries don't accept a US driver's license?

Some countries may not accept a US driver's license outright or have stringent requirements for American drivers. In these cases, you would likely need to obtain a local driver's license or an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally. It's crucial to research the specific requirements for each country, such as what side of the road they drive in Puerto Rico before you plan to drive internationally.

Do I need an international driver's license for Puerto Rico?

You do not need an international driver's license to drive in Puerto Rico if you have a valid US driver's license. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and US driver's licenses are valid there.

What are the driving rules in Puerto Rico?

Driving rules in Puerto Rico are similar to those in the continental United States, but there are some local variations you should be aware of:

  • In Puerto Rico, driving-side regulations require driving on the right side of the road, just as in the continental United States, raising the question for many: 'Do I need a real ID to go to Puerto Rico?
  • Speed limits are usually posted in miles per hour (mph).
  • Texting or talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving is illegal.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.

Can I get a US driver's license as a tourist?

Generally, tourists cannot obtain a US driver's license because they do not meet the residency requirements set by most states. To get a US driver's license, you usually need to be a resident of the state where you are applying and have the appropriate immigration status to reside in the country for an extended period. However, tourists can typically drive with their home country's driver's license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) if their stay in the US is temporary.

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