How to get a driver’s license in Mexico
There are so many details we have to adjust to when we make a move to another country, starting with language and law. But most of it is pretty familiar once we begin. For instance, Lakeside we have many signs and residents who are bilingual. We have specialists who help us with things we do not understand. Let’s address the issue of Drivers Licenses as an example.
Written Exam is available in English or Spanish
First, your valid license from another country is respected in Mexico. If your home state/country license is about to expire and you cannot renew it by mail, the procedure is much the same in every state within Mexico. In Jalisco, there are two ways to get your driver’s license if you reside in Ajijic or with-in Lake Chapala. One is to go into Guadalajara and take the written exam plus the driving test. There is always a lineup and it is a full day trip. Regardless if your foreign drivers license is valid or not, to get the Mexican you will need to take a written test.
The written test is in English if requested or in Spanish on computer terminals. Then there is the driving test which is taken on a course laid out behind the building. They have crossings and traffic lights, all pretty familiar and easy. But the parking space is small and it’s on the left side, typical in Mexico in many cases. If you need to, practice before you take the test.
Click here to download the English version (some questions may have changed)
The second way is to get your license locally – much easier. The written test is in Spanish on a computer, no English exams on paper. Nonetheless, at the Transito office in Chapala, you can request assistance (there is a small charge – it’s like translation services), and they will whiz you through the written test if you already have an American or Canadian license. If you do not have a current license, you will have to go through the driving test also.
Following the written test, your driver’s license from north of the border qualifies you for a Jalisco License but you do need to take the written exam. The small fee for assistance is worth it and the process takes maybe an hour in total. They then send you to Chapala City Hall to sign something official and when you return, your license is ready to pick up.
Click here to download the Spanish version (some questions may have changed)
You must keep the information up-to-date, just as required up north. So when you change residences, pop back into the Transito office with your new address and your driver’s license. Also take your passport and FM to prove your status in Mexico is still valid and a bill with your address on it. These documents must be the originals in order to prove residence. Oddly, they need not have your name, e.g. a renter receives utility bills by photocopy from his landlord. It is only for proof of residence.
What do you need to get the license?
Your driver’s license is good for two to four to seven years. Return for renewal with the same proof of identify, legal status in Mexico, and residence here. Your driver’s license is one of the primary pieces of identification along with your passport for ID and FM3 or FM2. Some carry certified copies and leave the originals in a safe place. Others carry the originals but keep copies available at home to enable replacement if the originals are lost or stolen.
Except that there are some unlicensed drivers in rural areas, Mexican driving doesn’t differ from what we are accustomed to. Just remain alert because accidents can be messy in any foreign country, legally and financially.
Now that we have covered the overview, here are the details you need:
- Visa proving your legal status in Mexico – FMM, FM3 or FM2
- Valid Passport
- CURP (needed in some cases)
- Birth certificate – proof of legal age (not needed for retirees)
- Proof of address: A bill for your water, electricity (CFE), phone (Telmex, Telcel or other phone company), property tax or bank statement in your name and not older than 60 days
Costs to obtain a driver’s license are:
- Motorcycle license: $196.00 MXN
- Car license: $500.00 MXN
The written test is based on the Regulation of Transportation of the Government of the State. This tests on the current driving laws just as the driving test qualifies ability to handle a vehicle. They take your picture, obtain your fingerprints and your signature. After that, your license is issued, good for two to four years prior to expiration.
Renewing is more convenient as long as it is done during the 30 days prior to expiration. There are three options when renewing your Mexican driver’s license. Take the same documents with you as you did for the initial license except the birth certificate. The fee to renew is the same as for obtaining the initial license and you must pay at the office where you are doing the procedure, cash only. As long as your data and information is in the system, you will not be required to take either written or driving test again.
If you are stopped by the police and you do not have a valid driver’s license, there are penalties of 13 to 15 times the local minimum wage, which comes to about $730 pesos to $850 pesos. Do not let it expire.
By Kay Davis, Team Writer