Getting a driver’s license is pretty easy, right? (Many years ago) In Phoenix, Arizona I read the driver’s booklet, passed my written test, then demonstrated basic driving skills for the practical exam. I have been a licensed driver ever since.
So, why would I be nervous or hesitant to become a licensed driver in Puerto Rico? All the paperwork and instructions are in Spanish (which I barely read, and am learning to speak).
And multiple trusted people and websites told me how difficult it is to get a driver’s license in Puerto Rico.
THEY WERE WRONG!
It was easy and quick to get a Puerto Rican Driver’s License (for licensed US Citizen).
Here’s how to get a Puerto Rico Driver’s License in 4 Easy Steps!
1) Assemble all required documentation
• Valid driver’s license from USA (Except for Hawaii, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Washington) has complete or partial reciprocity. Meaning that you can easily exchange your old valid license, plus fees and paperwork, for your new license.
• Social Security card, W-2, or Social Security Benefit statement
• Passport or Birth Certificate
• Two forms of Proof of Residency; water or electric utility bill, bank statements, phone bill
2) Bring $38 cash per licensed driver
3) Visit the local CESCO (Department of Transportation)
4) Hire the Expediter! These are people, usually with radios, that you can pay a slight premium to navigate the CESCO process.
For $38 our Expediter confirmed we had the correct documentation, directed us to nearby parking, obtained the CESCO number in line, arranged for all the appropriate paperwork to be completed, including purchase of the two Stamps from the Hacienda, then walked us over to the correct area in the CESCO. The fee without Expediter is $11, and I absolutely got $27 of peace of mind from the service!
I waited about an hour for my number to be called. I presented the completed paperwork at the counter, then was told to wait for my number to be called a second time. Another 20+ minutes, then my number was called again. They collected my paperwork for scanning, took my photo, and told me to wait nearby. Another ten minutes or so and they handed me my original documents, except for my old Arizona driver’s license, which was traded for a new driver’s license issued by Puerto Rico.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE double check the expiration date and that your identification is a “Real ID”. Several friends, that did not hire expediters, reported that they did not get the real ID endorsement, because they forgot/didn’t know to ask.
Check the Expiration Date
Other friends had licenses issues with expiration date less than 1 year away due to a manually keyed typo. This resulted in another visit to the CESCO to renew their license and could have easily been avoided.
The entire process took two hours from the time we found the Expediter to the time we each walked out with a new driver’s license.
The most difficult part of the process was actually finding the CESCO. We drove to the Humacao location, which apparently moved, but we had the old address. Frustrated, we drove to the larger location in Caguas, which was very easy to find.
No written test. No confusion. Our Expediter and everyone at the Hacienda spoke English to me. Paperwork was completed in Spanish with full explanation to me in English. In fact, everyone that reviewed the paperwork and handled the process spoke English to me. It was comforting, and easy.
Update June 2019: A new requirement is to have a copy of your driving record from the state that issued your driver’s license. Most states have this (paid) service available for less than $10, and many states allow you to request (and pay) for this service online.
Bring a printed copy of your state issued driver’s record, it cannot be from an agency or other third party. The CESCO requires the printed hard copy, they cannot process the electronic file or email from you.
Reservations Required due to COVID
Puerto Rico Transportation Department (DTOP /CESCO) has implemented a reservation system. If you already have a valid driver’s license from one of the Reciprocity states, then visit CESCO online here to verify your documents and request an appointment.
For Puerto Rico driver’s license renewals, make an appointment at CESCO here.
For any other Services, scroll to the bottom of this CESCO page to select your service.
- AutoExpreso Toll road paid pass
- Driving Test
- Fines – Traffic tickets, parking tickets, etc
- Renew Driver’s License (PR licenses)
- Vehicles Procedures
Download the CESCO App
Download the CESCO app to your smartphone. This helpful app makes life easier for vehicle marbete (annual car registration and insurance) renewal, plus tracks any fines that you can pay directly within the app.
The marbete refers the the full process of annual vehicle registration. But mostly when someone refers to marbete, they specifically are referring to the sticker that is placed on the inside of the window on the right side. If your vehicle is missing the marbete sticker, you do not have a current marbete sticker, or you do not have the current hardcopy registration of your vehicle renewal – you will get a fine! I learned this the hard way with a $125 fine for having the previous year hardcopy even with the current year marbete sticker.
Parking tickets are not always left on your vehicle, so these may be a surprise when you are due to renew your marbete. The CESCO app provides details of when and where you received the fine, allows you to pay it, and provides electronic proof it was paid.
The last time I was issued a traffic violation (speed traps do exist in PR), I paid my fine in the CESCO office, then when I went to renew my marbete, there was no record of the paid ticket. Fortunately, I still had the paper receipt of payment. Otherwise, I would have had to pay my fine TWICE to complete my car registration to get my marbete.