Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Types of Driver's Licenses in Brazil

Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Types of driver's license change according to the country and its legislation. Learn in this article what are the types of driver's licenses in Brazil and what are the particularities involved.

The Brazilian national driver’s license ("Carteira Nacional de Habilitação - CNH") is the document proving that a person can drive land automotive vehicles in Brazil. For this reason, it has to be carried by the driver whenever he/she is driving. The current Brazilian driver’s license carries the driver’s photograph, the number of his/her most important documents (such as CPF and RG) and can be used as an ID card.

How to issue your driver’s license

There are two main types of driver’s license in Brazil: the temporary and the definitive one. The first one is taken when the driver has no previous experience and it’s valid for one year. After this period, the driver has to apply for the definite driver’s license.

In order to issue a driver’s license, the applicant must:

  • Be totally attributable
  • Be able to read and write
  • To present the original and a copy of the identity card (Registro Geral - RG) or equivalent ID card (in case of foreigners, the RNE)
  • To present the original and a copy of the CPF card
  • To present a proof of address (copy and original)
  • To be over 18

More information about the whole procedure can be found in the article "Introduction to Detran".


According to Detran, in Brazil, there are five categories for drivers and they go from A to E. They are related to the kind of vehicle the driver can operate and its limitations:

  • Category A – motorized vehicles with two or three wheels, with or without side-car. Example: motorcycles.
  • Category B – motorized vehicles that do not belong to category “A”. They should not exceed eight seats, excluding the driver’s seat, and the gross weight of 3.5 thousand kilograms. Example: regular automobiles.
  • Category C – motorized vehicles for cargo transportation whose gross weight exceeds 3.5 thousand kilograms. Example: trucks.
  • Category D – motorized vehicles for the transportation of passengers or students, or vehicles with more than eight seats excluding the driver’s seat. Example: buses.
  • Category E – this category includes all the previous vehicles that have an articulated part or are linked to trailer, with a gross weight of 6 thousand kilograms or more or room for more than eight seats. Example: truck trailer.

Each category has its own specific exams. Drivers can add another category to the ones they already have. This change works in a hierarchic way: to switch from category B to C, it is required to wait one year in the category B; to switch from B to D it is required to wait two years in the category B and one year in the category C; from C to E it is required to wait one year in the category C and from D to E it is not required to wait. It is not allowed to switch the category directly from B to E.

Apart from the time the driver is required to wait (from one to two years, as mentioned above), adding another category to the one he/she already has takes time and money. The driver has to take another course of 15 classes, a psychological test and an eye examination. After taking the course, the driver goes through a practical test and if approved, will be granted with a new category. The total cost of the process is, in average, of BRL 1050,00 and the duration is usually of two months.

According to Detran SP, foreigners who already have a driver’s license equivalent to one of the Brazilian categories can only take the practical test without having to take the classes.

Other situations


The driver of tractors needs a special authorization to operate it. He/she must already have a driver’s license in the category “C”, “D” or “E”. In this category are included tractors and other motorized equipment used to transport cargo or perform agricultural activities, earthworks, construction and road paving.

Dangerous cargo

In order to drive vehicles transporting dangerous products, the driver of any category must receive a special training from Serviço Social do Transporte (SEST) and Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem do Transporte (SENAT). Detran must issue in this driver’s records the number of the certificate, the name of the issuing institution and the name of the professional responsible for the registration. In the driver’s license, the term “cargas perigosas” or “dangerous cargo” must be contained in the observations field.

Emergency vehicles’ driver

Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars require a special training apart from the regular driver’s license. This training is provided by Conselho Nacional de Trânsito (CONTRAN) and among the approached subjects are: traffic legislation, defensive driving, first-aid notions, respect to the environment, social interaction in traffic and interpersonal relationship.

The requirements to issue this license are:

  • To be over 21;
  • To have a driver’s license;
  • No serious traffic violation over the last 12 months;
  • No suspension or forfeiture of the right to drive.