Expats urged to renew driving licences in Spain

Expats who have lived in Spain for two or more years could be driving on an illegal license

LAST UPDATED: 19 Jan, 2015 @ 09:53
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Expats urged to renew driving licences in Spain

THOUSANDS of expats could be driving illegally without realising they are doing so.

Expats registered as Spanish residents for two or more years will have to update their driving licence to comply with EU regulations.

The ruling came into effect on January 19 and applies to drivers whose licences are valid for 15 or more years.

Since 2013, all European Union countries have issued a single driving licence, replacing more than 110 types of driving licenses which existed beforehand.

Expats in need of a renewal must request an appointment at any provincial traffic headquarters, by calling 060 or going through the DGT website.  A payment of €23.50 will be charged to issue the new licence.

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35 COMMENTS

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  1. There is a HUGE scandal going on with this at the moment. If you have a UK license for example and renewed it previous, but had an NIE number/residency before you renewed it the Spanish trafico will NOT allow you to exchange your license for a Spanish one without proving that you were a UK resident at the time you renewed it (official government proof only). This means that effectively you cannot comply with the new EU regulations so are forced to drive illegally. Even worse is when you need to renew your license you’ll need to renew it in the UK and carry on driving illegally. Your only option to drive legally is to go and spend a load of money and take the Spanish test.

  2. I cannot see how this is legal under European law. I am pretty positive that LOTS of people didn’t know that they had to exchange their license for a Spanish one in the last 10 years. So you now find yourself in a position where you are going to have to take driving lessons (very expensive) and try to pass a test (designed to make you fail) and then drive around with ‘L’ plates and under 80 km/h for a year, even though you might have been driving for 30 years just to drive around legally. It’s a disgrace and is bureaucracy gone mental! But what chance do you have of challenging the Spanish system and winning????

  3. What EU rule is this? As far as I undertand as long as a UK licence is the EU-style card version, and as long as it is valid, one can drive anywhere in the EU on that licence as long as the licence remains valid.

  4. Tim – if they were resident in Spain when they decided to renew their licence in the UK, then they clearly made a false declaration. If they had followed the law and the (very clear) guidance, they would have exchanged their UK licence for a Spanish one and wouldn’t have these problems.

    I’ve got very little sympathy for people suffering the repercussions of their own decisions to try and “beat” the system!

  5. Get off your high horse simples. NOTHING in Spain is clear. I can guarantee you there are 1000s of people in this situation and not one of them is trying to “beat” the system. In fact what does “beat” the system actually mean??? What benefit did they have in not have exchanged their license for a Spanish one?
    The fact is that people who are driving on the road today because they took their test and passed it in one country are deemed safe and legal to drive. By blocking them from driving in Spain legally because of an error or oversight in the past is pointless and ridiculous and can only be justified by someone who believes in bureaucracy over common sense. I can 99.9% bet that this is contra European law and its just the Spanish being the way they always are i.e. 1) More paperwork is good and 2) Screw the foreigners. 3) European law is for other countries and we’ll follow it when its convenient for us.

  6. I agree with simples, you can only renew your UK license by providing ‘UK residential address’ and I’m 99.9% sure anyone that has done this has realised they have signed forms declaring that they reside in UK, I would love to know why people do this if they ‘reside’ in Spain?

  7. This driving license issue us not only unclear but unfair. I am a U.S. Expat and have been driving for 37 years and have a sterling driving record. I also have never driven a standard car, solely automatic. Am I to believe that my U.S. License does not have reciprocity and that at 54 years of age I have to learn how to drive a different type of car? This is utterly ridiculous, simple-minded and short-sighted. Or are these driving lessons one of the ways that Spain seems to be making loads of money? These “L” cars are all over the road.

  8. Having checked on a number of sites, If you are a genuine tourist from within the EU you can drive on your original photo type licence. If you are from outside the EU you need an International driving permit and translation of your licence. However if you are an immegrant then you need to exchange your licence to a Spanish one after 6 months. It’s a straightforward swap, there is a fee and you must sit a medical examination to prove you are fit to drive, all Spanish drivers must sit the same test, you pay your fee and that’s it. No road/theory test. Regarding American licences , some states recognise eu licences and others don’t and this is reciprocated , therefore if your state recognises eu licences then the eu will recognise yours. Outside of this, I think that you will find that the reverse is true for anyone moving to America, we must sit your test if we intend to live there, if anything the states are even more beurocratic than Spain :-)

  9. One thing is sure, Spain itself has no idea how the car license system works. More importantly, if and when you are eventually pulled over for a spot check by traffico, you will be sure that the officer has no idea either! Changing to a Spanish license, if you are resident in Spain, is by far the best idea to alleviate potential problems if you are residing here. I know of umpteen people with UK “Euro style” licenses that have still been told their license is invalid, even though it is well within its expiry date, and have been fined as a result. Spain does not always honour the EU style foreign licenses and the issue seems to be that once you are resident for 2 or more years in Spain, you have to be on a Spanish license – no matter what. There was a chap on another thread about car licenses, who was fined when he showed his UK EU style license when pulled over. He even complained to the EU about this I recall, and was told that Spain has to honour EU style UK driving licenses and they told him to take legal action (good luck with that lol).

    To my knowledge, you can only convert your license if you are EU resident and your license expiry date is valid. New licenses have a photo expiry date as well as the main licence expiry date. If the photo has expired, you will have to convert to a Spanish license and that it itself requires a medical check too. I have German and Dutch friends who have even kept their original licenses and have obtained a Spanish license too. Some foreign residents even get by with foreign licenses but with a record on their traffico log (and a bit of paper carried with their license). Everyone has different experiences; it depends on who you deal with, what country you come from, and a lot of luck. It’s Spain, what else can we really expect?

  10. Hi All
    I am coming to live in Spain this year with my Thailand wife. I have an outdated UK license but have a current New Zealand and international also I have an Thailand license. I am 73 I hold UK and New Zealand passports. What are my chances for Spanish license.
    Thanks your info.
    Ken

  11. El Grunon…thank you for your response. Unfortunately I am here past the six months…I wonder if they would still let me go with just a fee or do I have to prove by way of a test that I can drive around a roundabout! Just kidding…sort of

  12. I’ve still got my large piece of paper style license, that’s valid for 52 years !!!
    Everytime I get stopped I present this with my passport and a lot of “sorry, what?”
    (as everything else is in order – car docs, insurance, etc. I soon get sent on my way, well not soon, but eventually)

    As my paper is falling apart and rotting away I’d love to get it replaced – but to what exactly? Getting some Spanish card sounds like an awful lot of stress, money, and neverending problems – according to *everyone*. Getting a new uk license requires lies, multiple renewals and again costs.

    so has the eu made my perfectly valid license in-valid?

  13. @Ken Davey From your post don’t know where you live at the moment but I would suggest going to the nearest Spanish Embassy/Consulate with your documents and ask them, get your NIE number while you are at it.

  14. “…or do I have to prove by way of a test that I can drive around a roundabout!”

    If you can do that Peter, then you have already progressed to Spanish “advanced driver”. If you can also use the thing called an indicator, you are then a master of the road lol.

  15. Ken, neither Thailand or New Zealand have a reciprocal agreement for driving licences with Spain, so you’d have to sit the tests to obtain a Spanish licence, using one of your existing licences with the appropriate international driving permit in the meantime.
    If you were able to renew your UK licence in the UK before you move to Spain, you would then be able to simply exchange the UK licence for a Spanish licence.

  16. “you would then be able to simply exchange the UK licence for a Spanish licence”

    A medical may be required, so not always “simple”.

  17. FYI, here is the directive:
    “http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:2006L0126:20130701:EN:PDF”

    @Ken Devey. This may or may not be relevant. You can exchange DLs issued by most Commonwealth countries for a UK one. I am in exactly that situation. However, if Spain does not have an agreement with the original (Commonwealth) country, they will not exchange the UK DL for a Spanish one, and Spain also has the right not to recognise the UK licence issued in exchange for the Commonwealth one (even if it is a valid EU card style DL). See the last sentence of Art 11 (6) in the directive (link above).

    Strictly speaking it is illegal to renew a UK licence if you have not been resident in the UK for the previous 3 months, but the DVLA seem to be taking a pragmatic approach. I know of two recent examples of people trying to renew their UK licence using a Spanish address (without knowing what the rules about residence). In both cases the DVLA returned a renewed licence showing the same UK address as before, and with a cover note stating that a Spanish address could not be used…

  18. I have the 2 part UK license, I have just been on the UK Gov website and ordered the newest version, the website used my passport information and it cost £14. All sorted in 10 mins and worth doing in advance of any move outside the UK it seems.

  19. Thanks Guys
    Your help with driving license.

    Any you guys live in Javea or Dania. Which one is the busiest and friendly one.

    My wife and I are looking forward to our trip in April for 3-4 weeks to check the places out to open our shop/s. Is there much crime there how about the drugs and violence there.
    Cheers
    Ken

  20. Spanish licenses require a medical. But it IS the SIMPLEST of medicals to pass.

    Anti-Spain saps need to stop thinking up problems and posting them on this blog. It’s extremely lame and lazy. Try solutions! That’s something you actually need a brain for too.

  21. @derek: well that escaleted fast! You’ll find the ‘anti-spain saps’ dont live here, dont comment here, and most certainly wouldnt waste their time listening to you.
    The people commenting here talk of their experiences – if you dont like the truth go stick your head in the sand. No need to be silly about it.

  22. I’m jest move to spain and I drive a trike I got from the uk jest change it to Spanish plats the insurance said iv got to have class a on my licence iv got that on my uk licence but when I get a Spanish licence I don’t think I have a class

  23. I have been living in Nerja for 5 months and about to get residencia.. I intend to buy a car and exchange my N Ireland driving licence.It has the uk logo but not EU. I have read conflicting stories and so am totally confused.

    • David – The guides available at CAB Spain “http://citizensadvice.org.es/library/road/” will help you work out what to do. You might need to join to download them. When I bought a Spanish car after I’d got residency, Trafico asked me to register my UK licence with them, then when the UK one was going to expire I did the canje and renewed it as a Spanish one. I’d guess there’s a fair amount of non Spaniards around Nerja, so the local Trafico should have some idea what they’re supposed to be doing.

  24. As with all laws in Spain, nothing is straight forward. I happily and legally drove around with my EU Norwegian licence for 14 years. Last year, when stopped the Guardia said it was not now valid and hit me with a 500E fine. Where did that come from? No amount of discussion helped, although the officer said I might get off with it if I took the case up with Traffico. Did not want to lose several days of my life waiting around there so just paid it and had a gertor get me a Spanish licence. No medical asked for or required.

  25. can you please help me, I became a resident in Spain just over 3 years ago but soon after i had to return to the UK due to family issues I have just moved back to Spain in the last few weeks and I know that i have to change my driving licence from UK to Spanish but do I say I am a resident or start as a new comer in Spain, Can you also tell me where would be my nearest Jefatura de Trafico I live in Algorfa,

    Thank you

  26. I’ve found the most complete website until the moment to test my knowledge to get the theory exam. Is “http://www.practicatest.com/en/spanish-driving-test” . You can do as many exams as you want (I think there are at least 2000 different) and in different categories: DGT exams, intelligent tests etc… They also have the theoretical book online for free. I highly recommend it. I hope this to be helpful.

  27. Just to say, you don’t need to take a Spanish traffic theory test to change from an existing valid (say UK) license to a Spanish one – which is the subject of this article. The exam is for people who are learner drivers, or who have to take the test as part of a traffic offence, or for people who are from outside the EU/EEA (the nationality of the person may mean that a driving test and theory exam is required, it depends). I did hear of a who did not obtain a Spanish license after 12 years of residency, and when finally pulled over he was forced to re-take a Spanish test, so beware and change over to a Spanish license if you intend to reside here.

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