16 Jan, 2013 @ 17:04
1 min read

Expat drivers in Spain required to take medical test

UK driving licence spain exchange
UK driving licence spain exchange

NEW laws forcing expat drivers to undergo a medical examination will come into place later this week.

The EU Directive 2012/126, which starts from January 19, will mean that all British drivers in Spain under the age of 65 will have to take a medical every 10 years.

Drivers over 65 however, will be required to take the test every five years.

The medical examination will be a sight, hearing and co-ordination test in the form of a computer based driving simulation.

Drivers can keep their UK licence, but must notify the DVLA of their Spanish residency and still be able to declare a UK address as their permanent residence.

According to the new directive, a permanent residence is a place where a person usually lives for at least 185 days of the year.

Conversion to a Spanish licence can be completed at the time of taking the medical examination however, should expat drivers wish to do so.

For more information click here.


  1. How is it possible to have Spanish residency and a permanent resindence (address) in the UK? Surely they are mutually exclusive? I also can’t find anything in the link you provide regarding a requirement to notify the DVLA about Spanish residency?

  2. A bit of time with my friend google and I find that the driving licence directive which becomes effective on the 19th Jan is 2006/126/EC and not 2012/126 as per the article.


    This directive does not make regular medical testing for Spanish residents a requirement. This is a Spanish, not EU legal requirement. As far as I can make out, this has been a requirement for quite a long time, but it’s not very thoroughly enforced. I imagine an insurance company could use this as a reason not to pay out…

    According to the directive, normal residency has to be in the issuing state, so if you are a Spanish resident with a UK licence which expires, it is, strictly speaking, illegal to renew that licence giving a UK address where you are not normally resident. Presumably such a renewal would be invalid.

  3. This isn’t new. It has been enforceable for some time, but rarely is.

    Renewal every 10 years could have come hand in hand with the test whenever requested.

    Perhaps the test is becoming mandatory, we’ll see, but the process has been in place for moons.

  4. I think it is about time the Embassy got involved in this and gave some better advice than is on the web page (ukinspain.fco.gov.uk).

    I asked Linea Directa about the medical a couple of years ago and they said “you do not need it to drive on your UK license in the UK so you do not need it here”.

  5. As others have pointed out, this article is out of date and the directive in place means that expats have to follow the law as for Spanish nationals. This is Spanish national law; not EU law.

    If you are resident in Spain, and the police can check that very quickly if you are pulled over for whatever reason, and you have a UK license at the time, and it is valid in terms of expiry dates etc, and if you don’t have a note on your traffico record at Malaga showing that you have taken a medical (sight and reflex test) then you will be (or at least should be) fined. If you are fined, you will then need to take a medical test to get a new Spanish license to replace your UK one. If you don’t have your UK license and are resident in Spain then you’ll have to resit your driving exam in Spain since DVLA will not issue a license to a Spanish resident (this may be different in other EU countries and I know people with multiple EU licenses, so it definitely seems a possibility). A real can of worms.

    Best advice is that if you are resident in Spain, take the medical (20 mins) and get a Spanish license, then if you cease to be resident in Spain in the future, you can convert back to a UK license (or other nationality of license) very easily.

    License expiry is another issue to be aware of. If you have a new style EU photo driving license, then there are two expiry dates: one for the license itself and one for the photo. If the photo expires, then you cannot renew the license in the original license-issuing country if you are an expat Spanish resident, and will have to apply for Spanish license (and take the medical).

    Enforcement is widely different in Spain, depending on where you live. I know people who have been fined, and people who have not been fined, for the very same issue. Expats have widely different views of what is law and what is not, but the fact is if you have a UK license, you are more likely to have problems when stopped.

    If you lie about your residency in Spain and have a UK address, then you can just keep renewing your UK license and use that, claiming you are a tourist. Problems can arise when you are a Spanish resident and try this trick.

    At the end of the day you can wangle it on a UK license, but just hope that you don’t get pulled over. Telling the police that your UK license has an EU flag on it will not help lol.

  6. Lots of useful information available there thanks to all. I have to confess a certain sneaking admiration for the way the Spanish authorities go out of their way to enforce National law above EU directives. What a contrast to the UK where anything goes and we have drivers from India , Hong Kong ,Somalia , Eastern Europe etc etc let loose upon our busy roads with very dubious driving qualifications in very many cases( to put it politely )

  7. Interesting in light of Traffico and Government needing more income to meet their expenses. Does this law enforcement mean Officers can VERIFY Ex-pat drivers are ALIVE at the wheel?!

  8. Laurence, Spanish authorities do NOT go out of their way to enforce any law, let alone national laws. Which is why some people have got away with driving on a uk licence without a medical and others haven’t.

  9. Excellent advice from Fred. I exchanged mine last year at the Trafico office in Malaga. As long as you have the correct paperwork with you the process is efficient. Twenty minutes maximum from walking in the door. The fee is around €27. A temporary paper licence was issued and the plastic one arrived in the post a couple of weeks later.

  10. And it doesn´t really hurt to get a medical after all, does it? I sure would be happier knowing that drivers that are on the road are…well…roadworthy.

    Just theoretically here, the residency issue is quite murky to me still. Let´s imagine that someone lives 6 months in the UK and 6 months in Spain, as many people do. Where do they stand legally? After spending 90 days in Spain, they are required to apply for residency but as they go back to the Uk they have to be legal residents there as well?

  11. “imagine that someone lives 6 months in the UK and 6 months in Spain”

    Eva, the UK (or other) license is not invalid in Spain if it is active and you have the Spanish medical test and traffico have been informed (paper slip useful to have too in case computer is not working).

  12. As advised in my book Motoring in Spain and various news letters to the English Press and the UK Ambassador to Spain three years or so ago, this has been the law since April 2005 and was promulgated in Ley 62/2006. The letter advising the loss by Spain of an EU Court case where Spain had been insisting that new residents with foreign EU licences had to change them for a Spanish one, mainly because of Trafico control needs and the lack of medical testing in most EU countries; link — “www.spainvia.co/drivelicenceletteradsl.htm”, is a copy of the Spanish Govt. advance advice faxed out in April 2005. The rule is applicable throughout the EU where foreign EU citizens with current EU driving licences (credit card types preferred) may drive as long as the obey the same rules that the local drivers have to. One is the periodical mandatory medical tests. Spanish licences expire when a medical is due Foreign residents with EU driving licences and an official medical certificate.
    The insurance companies here are notorious for ignorance of these laws especially the one mentioned and my attempts to correct this one particularly have been very frustrating. So do not rely on your insurance company for advice on this matter.
    I have records of expats being fined at the roadsides for not having a medical certificate with their foreign EU licences but note that this only applies to those foreign EU citizens who are legally and officially tax resident here that is 183 plus days a year.
    Remember that the DVLA has just announced that 1 million U K d-ls are about to expire as they need a photo change. If the holders are living as residents here, legally they have to change to a Spanish licence.

    This is a table of the new medical periods since Dec. 2009, applicable also to expats resident here.

    Issued as a “Press note” by Trafico, the advice on the changes is as follows:
    Date Driving Test passed Old periods New Periods Licence classifications Affected.
    As applicable in the reader’s case From date of passing test From date of passing test See below
    Turismos (normal cars) and motos (motor cycles), etc. To age 45, every 10 years. From Age 45, every 5 years to age 70 To age 65, every 10 years. From age 65, every 5 years. LCC; LCM; LVA;
    A1; A; B; B+E.
    Commercial licences, HGVs etc. To age 45, every 5 years To age 65, every 5 years, from age 65, every 3 years. BTP; C1; C! + E; C; C + E; D1; D1 + E;D; D +E.
    Please note that there is much more detailed information on all the licence classifications in my book. Motoring in Spain Third Edition.

  13. Lot of good advice on here and I don’t disagree with any of it but one thing that nobody has pointed out is that EU laws are of no benefit to the punter on the ground, in fact the opposite seems to be the case. You shouldn’t have to search all over the place to find if you are doing the right thing that info should be clearly and readably available ideally on the Embassy website in Madrid. This is one of the reasons I have started my e petition for a dedicated MP to represent ex pats at “http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43238” There is no point in going through a current British/Spanish MP or MEP they are not concerned with you. If anybody watched Question Time last night you should be concerned about Nigel Farage’s response to Grant Shapps question to him “What about the 1.5 million ex pats living and working in the EU should we withdraw from the EU” Farage replied they are not the point. I would add that I have e mailed Mr Farage several times on the position of ex pats living in the EU and have never got a response, however to be fair to Mr Farage I have never got a response from David Cameron on the same question. Be aware our futures could be at risk. Sorry for ending up so off topic but if you took the time to read this thank you.

  14. Peter: You may have gone off topic, but you make a strong point about Farage. The man is a one-trick pony, only concerned with dragging the U.K. out of the E.U. Because he appears to have hit a nerve (check the polls) with pull-up-the-drawbridge nutters, he also has Cameron rattled, as his own backbenchers have some mad idea about turning the U.K. into another Switzerland or Norway or some other equally crackpot idea. Dangerous times.

  15. This article is not true. I have just had the facts checked by Costa Advice Bureau “http://www.costaadvicebureau.com/” and they have confirmed that there is no truth in this story.

  16. Orda,

    Are you saying the whole story is untrue and that we do not need a medical ?. EU insurance direct have set out an email saying you do need a medical but do not need to change the license.

    As I said earlier what is wrong with the british consulate, why can they not give us the full story and our options. IF THE CONSULATE STAFF READ THIS, WAKE UP PLEASE.

  17. The confusion thrown up in this article and the lack of the British Embassy website to give accurate information highlights why ex pats need their own MP please vote we have a long way to go.

  18. Oh dear. I have explained this procedure many times since 2005 when the EU Court told Spain they must obey the EU Directive on the subject where when an EU citizen moves and becomes resident in another EU country/State, he/she can still use their existing driving licence as long as it is still in force for the classifications needed. As I have said above, I have details of expats who have been fined for having a foreign driving licence as a resident, but being unable to produce a Spanish medical test certificate, a “reconcimiento”, either st the road-side or in a reasonable time soon after although the law is that all docs must be carried. If you are resident here, 183 plus days a year and paying the residenst’ taxes here then you have to obey the same rules as the Spanish drivers. This is in the EU Directive as in my web site for all those who did not buy my book in which it was all explained, also in my weekly column in yttrh Round town News which is for the Costa Blanca. After readers of my column and my book reported to me that the British Consulate was telling expats that they do not need to take the medicals, I contacted the British Ambassador to Spain with all the evidence and within a couple of days it was posted on the FCO web-site, so the British Embassy/Consulate must have checked my advice and realised that oit was true. No thanks were transmitted to me though. Typical.

    Linea Directa were for years telling everybody (expats), even me at a trade fair, that there was no need to take a medical and they ignored me trying to help them. However in March 2010 they advertised that it was indeed true(I have the ad.still) but they published the old periods for the medicals WHICH HAD CHANGED IN DEC. 2009. I tried again to contact them with their promises to phone me back, with unanswered emails until one came back saying that as “I did not have a policy with them, they were unable to help me!” There is something wrong with the organisation there.

    I have posted the facts above in another comment along with a table of the dates of the mandatory medicals but the software here will not show it a a table so you will have to write it out.

    As I have said the local police forces will most likely not know about the rules for expats driving licences but my experience is that the Guardia Trafico officers do. Have an acciodent where due to injuries it goes to Court, the Spanish lawyers will know and as has alreday happened, you will be told as well as the judge, that your UK etc driving licence has expired.

    The current fuss is over the fact that Belgian and German licences are for life and many do not have the benefit of my book or newspaper column in their languages here,so Trafico is anxious understandably to ensure that they are aware of the existing laws hence the 19th January advice now. That info is in a recent Spanish car magazine also.

    As many other EU driving licences are not subject to the driver having to take regular medicals as do the Spanish (their licences and I have one, expire when a medical is due as in the table above).

    I have looked on the EU web-site and the new ruling appears to be only a Spanish law which I support knowing some expats who at age 50 are really unfit to drive due to a lifetime perhaps of excessive smoking and drinking as well as too much armchair sports. That will upset those who know it to be true, but the Spanish are doing very well at reducing the accidents rates on our roads here and will not be stopped until they are down to a “acceptable” level.
    Sorry to be lengthy. This is the last time I will “preach” on this subject here as I am tired of telling the truth to those who should take the time to check it themselves as it is readily available-in my book which is at the moment out of print for the time being.

    Incidentally do you know that the law also states that all vehicles being driven here must be legal as they would be in their countries of registration? Having seen adverts. in English language (local) papers here for fraudulent MOT certs. and forged Vehicle Exise receipts, one must think that many of the expats are as crooked as some of the Spanish property people and local government officials, lawyers etc. It is a good feeling driving around being totally legal. If stopped I can get all the paperwork out and the police then wave me on with a smile, some with salute. To those expats, fed up with expat neighbours who openly boast in the bars about not paying vehicle taxes both here and in the UK, who have asked me to start a campaign to ensure that all those expats are caught and fined, I am but a pensioner like you all (?) who just wants a quiet life despite the few expats here who are arrogant, foul-mouthed thugs, but the polite people more than make up for the existence of the few.

    Stefanjo, I would like to meet you for a coffee some time, if you like. You have a good mind and I am sure we think alike about most matters. I live West of Estepona if you are near.

    PG, thanks for your praise. I no longer am on TRE radio since the new manager was given the job just after Maurice Boland was moved out, and, during a visit to be on air, he proceeded to insult me (and my wife later) before I even knew who he was. It is possible that I could be on I-Talk but like at TRE where I was for 6 years, it is an unpaid job. Maybe when the Fourth Edition of my book is ready?

    Finally, Clive Smith, take my word for it the medicals are mandatory for those resident here, and that means paying your main taxes here, also having a residencia certificate (DNI not an NIE). The notice was in the Trafico web-site and I have advised all in full of the facts with the proof since 2005.

  19. Thank you Brian for your lengthy statement I am a bit unsure of your reply to me. I accept what you are saying but the only info on the ukinspain embassy website is
    The minimum age required to drive is 18 years
    For information about how to convert your UK driving licence to a Spanish Driving Licence, please see here (Spanish version only). You may need to produce a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ for this process, which you can apply for from the DVLA
    For information about registering your UK driving licence with the Spanish authorities, please see here (Spanish version only).
    Which in this context is contradictory because it tells you how to convert OR register your license.

    Also your reply to me seems to imply I do not pay taxes or have a residencia certificate ( I think a DNI is for Spanish only)?? I assume you are commenting in general

  20. Just one other thing to add to Mr Deller’s excellent advice.

    It’s not possible to exchange a UK licence for a Spanish one if that UK licence was originally an exchange for a licence issued in a country which does not have an agreement with Spain, ie most Commonwealth countries.

  21. To Mr Roberts, Thankyou for your compliments. I have been almost attacked by a few expats in the past for telling them facts they do not want to hear.

    It is possible to exchange driving licences with some countries where Spain has a reciprocal agreement and I will dig out the paragraphs in my book (from the software text as I do all my book myself) and add them here later to show which countries are covered. From memory,Japan is one, strangely enough as they drive on the left as in the UK. Otherwise as a new resident from a country that is not on the list, they have to take the Spanish driving test although this then gives them a full E-wide licence. Give me a couple of hours to dig the lists out.

  22. I am trying to find out what I would have to apply for if I wanted to Drive a Spanish coach in Spain,I have the Bus And coach classification on my driving license and would only be doing for about 3/4 months while my friend gets over his operation.Do I need to apply for a ‘vocation license’ as in the UK?or is the Classification on my IOM License enough ?
    I must also point out we are not in the EU but are a crown dependency and the UK has a risprcle agreement regards Licenses.

    Would be grateful for any Help can’t seem to find anything any were

    Christopher Isle of Man

  23. I have not read all the posts in detail….but got the gist. I can assure you that if you live in Spain….you have or should, do….’as the Romans’. Brian Deller writes a very informative book on traffic matters and I have just today renewed my Medical after 5 years….and my Spanish Driving Licence. All those people who hide their head in the sands beware…there are many stories documented about people who have been involved in accidents where, when the insurance companies check to see if driving licences are valid check to see if there is a valid medical…whether you retain your UK European Photo licence or ‘swap’ it for a Spanish one. As regards the British Consulate….some years ago I attended a seminar where THEY did not know that it was law…..So what chance have you got. However, ignorance of the law is no excuse, as anywhere. Christopher Mayes….. my understanding would be as long as you are not permanent in Spain…..your licence would be valid….However, the problem comes after 3 months (I think 185 days not 100%)….THAT is a big question…… Your licence as a visitor is valid as if you were a visitor to UK….although that is valid for 12 months there??? This law is a requirement if you live permanently in Spain….or you legally advise that you are permanent in Spain….which a lot of Ex-Pats don’t…….. then start saying “well I didn’t know that”. So…you may get away with it…..but come the time, god forbid there is a problem….don’t say you weren’t told.

  24. Thanks to Brian and others for all the good advice.

    But I am confused whether there has been an update on the medical for over 70s. Is it still after five years or after two years when renewal is due please? I have recently bee told it’s the latter.

    And this thing about the medical certificate being valid for only three months. How does this fit in with the need to sit a test every two or five years? Guess I have missed some logic here. Christine

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