22 Nov, 2020 @ 16:15
3 mins read

BREXPATS IN SPAIN: Driving licences, bank accounts and health cards on the agenda

driving licence del boy
There is no dodging swapping your licence

By Anne Hernandez, founder of Brexpats in Spain

ANOTHER eventful week for us Brits here in Spain. On Monday, November 16, DGT announced new rules for applying to exchange our UK driving licence for a Spanish one which must be done now before December 30.

While Spain is trying its hardest to cope with our increased demand and facilitate this exchange, it has sent many of you into an understandable tither because the info on their website in English is not that clear. 

There is no dodging swapping your driving

The application for exchange must be presented to the DGT before December 30, either via a form on their online portal, or by calling 060.

It may also be possible to take the form into the DGT in person but phone to check with the office before possibly wasting a journey. If you call 060, no English is spoken so information must be given clearly in Spanish using the phonetic alphabet to avoid any errors (a-Avila, b- Barcelona etc).

The information requested is full name, NIE, date of birth, driving licence number, telephone number, email and centre where you will present your application. They will then check on the validity of your driving licence and three days later, another call is necessary to be given the appointment. I have just done it and been given an appointment for Tuesday, I am impressed! 

As long as the application has been submitted within the time frame and the licence has been verified by the end of the year, the appointment to exchange with the DGT can be after January 1, 2021 but it must be within the first six months of next year.

Regardless of whether a UK licence has been verified for exchange by the end of the year, UK licence holders will be able to use their licences for six months to drive in Spain from January 1. Anybody who already has an appointment booked with DGT can attend the appointment with all the necessary documentation, photo and copies as per normal.

Some Trafico centres have been refusing applicants who do not have a TIE and others have been declined because the TIE is not older than six months, which is impossible since we were not issued with them until July 6!

There is obviously a misinterpretation of the rules somewhere along the line and Brexpats in Spain, with your help, continues to inform the British Embassy of such discrepancies who pursue our reports.

Another important issue is that of changes to some UK bank accounts held by British residents here and, while most UK nationals living in Spain will not see any change to their banking arrangements, some have been contacted by their UK bank to advise of changes to their accounts, financial products or even closure of the account after December 31. If worried about the changes, contact the bank or speak to one of our independent financial advisors.

Many of you are asking why some UK banks are closing accounts or restricting their products or services offered to those who are resident in the EEA and it will depend on whether the bank can meet the Spanish regulatory rules. Some of you might need to consider other banking options although it could cost more as some providers may charge more for providing an account or for certain transactions.

Other UK-based or international banks will be able to continue to provide bank accounts in sterling after Brexit so check what accounts are available from other providers and whether receiving and sending regular payments can continue if you only have an address here. Several options worth considering might be a digital bank (some do not allow direct debits in sterling), electronic money accounts, pre-paid cards or a local account. 

I did say it has been an eventful week and we received notification that residents here registered with an S1 as a UK pensioner need to apply online to renew their UK-issued EHIC. Their current card will not be valid after December 31. This only applies to UK-issued EHIC’s.

And lastly, not much to report on the Brexit talks because this week, at a crucial time, the EU negotiations have been temporarily suspended as one of the EU negotiators tested positive for COVID and Boris Johnson is spending two weeks in isolation after meeting with a Tory MP who also tested positive.

If any deal is agreed it will clearly be taken to the wire and now not signed off until the earliest December 28 at the earliest. Senior EU officials also report that several countries including France, the Netherlands and Spain are worried that any last minute deal could be worse for the bloc than a no-deal scenario and say it is essential to make sure that the UK cannot undercut the bloc after it leaves.

The EU already has a deal with Canada and the UK wants a similar deal. According to Downing Street the talks between the UK and Canada are ‘progressing well’ but Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is reported as saying that they were struggling to find common ground because the British negotiators are out of practice. Should be an interesting few days next week.

To read more or ask our experts about what might befall us as we come to the end of the transition period, go to any of our six Brexpats in Spain Facebook groups, twitter or website.

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