22 Feb, 2023 @ 18:31
2 mins read

UK embassy in Spain posts driving licence update promising ‘final steps will be taken within the next few weeks’

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THE UK’s ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott has provided a new update to the desperate holders of British driving licences who have been left unable to take to the Spanish roads since May 1, 2022. In it, he promised that he and his team were ‘doing all we can working with Spain to get you back on the roads as soon as possible’. 

The diplomat once again assured victims that the embassy had ‘spoken to the Spanish government to underline the urgency of the situation for those affected’ and that they had ‘assured us that they expect the final steps to be taken within the next few weeks’. 

According to previous updates from the ambassador, a post-Brexit agreement on information and licence exchange has been agreed by the two sides and is awaiting approval by the Spanish Cabinet. 

However, this approval is taking weeks to arrive, with the one-year anniversary of the driving ban for UK licence holders – who are not just British, but also Irish, Spanish and German, among other nationalities – fast approaching. 

In his message, Elliott also responded to questions from victims as to why an agreement had been reached on driving licences with New Zealand ahead of one with Spain.

‘To clarify for those asking, New Zealand’s agreement has followed a different process which is not comparable,’ he wrote in the message shared on the embassy’s social media accounts. ‘Under the UK-Spain agreement, you will be able to drive again very shortly after approval by the [Spanish Cabinet].

‘We fully understand your frustration,’ he continued. ‘This situation has caused you serious difficulties and we do not underestimate the impact that it has had. We can only assure you that we will continue to do all we can to work with Spain to get you back on the roads as soon as possible.’

Since May 1 of last year, anyone who is a resident of Spain and either did not, or was unable to, exchange their British document for a Spanish one before a December 2020 deadline has been banned from driving on the country’s roads. 

This has led to an agonising wait for victims of the situation, many of whom are in a vulnerable situation, as the two countries hammered out a post-Brexit deal.

According to recent posts from the embassy, the deal has been agreed but must still be approved by the Cabinet before it is finally published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), thus allowing UK licence holders back onto the roads for a six-month period while they exchange their documents for Spanish ones. 

In a previous update on the situation, released on January 16, the embassy recommended that users book their medical aptitude test, which is required before the licence can be exchanged. Known in Spanish as the psicotécnico, the short examination checks eyesight and reactions. 

As some campaigning groups have pointed out, however, the results of these tests are only valid for three months. If the situation were to drag on for that amount of time, some victims could see their aptitude tests expire and have to repeat them at extra cost.


The Olive Press has been highlighting the issue affecting readers across Spain with its ‘U-turn campaign’, and is determined to shine a light on their experiences in the hope of adding pressure on the authorities to make it a priority to resolve the problem.

Read more:

British embassy: driving licence agreement will be put before Spanish Cabinet ‘very soon’

UK embassy offers update on driving licence debacle, but still with no end in sight

Spanish driving licence debacle victims: ‘If we can’t exchange by February, we’re going back to the UK’

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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