What is the issue with UK driving licences in Spain?
Since the beginning of 2022, residents in Spain with a UK driving licence, haven’t been able to exchange to a Spanish driving licence unless they took a Spanish driving test.
The last date for Spanish residents with a UK driving licence to register their intent to exchange for a Spanish licence (without taking a test) was 30th December 2020. If pre-registered, you then had until 31st December 2021 to actually make the exchange and there were several extensions to the deadline for the validity of UK driving licences in Spain.
Ever since the end of the Transition Period, the UK Government has been trying to broker a deal with the Spanish Government and traffic authority (the DGT) to allow UK citizens to exchange their licence for a Spanish one without taking a test when taking residency in Spain.
However, on 29th April 2022, UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot, published a video on the British Embassy of Madrid’s Facebook page, Brits in Spain, stating that there were no more extensions, and from the 1st May 2022, if you had been resident in Spain for more than 6 months and did not have a Spanish licence, your UK licence was no longer valid to drive in Spain and you would have to take the Spanish driving test.
This is the relevant information from the UK government website
And now for the good news …
Since the May bombshell, HMA Hugh Elliot has issued weekly updates about the ‘accelerated’ negotiations aimed at resolving this issue, via the Brits in Spain Facebook page. The good news is that they have now stated that an agreement has been reached and the main agreements are:
UK resident licence holders will have six months to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one (without having to take a test) and during that time they will be able to drive using their UK licence.
Expired licences shall be accepted provided that they were valid at the time that the licence holder entered Spain.
The agreement will apply to anyone holding a UK licence, whether they were here before the end of 2020 or whether they move here in the future.
Once the agreement has been signed off by both the UK and Spanish parliaments, and then published in the Spanish BOE (state bulletin), the new rules should come into force the same day.
What we don’t know is the procedure for getting exchange appointments or whether it will be a whole new process or the same as before – over to the DGT.
Good to know:
You can drive on your UK licence for six months from the time you take residency, which is the start date on your TIE card. If you want to continue to drive in Spain after those 6 months, you will need to either exchange to a Spanish licence under the new agreement, or apply for a Spanish driving licence by taking a Spanish driving test.
If you are coming on holiday, you can continue to use your UK licence without the need for an international driving permit for visits of up to 3 months.
Taking a Spanish test:
Not as difficult as you might think, as demonstrated by our clients Ruth, Gill, Colin and Dave in these articles.
On this link, you can find a list of authorised driving schools in Spain.
How hard is it to pass a theory test?
The DGT offer a free platform for you to test your skills before taking the test which you can access here.
When will the Agreement be signed off?
We don’t have a definite date yet. No doubt there will be plenty of headlines about it all over the media.
Leave the car at home and get out and about
This article has lots of information about travelling around Spain without a car – public transport is cheap, convenient and you may find you prefer leaving the car at home!
The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last reviewed/updated 06.01.2023