Spanish driving licence

That’s a question that many Europeans living in Spain have been asking for a very long time. It might seem a simple question but you can expect far from simple answers. Whether you must exchange your foreign driver’s licence for a Spanish licence has been discussed and debated, shared on forums and in bar rooms. Now it looks as though we’ve finally got the answer.

The requirement

Yes you must. That’s the simple answer if you have been a resident in Spain for two years or more. The law was passed in 2009 that required foreigners with a licence issued in the EU, to apply for a Spanish driving licence after two years as a resident. However, the extent to which it has been enforced varies. It is only now, since 19th January 2015, that the authorities are really declaring their intention to fine those who don’t comply. If you haven’t already opted for a Spanish driving licence, you must when your original driving licence reaches the expiry date. The disadvantage of waiting this long is that you then have to have a medical examination as well. If you apply before the expiry date, you don’t. This is the only concession, however. Once you have your Spanish licence you will need to have a medical when it is due for renewal just like other Spanish licence holders.

Why have a Spanish driving licence?

If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense for people who live in the same country to have different types of licences. A UK driving licence, for example, reflects the driving laws in the UK and not in Spain. So, a Spanish driving licence is valid for 10 years up to the age of 65 and for every 5 years after that. This is different to most other European countries. In the UK you can drive when you’re 17. The minimum age for driving in Spain is 18. If every country had the same driving laws then it would be different, but they don’t. The new campaign to encourage foreigners to apply for a Spanish driving licence provides financial reasons and not just logical ones for changing your foreigner’s licence. It has been publicised that there will be fines of 200€ for those not complying. Some sources are suggesting that this won’t be too rigorously applied to start with. However, it’s still a powerful incentive for making sure you get your act together and drive legally in Spain.

How do you get one?

If you are looking for an easy life and have money to spare then you can ask a gestoria or other specialist to complete the transfer process for you. If you want to do it yourself it is perfectly possible, just be aware that you will have at least two trips to Trafico in your provincial capital. If you choose this route you will need to make an appointment (cita previa) either on the DGT site www.dgt.es or by calling the free 060 hotline. What is most important is that you take the correct paper work with you. This consists of:

  • The application form downloaded from the DGT website
  • Passport as proof of identity
  • Residencia
  • Padron certificate which must have been renewed within the last three months
  • The photo licence and paper counterpart (both photocopied)
  • Passport style photo 32mm x 26mm
  • Payment of 23.50€

Alternatively you can take these documents to a gestoria who specialises in this and they will do it all for you. Either way you can expect to keep your original driving licence to begin with whilst an application is made to DVLA (if you are a British national). This is where the hold up can be. Once the traffic department in your own country has responded then you will be asked to hand over your actual driving licence. It can feel very strange surrendering your driving licence in this way. However, they will give you a temporary permit that should be sufficient to demonstrate that you are in the process of applying. All that’s left to do then is wait for your new licence to be delivered to your home address. Once you are the proud owner of your new Spanish licence, you can confidently abstain from all those bar room debates. A pretty good reason for changing your licence in the first place.