Relocating to Spain and wondering how your driving licence will survive the move? Here’s a short guide

Driving With an EU Driving Licence in Spain

Providing that the holder is over 18 years old, any EU or EEA driving licence is valid in Spain. All foreign drivers must register with traffic authorities within 6 months at a Registro Central de Conductores e Infractores (Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders) at the Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico (Provincial Traffic Headquarters). This registration means undergoing the medical examination, see below.

Updates to European driving laws in January 2013

Since January 2013, EU licences can only be renewed in the country where they were issued. In addition the licence terms of their country of residence will apply (ie if at home their licence is valid for longer, they will still need to renew it every 10 years if they live in Spain) – the licence must also be renewed within two years of the first day of their arrival in Spain.

Additionally, anyone who has been an official resident of Spain for over 2 years and holds an EU driving licence must have a Spanish medical examination. Every 10 years for under 65s (to coincide with licence renewal) or every 5 years for over 65s (this also applies to native Spanish people). Failure to do this could result in a fine of 200 Euros.

The Test

The tests take place at a specific centre called Centros de Reconocimiento (and some more general medical centres) and involve a manual dexterity test (hand eye coordination) and an eye examination.

When the test is passed, you will be registered in the Spanish Driver’s census – you have the option to change to a Spanish licence, or keep your existing EU licence. This will mean having to renew your licence as the Spanish do, as well as being part of the Spanish penalty points system.

Licence Address

On the DVLA (UK) website it is written that “you don’t need to notify the DVLA of a change of address when moving to live abroad” – other countries may vary. If using a foreign EU or EEA licence in Spain, you cannot change the address printed on the licence to a Spanish address. It is still legal to use the licence until it expires, and remains generally accepted that the address on the licence will not be your current address.

Driving with a Non-EU Driving Licence in Spain

After acquiring Spanish Residency, licence holders from non-EEA (European Economic Area) countries can legally drive in Spain for up to 6 months (with a valid licence from their home country). They must be over 18 years of age during this period and hold an “International Drivers Permit” (IPD) in addition to their foreign licence.

After 6 months, this licence will no longer be valid. Spain has agreements in place with many countries whereby it is possible for legal residents of Spain to exchange the foreign licence for a Spanish one. These licence exchange agreements are with the following countries:

Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Japan, Macedonia, Morocco, Peru, The Philippines, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Any person from countries not included in the above list must take the full Spanish driving test (Including, for now, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA).

NB: This list is subject to change – confirmation with the relevant consulate in Spain is recommended.

How to Exchange Non-EU or EU/EEA Licence for a Spanish Licence

Find your nearest Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico (Provincial Traffic Headquarters), where the application must be made.

What you will need

  • The licence being exchanged and a photocopy (with Spanish translation if necessary)
  • 2 x passport sized photographs
  • Completed application form issued by the Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico
  • Tarjeta de Residencia (Spanish residency permit). The original document + photocopy
  • NIE number (as proof of address in Spain)
  • Certificate of medical exam authorised by the Centros de Reconocimiento
  • Declaration in writing that no other equivalent licence is held from another country
  • Declaration in writing that the driver has no pending legal process or legal suspension which would withhold their right to drive