It’s been one of the longest lasting debates in the forums in Spain. Must you exchange your foreign driver’s licence for a Spanish licence? The camps have been equally divided for years and you will hear countless stories in the bars about people who were told this, or that, or even the other.
So what is the latest? If you are a resident of Spain with a licence issued in another EU country then you must change your driving licence within two years of becoming a resident if your licence doesn’t comply with Spanish law. Currently some driving licences have no expiry date and others have one of 15 years or more. In Spain, a Spanish driving licence is valid for 10 years up to the age of 65. After the age of 65 you must renew it every 5 years. The licence you hold must have the same time limits or needs changing.
If this applies to you, you must change your licence whether it has expired or not. Of course, if you wish, you can apply for a Spanish driving licence before you have been a resident for two years. After all, why not?
The new campaign
The reason everyone is talking once more about driving licences has its routes in a recent press campaign. The campaign for foreigners to exchange their foreign driver’s licence for a Spanish licence began on Monday 19th January 2015. Those not complying have been threatened with the risk of having a 200€ fine.
There are differing reports of just how punitive the campaign will be. Some sources suggest that at this point expats holding a valid driving licence from their home country will not be fined. Instead traffic police will advise them to exchange it. Either way, you would be wise not to leave yourself vulnerable to the mood of the officer in charge.
How to change your licence
If you need to change your licence you have two options. You can either do it yourself or you can pay someone to do it for you.
If you choose to do it alone then you can expect to have at least two trips backwards and forwards to Trafico. First of all you must make an appointment (cita previa) which can be made either on the DGT site www.dgt.es or by calling the free 060 hotline. Then you must take in the correct paper work.
To renew your licence you will need:
- An official application form which can be downloaded from the Traffic Department and is on the website of the DGT
- Proof of identity (passport)
- Residencia (and copy)
- Padron (proof of your address from the town hall) renewed within the last three months
- Driving licence card and counterpart
- A recent photograph 32mm x 26mm
- Payment of 23.50€
You may also require a medical examination and must find a designated clinic where you will be tested for eyesight, hearing, pulse and blood pressure, speed of reaction and judgement of speed.
Once you have applied, the Spanish authorities will need to obtain a certificate of entitlement from the DVLA if you are a UK resident, or the equivalent for those holding a licence from another country. This can sometimes hold up the process, but you should still have your original licence which won’t be taken off you until a later date. When you do have to submit your licence then you receive a form which authorises you for driving in Spain whilst you wait for your actual licence to arrive.
If you pay someone to do it for you, the process overall is the same but you will need to sign a form giving your representative permission to apply for a Spanish driving licence on your behalf. You will have to pay but it certainly cuts out the leg work.
Your Spanish driving licence will then be sent out in the post and can take anything from a few weeks to a few months (and it has been reported years!) to arrive. Once it does you can at last rest assured that whatever the gossip is about driving licences in Spain, yours is the real deal.
- For more information about the process of getting a licence, Help Vega Baja have produced a leaflet that clearly explains the step-by-step process
- DGT website
Thanks once more to Graham Shelton of Spanish Number Plates for his help in understanding the situation.