Driving in Spain is pretty essential for many home owners. Sorting out the driving licence issue for new expats has been one of the most drawn-out and frustrating sagas of Brexit but last year (2023) Spain and the UK have reached agreement on driving licences.
Exchanging a British Licence for a Spanish Licence
In Spain, anyone over the age of 18 can continue to use their own national driving license to drive a car in Spain for either the first six months after gaining official residency (non-EU citizens) or for the first two years of residence (EU/EEA nationals). If your foreign license is not in Spanish, however, you must always carry an official translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP).
After that time you will need to get a Spanish driving license by either exchanging your foreign license or taking a Spanish driving test.
The former is generally preferred! An appointment can be made with the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) to get your license changed over. You can do this yourself or pay a gestor (accountant) or relocation agency to do it for you.
Bear in mind that you will be unable to exchange your license if you have got your driving license in the UK after becoming resident in Spain. So if you are thinking of moving to Spain and have not yet done your driving test, get that done in the UK before making the move.
You will need to take to the appointment:
- ID – eg passport.
- TIE Card / NIE.
- Empadronmiento certificate (proof you have a registered address).
- The driving license you wish to exchange.
- To exchange your UK driving license in Spain, complete the form here.
- The day before your appointment, you will need to agree to share your driving license information from the UK with Spain. So get a verification code before your appointment which you can get here (UK) and here (Northern Ireland).
- A medical certificate: Get this from your local medical centre. You will have an eyesight and reflex test.
- A photograph measuring 32x26mm.
- The administration fee of around €30. Pay by card only.
You will be issued a temporary license when you make your exchange - valid for three months until your new Spanish license arrives around six weeks later. The temporary International driving license (IDP) which will allow you to rent cars elsewhere.
Find out more on the DGT website here.
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For those in Spain who need to change their licence – do it now. There is a period of six months – from 16/3/23 – for people to make the exchange and have it processed. If you were living in Spain before 16 March 2023, you can use your valid UK or Gibraltar driving licence to drive in Spain for six months.
If you are about to move to Spain, your valid UK or Gibraltar licence will be recognised for six months from the date you obtained Spanish residence.
A caveat: If you hold a licence from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you cannot currently exchange this for a Spanish licence. You must apply for a Spanish licence as a non-EU national to drive in Spain, which involves taking both a theory and practical driving test.