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Transferring from a UK to Spanish driving licence

- Updated: 23/01/2013
Transferring from a UK to Spanish driving licence

If you have a UK photo card driving licence dating from 1997 or after (or full UK licence dating from 1990) it will be sufficient to allow you to drive legally in Spain. However, when it expires (or if it gets lost or stolen) you will not be able to renew it with the DVLA if you are now permanently resident in Spain.

So, here’s the procedure for converting your licence to a legal Spanish document that complies with Spanish driving laws :

In Spain the legal minimum age to drive is 18 years, and you must be able to prove Resident status ( before you apply for your ‘carnet de permiso de conducción’. However, assuming that you have recently moved to Spain, the procedure of applying for a Spanish licence is voluntary for members of the European Union including the UK, and can be completed at your local Traffic office or Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico.

Paperwork

You can carry out this procedure yourself at the Dirección General de Trafico website. Go to www.dgt.es online to obtain the application form or ‘solicitud’. You will be asked to select the province where you reside in order to find the relevant traffic office closest to you.

The title of this application is Canje del permiso de conducción de paises de la Unión Europea. The fee is currently 26,26€ and you will be required to send in your old licence plus a photocopy, two colour photograph headshots of 32 x 26 mm, signed and countersigned by a professional on the reverse, plus copies of NIE and passport or ‘residencia’ papers. If someone is taking the documentation in for you, they will also require their DNI for identification and a letter of authorisation from you. If you find this process difficult, you can of course ask a Spanish lawyer or ‘gestor’ to do this for you. They will charge a fee, and give you an idea of the time involved, which may depend on whether they regularly carry out licence transfers, and routinely take paperwork to the local traffic office.

Legal implications?

All EU countries (including the UK) are now obliged to conform to the new style photo card licence which must carry a photo likeness and the permanent home address of the holder. This is because if you are involved in an accident your next of kin can be informed and the holder of that licence can be traced regarding any driving offences, fines or points bans.

If you wish, you can instead register your UK driving licence with the Spanish authorities, although this is not obligatory. However, it only costs 7,88€ and protects you in the event of licence theft. You can then happily use your UK licence if you return frequently to the UK to see friends and family and just before it expires, apply for your Spanish replacement licence. UK Licences issued before 1990 are only accepted if accompanied by an official translation into Spanish (available from the Spanish Embassy in London or the Real Automóvil Club de España if the licence holder is already in Spain). UK Provisional Licences are not valid for use in Spain.

If you are still in the UK you can convert your UK licence to a Spanish one in advance of your move here, if you are reasonably fluent in Spanish. Use the website detailed above and also send a UK Certificate of Entitlement with your paperwork. This can be obtained from the DVLA from (http://www.dvla.gov.uk)

Resident permanently in Spain or not?

If you own a British or non-Spanish registered vehicle, remember you have six months in which to ‘import’ and re-register the vehicle with Spanish number plates. You can drive happily and use your UK registered car here meanwhile, as long as you abide by all the usual Spanish driving laws and have all the relevant documentation with you (MOT, tax, insurance, driving licence), even if you do not have permanent resident status.

Purchase of Spanish Vehicles and Spanish Driving Licence

Even if you are non-resident but plan to buy a Spanish registered vehicle, this is an option.  The car or van must still carry valid ITV, tax and insurance papers.  There have been reports about non-residents being stopped by the Traffic Police and fined for not having a Spanish driving licence.  It is impossible to obtain a Spanish licence without your ‘residencia’, and the problem arises because police occasionally assume residency when they see a Spanish licence plate. It is acceptable to explain that you are not a resident of Spain, but spend periods of time here throughout the year.  If you have difficulty with the Spanish language, you can obtain a Certificate of Non-Residence, and carry this with your car papers to avoid any concern. 

Renewal

Generally, as with most legal issues, it is easier to comply and adopt local rules when living in that particular country. A full Spanish driving licence is valid for 10 years between the ages of 18 and 45; between the ages of 45 and 70 it remains 5 years; and beyond 70 years old the validity period remains 2 years.

You 'should' receive a letter advising you of the need for renewal as long as your address details are current, but equally so should not rely on this being sent out as a reminder to you to renew your licence.

To renew your Spanish driving licence you will need to present all your documents at your nearest ‘Jefatura de Trafico’ at least 3 months before the old licence expires, including a new ‘solicitud’ (download as before), your old licence, your residencia, NIE and ‘empadromiento’ (proof of address from town hall) three photographs, and a Certificate of Aptitude from an Authorised Drivers Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado) in your province.

The medical examination is carried out in designated clinics and will include eyesight, hearing, pulse and blood pressure tests, and tests for speed of reaction, judgement of the speed of other vehicles and acuteness of visual identification. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you’re tested with them and your licence with be marked to indicate this (remember, you must carry a spare pair when driving). The medical certificate is valid for 90 days, to enable you to make your application for a licence (or a renewal).

These Spanish driving regulations are broadly similar to the rest of Europe under EU law and ensure that drivers are safe, healthy and competent along with the roadworthiness and insured status of the vehicle. So it also makes sense to use a Spanish driving licence where the local traffic police will be expecting one.

Expats holding a Non-Spanish Driving Licence, and who have been Resident in Spain for 2 or more years will need to observe the new regulations which will be applied as from 19.01.2013, and can be read in more detail by clicking the link >> HERE << .

Comment on this Article

 
The DGT do not send reminders to renew Spanish driving licences now, so beware!!
Peter - Wed 2th Apr 2014
Lola : That is a really good question, and one that there isn't really a definitive answer to. I suppose it depends largely on your standard of spoken Spanish, whether you think yourself capable of passing a "crash"course in the UK first time,and what your timescale / budget is likely to be. I thinks this is one of those circumstances where speaking to somebody with first hand experience of doing both is a good idea ! - In the meantime, our Guide "Taking the Spanish Driving Test" might help with a few answers !
Tumbit - Admin - Fri 19th Jul 2013
I'm English and don't currently hold a diving licesnse (Spanish or UK). I work in Spain and my current plan is to stay here. I want to get a driving license. Am I better of returning to the UK to do a crash course, then converting my license as explained above, or should I sit the (notoriously hard) Spanish test? Does it matter? Is there a difference between a license obtained here and a converted UK one? Many thanks for any help! x
Lola - Fri 19th Jul 2013
Admins advice was sound, I had not chased the DGT office as many people had told me they waited up to a year. I spent the last few days chasing it and this afternoon I have an email saying I can collect it today. :) Gerry: I recommend you do the same!
Nathalie - Tue 23rd Apr 2013
My wife & I applied to Alicante to change our licences early January. Within a short while - 3 weeks - we received notification for my wife's licence but as yet 3 months later I have heard nothing about my own!!!
Gerry Mcphillips - Fri 19th Apr 2013
Thanks admin, will do!
Nathalie - Fri 19th Apr 2013
Nathalie : The exact time it takes can vary from DGT Office, time of year you apply and their backlogs, but I would be thinking about making contact to chase your application through the system by now if I were you.
Tumbit - Admin - Fri 19th Apr 2013
Any idea how long the wait is for getting the Spanish driving license. I applied a couple of months ago.
Nathalie - Tue 16th Apr 2013

Some clarification on changes to the Driving Licence requirements for Expats - and which come into effect on 19/01/2013> - can be read by clicking on the link >> HERE <<.

Tumbit - Admin - Sat 19th Jan 2013
Lynn- yes its true. I need to register mine now. I can keep the UK one but need to take a photo and have a medical and this info is sent to Traffico, and then this has ben done every 10 years. I bet that after the 19th January, the guardia civil will have a field day stopping foreigners and fining them! So dont delay!
Angela - Thu 17th Jan 2013
I went to Alicante last week to change my licence from UK to Spanish and found the whole process very simple and straightforward. Provided you have the correct documentation there isn't a problem. In &out in an hour.
Gerry Mcphillips - Wed 16th Jan 2013
Thanks guys for all the comments.I've decided to go for Spanish it's a lot less hassle. Tony
Tony Noble - Tue 15th Jan 2013
I've just read in the Tenerife Weekly that you HAVE to get a spanish driving licence before 19th January or you get fined. Is this true or can you still drive on your old licence that has been inscripted by Traffico?
Lynn - Sun 13th Jan 2013
Thanks, Robster,I'll check with my solicitor but it sounds good to me.
Anthony Noble - Sun 9th Dec 2012
You could always try keeping a notarised copy of your UK licence when you send your original copy to the DGT
Robster - Fri 7th Dec 2012
Excellent write up.One further question, how long does it take for the license to come through and can you drive outside Spain while waiting ?
Anthony Noble - Thu 6th Dec 2012
Rob : Given that you are an EU Citizen, and assuming we are talking about a standard driving licence, you will need a medical certificate when you 1st apply for a Spanish Licence - regardless of your age - and again everytime you have to renew.
Tumbit - Admin - Tue 4th Dec 2012
excellent write up. I am British with an EU driving licence which expires when I become 70 years old in December 2020. I registered as resident in Spain in January 2012. I understand I will need to take a medical at some point, what your write up does not tell me is when I must first take the medical, please advise.
Rob - Tue 4th Dec 2012
We have been here for over 3 months and therefore now legally have to apply for our residencia. We have been told that since 1st Jan 2012 it is no longer possible once resident to use or have a UK licence validated. It must be changed for a Spanish licence. If the police stop you with UK licence and you are a resident you can be fined and have the car impounded. This happened to a friend but she pleaded ignorance and they let her off with a warning to get her licence changed ASAP. We have UK photo licences with 8 years left to run.
L Wynne - Sun 11th Nov 2012
Thanks vm for the info. My daughter can easily do that I think as she has a couple of friends in the local police station! Will let her know. Thanks again to all who replied.
A Young - Fri 7th Sep 2012
@A Young - I was in a similar situation a few years ago and like Robster had relatives in the UK to send all my stuff to. Just a note, the law says you MUST carry your driving licence with you at all times when driving in Spain, so, I went to the local police and explained the situation. They then spoke to some Guardia Civil officers who were there at the time and agreed to photocopy my licence, officially stamp and sign the copy as being authentic. The Guardia said this would be sufficient proof of a valid driving licence. Hope this helps!
Ed Bishop - Fri 7th Sep 2012
Many thanks for that info and will pass on to my daughter and think let her decide!
A Young - Fri 7th Sep 2012
A Young : I did this last year by renewing the photo online on the DVLA website and mailing to my UK Address (Fortunately, my parents still live at the same address registered on the licence or they would not have able to have forwarded it to me in Spain). Although this is certainly "Do-able", it is NOT legal to do so, as strictly speaking you are supposed to notify the DVLA once you have A) Moved address anyway and B) Are resident of another country when you come to renew...
Robster - Fri 7th Sep 2012
My daughter who has lived in Spain for approx. 5 years, has just received via our address here in the UK a letter saying she must update her photo on her photocard driving licence. She says how can she send all this info to me(incl. of course the actual driving licence) to send on to the DVLA with new photo when the law in Spain says that you must keep your original driving licence on you at all times.(photocopy even if temporary not legal) Thanks for any help.
A Young - Fri 7th Sep 2012
Gerry : The DGT are always threatening to make changes to the system, but as it stands at the moment I am unaware of this "2 year rule". However, as soon as you wish to register a change of address on your licence, or incur a driving infraction in Spain you may be required by law to obtain a Spanish licence sooner rather than later. Another consideration is that you may be breaking DVLA regulations in the UK by continuing to drive on a UK-issued licence whilst resident in Spain.
Tumbit - Admin - Sun 19th Aug 2012
A recent article newspaper stated that after you have stayed in Spain for 2 years, it is compulsory to obtain/transfer to a Spanish driving licence. Is this information correct? Thank you.
Gerry Mcphillips - Sun 19th Aug 2012
Good article but can you tell me if I would be able to drive outside Spain while the transfer is taking place ? - As I see it technically you would have no licence during this time ?
Anthony Noble - Mon 21st May 2012
Yossarian : Firstly, this is MY opinion / Experience, take it with a pinch of salt and I am happy to be contradicted ... Tecnically, you are still a UK resident. As such Spanish law states that as a UK CITIZEN, you only need to renew your Uk driving license WHEN IT EXPIRES. Therefore, if you have a UK address you can use (preferablly the one that DVLA still have on their records) then you should apply for a re-instated UK licence ASAP. Then, when you do become a Spanish resident you are only required to renew your licence upon expiry (many years away)...
Mrgrumpy - Thu 13th Oct 2011
Firstly - soz for not posting in forum - information overload today trying to research this. Mr Grumpy - Thanks for the quick reply. In process of sorting out Residency as we speak, so should have NIE in a few days (toes crossed), which would be required for making application for Spanish license. I´m just concerned that when I tip up to do the forms etc, they´ll simply disregard my DVLA Certificate, which will leave me in limbo. Having been out of UK for a while and with no fixed abode there, I´m unable to apply for a UK license, so I´d been well and truly in the schtook. Thoughts anyone? Y
Yossarian - Thu 13th Oct 2011
Yossarrian, I'm assuming that you are a Spanish Resident ? - If not then you could just renew it through a UK address.
Mr Grumpy - Thu 13th Oct 2011
Great article - well written and extremely informative! Same goes for this site - absolute gem and top of my Spanish bookmarks. Perhaps you can answer a question for me? Through my own stupidity, I received a driving ban in 2005, which expired in early 2008. Due to living in town centre, I didn´t bother to re-apply. Fast forward several years and I´m living in Spain and desperately need to get a license. The DVLA have provided me with a "Certificate of Entitlement" which gives all my driver info and vehicle codes. However, everyone I speak to says that I will need to submit a plastic UK license to swap for Spanish one. It´s the first thing they take off you when you get a ban, so I´m kinda caught in limbo. The DVLA (very helpful, but a bit useless) have informed me that the Spanish will accept the Certificate, but I foresee a long, drawn-out process on the horizon. Can anyone else shed light on this for me? Many thanks in advance!
Yossarian - Thu 13th Oct 2011
I have just renewed my spanish driving license and it cost 92€. You say in your article it is valid for 10 years but that is not strictly correct. Once you are over 40 they make you renew every 5 years and over 60 or 65 is every 2 years and then every year.
Jeni Mitchell - Wed 6th Jul 2011
Very good guide about the licence trouble, and i can verify the trouble regarding owning a spanish car and having non-residency....... and not speaking spanish..... spend hours with police not speaking english...
Charly - Thu 30th Jun 2011
Marina : The Spanish driving licence is valid throughout the EU until the expiry date shown on the card, with no need for further supporting documentation. For other countries you may need an International Driving Permit, however if you remain in that country over 6 to 12 Months their law may require you to apply for a driving licence issued by that country. You can click here to read How to apply for your Spanish Driving Licence OR click here to read How to apply for and take your driving test in Spain.
Tumbit - Admin - Tue 28th Jun 2011
Hola, I would like to take Spanish driving license, but I have one question. Is it valid in EU countries? for how long time? Is it valid in Georgia,UK and in Asian Countries(Bangkok ,Malaysia, China, Ti-van, Seoul,Hong Kong)? and for how long time? Can you provide me with some website? Thanks a lot
Marina Mchedlidze - Tue 28th Jun 2011
The RACE website notes that the closest Medical centre offering medicals for renewing a Spanish driving licence to Alboreas is as follows : Centro Médico Santa Felisa C/ Obispo Hurtado, 21, 1º B Granada 18002 958 263 585 ( 5 Euro Charge for renewals )
Steve Blackwood - Mon 27th Jun 2011
I live in the Alboreas area. >70 years Where do I go for my medical. Do i need to make an appointment.
Ian Mulholland - Mon 27th Jun 2011