Clarification of driving licence fines
We are often asked will I be fined if I don’t exchange my driving licence when driving in Spain. Well there are at least two answers to this dependent on your circumstances and nationality or that of the licence which you hold i.e. European or Non-European licence.
The DGT have quite straightforward rules, although many people chose to ignore them for whatever reason. Firstly can you be fined if you hold a current UK valid licence?
There are two situations here, firstly the answer is YES if you are RESIDENT i.e. hold a Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano (commonly known as the green NIE) and your licence complies with one of the two following circumstances;
1- A holder of a European driving licence with an indefinite duration i.e. people from Belgium or Germany; or where the length of the licence at first issue is more than 15 years (or in the case of a group 2 licence five years), this applies to UK licences as a UK licence doesn’t expire until the holder is 70 even though the photo is renewed every 10 years the licence itself doesn’t actually expire, and who have LEGAL residency in Spain or the Canary Islands and which was acquired on or before the 19 January 2013. In those cases you MUST renew your licence as from the 19 January 2015.
2- A holder of a European driving licence with an indefinite duration, as above or greater than 15 years, again as above but who has LEGAL residence in Spain or the Canary Islands obtained AFTER 19 January 2013. In this case you MUST RENEW your driving licence as soon as you have been resident for two years. For example for a person who obtained a green Residencia on 12/09/2014 then the date on which you must renew/exchange your licence would be 12/09/2016.
3- If you are a holidaymaker i.e. are here for two weeks, one month , six weeks etc. per year then the answer is no.
However holders of a valid European licence does not mean that you cannot be fined, this can be mainly applicable to the people known as Swallows, who have until now had the best of both worlds in so much as they are fiscally resident in the UK but have ALSO applied for Residencia here to reap what little benefits they provide such as cheaper air and sea travel within Spain, discounts into theme and other parks etc.
If I am a European Citizen surely I cannot get a fine for not renewing my licence, can I?
Well again the law is a little complex. According to the Reglamento de Conductores there are two types of fines for Residents who are caught driving with a “Non-valid Driving Licence”. Where a driver is living in Spain and there is no agreement between their country and Spain to change their licence, you must get a new one in Spain, which would involve carrying out an exam again, as once they become resident their licences are not valid in Spain. This is exactly what happens with Non Europeans such as Russians, Canadians and those from Senegal for example. The DGT site has a full list of all countries with agreements for anyone to check if unsure.
Fines will therefore vary. In the case of say a Russian driver, with whom there is no agreement they could be fined 500 euros for not adhering to Spanish law. For those countries that do have agreements you can still be fined but the fine would then be 200 euros. European drivers, and for the purpose of this article we are referring to UK citizens, MUST RENEW THEIR LICENCES as there IS an agreement between Spain and the UK, much like the Income Tax double taxation agreements. If they fail to do so the fine is 200 euros.
If you are a European and hold a European valid licence and receive a fine of 500 euros you may appeal this and ask for a reduction to 200 euros. This must be done in writing with any relevant accompanying documentation to support your claim in order to overturn the original fine and obtain a reduction.