There are many conflicting stories about the steps required to exchange a European licence here in Tenerife. Many people are told the exchange process is either complicated or not required or others are told they have to have a medical regardless of the process and/or age.
The exchange process is relatively straight forward but it can be a long process. Initially verification of the European licence must be obtained by Tráfico from the driving licence authority of the country of issue, if you have previously had an inscription that was prior to 2008 then the licence has to also be verified. If the licence was inscripted after 2008 then the verification would have already been requested but the inscription may have expired. The response from each individually country differs, some take a few weeks while other can take months and then the odd country reply in the same day! Tráfico must either wait for the response or wait a minimum of 45 days before the process can continue.
Once the verification has been received or the time has elapsed then the exchange can normally go ahead. There are different types of exchanges depending on whether the licence you are handing in is in date or if you have lost your licence entirely thought loss or theft.
When is a medical certificate required? A medial certificate is required only when the licence has expired or when a licence has been previously inscripted and the inscription has expired. If the licence is nearing expiry, i.e. for a British licence at or around 70 then Tráfico always advise having a medical as the licence would be valid for longer.
When can a licence be exchanged? A European licence can be exchanged, once residency in Tenerife is obtained or after you have resided here for six months. This has to be proven with a Certificado de Empadronamiento anything else in of no use.
When is an exchange obligatory? At present an exchange is only obligatory at renewal of the licence if the holder is a permanent resident in Spain or if the licence is lost or stolen. However as of January 2015 it will become obligatory for licences to be exchanged after 6 months of continued residence in Spain, this could however change between now and January although Tráfico are doubtful it will, and this is bringing all European countries into line, as it is already law in the UK.
Where is a Spanish licence valid, can I drive in the UK with it? A Spanish licence is a European licence so it is valid anywhere in Europe the same as another EU licence.
Do I lose categories when I exchange my licence? No. Providing all the categories can be verified and none of them have been renewed whilst you were resident here in Spain then they can be exchanged but some categories may require a medical as they expire sooner than others.
Please email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org