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Common questions about driver’s licences 

In this article we are going to answer some of the more common questions we get asked about driver’s licences.

If I have a Spanish licence does that mean I can only drive here in Spain?

A Spanish licence is an EU license, so it’s the same as the current UK licence, as such it is valid in any EU member country for use on a temporary basis as a non-resident of the country (i.e. as a tourist on holidays or a longer vacation) or they are valid for up to two years once residency has been obtained. The timescale of how long the license is valid for once residency in that country has started differs from country to country in the member states. The UK for example will only allow the use of non-UK EU licenses for six months once you are a UK resident.

I’m over 70 but I’ve been resident here for several years, I don’t have to exchange my license for a Spanish, do I?

Regardless of your age the laws, whether they are Traffic laws, Criminal Laws or Civil Laws, are the same (although the latter two are far more complex). Once you have been a Spanish resident for two years i.e. a holder of a Certificado de Residencia Communitario (commonly known as the “green form”), it is obligatory to exchange your licence for a Spanish one. Under two years it is optional unless the licence is due to be renewed in which case you MUST renew it in your country of residency not the country of issue. You would be breaking the law if you for example held a Residencia and used a UK address at which you do not reside, to renew a UK licence.

I want to go and pass my test in the UK because it will be easier for me but I am a resident here in Spain. Can I then just exchange the license for a Spanish one?

No, if you obtain a licence or a new category in another EU country whilst you a resident in a different one the licence cannot be exchanged in your country of residency unless you can prove that you left for six months and obtained the licence during that time. Proof of residency in the other EU country would be required along with proof of income from that country by being able to show wage slips or pension slips, other forms are not acceptable, or you would have to have canceled your Spanish residency before leaving Spain. Some people who return to their member countries to sit revisions or test for superior categories i.e. HGV or buses, have come unstuck by trying to dodge the legalities.

I own a car both here in Spain and in the UK but I am a Spanish resident, if I have a Spanish licence how do I drive my UK registered car in the UK?

The answer here is quite simple, you would use your Spanish licence the same way you drive a Spanish registered car on your UK licence i.e. as a tourist or short-term resident (i.e. less than 183 days in any one year). The only issue is that some UK insurers, especially the cheaper companies, will not provide cover for holders of a non-UK licence so that is something you would need to check with the UK insurer. However, the six-month rule would apply here, as stated.

I’m going on holiday to the USA, would by Spanish license be valid?

No, you would need to obtain an international licence to be eligible to drive outside of the EU. They are available immediately from Tráfico however they are only valid for 1 year, so we always recommend obtaining one the week or so before you leave. This is like a book and allows driving in almost all non-EU countries but on a temporary basis.

I have points on my UK licence, can I still exchange it?

Yes, all driver’s licences have to be verified be them EU or non-EU, so during the verification process the issuing country will inform Spain of the current points situation and if the license has been revoked for any reason. Having points does not mean that an exchange cannot be made just that the points would be transferred to the new licence.

I’ve only just realized that my UK license has expired can I continue to drive?

The official answer is no, once the licence has expired its expired, full stop, think of it as a credit or debit card, once the valid until date is passed you can no longer use it. If, however you can prove that you have started the verification process, which takes around 2-3 months to complete then most police will accept the situation and a fine wouldn’t be issued. However, the same doesn’t apply if you needed to drive outside of Spain. You quite simply would not be able to drive legally and most certainly would not be able to hire a car.

I have a Spanish license that is due to expire, how do I renew it?

You can start the process up to three months before the expiry date. You would need to go to any of the Reconocimiento Médico centers and sit the medical. The center would then deal with the complete renewal process and the new license would arrive thought the post.