Driving in Spain using a foreign driver’s licence

Driving in Spain using a foreign driver’s licence

Comments2 comments

You can drive in Spain using a foreign driver's licence for a set period, after which all foreigners driving in Spain must obtain a Spanish driver's licence.

If you want to drive in Spain, you can use your foreign driving licence for the first six months in Spain if you are from outside the European Union (EU) area, or for up to two years if you're from the EU or EEA area (European Economic Area). After these set periods have passed, all foreign residents driving in Spain must obtain a Spanish driver's licence.

Who can drive in Spain?

The driving age in Spain is 18 years. Everyone over the age of 18 can continue to use their own national driving licence 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). Please note that if you are aged under 18 years, you are not permitted to drive in Spain even if you hold a licence in your home country.

After the specified time period, all EU/EEA citizens who are resident in Spain will have to obtain a Spanish driving licence either by exchanging their foreign licence or renewing their foreign licence.

Non-EU/EEA citizens will need to get a Spanish driving licence by either exchanging their foreign licence or taking a Spanish driving licence; the required process depends on their nationality or occupation (outlined below), as some countries have agreements with Spain.

EU/EEA citizens driving in Spain

If you’re a national from an European Economic Area (EEA) country (EU plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein) you are free to drive in Spain using your existing driver’s licence for the first two years of residence in Spain, although you must register your details with the traffic authorities after six months.

You must adhere to the same conditions as Spanish licence holders:

  • Undertake relevant medical checks.
  • Have reached the minimum age in Spain for the category of vehicle you wish to drive eg. car drivers must be at least 18 years old.
  • Renew or exchange the licence after two years’ residence in Spain; note that if an EU licence is renewed in Spain it effectively converts it into a Spanish EU licence which then needs to be renewed every 10 years up to the age of 65, and every five years after 65. Read more about the conditions for driving licences for EU/EEA citizens in Spain.


Spanish authorities can compel a person to obtain a new, Spanish licence if there are issues with points.

If you don't obtain a Spanish driver's licence after two years of residence in Spain and are caught driving, you can face a fine of around EUR 200.

Additionally, you must register with the traffic authorities within six months of moving to Spain. You can do this at your Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders (Registro Central de Conductores e Infractores) of the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico).

Once you have registered you will need to take a medical examination at an Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado). This is to demonstrate that you have the proper mental and physical fitness to drive, in the same way as Spanish drivers.

If you wish you can voluntary exchange your licence for a Spanish equivalent at any time. You will need to inform the relevant authority in your home country. Similar to registering, this is done at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters. The local authorities will request the following documents:

  • application form;
  • valid passport or national identity card;
  • proof of residence (Certificate of Registration in the Central Aliens Register ie. your NIE number or Número de Identificación de Extranjer);
  • valid driving licence to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm);
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving;
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s licence of the same class in another country.


Non-EEA citizens driving in Spain

If you’re from outside the EEA you may drive in Spain using your existing foreign driver’s licence for up to six months after you have registered for residency in Spain. If your foreign licence is not in Spanish, you must always carry an official translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP is a document that provides a translation of a person’s driver’s licence into a number of different languages, including Spanish. It must be carried at all times with the actual driver’s licence. The IDP is valid for one year and must be applied for outside of Spain.

After six months of residencey, your foreign driving licence will no longer be valid in Spain and you must get a Spanish driving licence. Depending on your nationality, you may be able to exchange your licence for a Spanish licence otherwise you will be required to take the full Spanish driving test to get a Spanish licence.

If you don't have residency then you can use a valid driving licence along with an international driving licence for one year. If your residency is not approved before the international driving licence runs out, then you’ll be driving using an illegal driving licence. But if at any point residency applies, the six-month rule comes into force.

Exchanging a foreign licence in Spain

Spain has agreements with more than 20 countries, which allow drivers to directly exchange a foreign driver’s licences for the equivalent Spanish licence. These agreements change, so always check with your home country’s consulate in Spain or the Spanish traffic authority. Certain categories of people, such as diplomats and international staff, can also exchange their licence regardless of their nationality (see below).

1. Citizens of Andorra, Japan, Korea and Switzerland can exchange their driving licences for a Spanish licence and will need:

  • application form;
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • residence permit and valid residence card;
  • medical fitness report from a recognised medical centre (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving licence to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm)
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving;
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s licence of the same class issued by another EU country;
  • official translation of the permit by a consulate or embassy (Korea);
  • official translation of the permit (Japan).


2. Citizens of Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Macedonia, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela can exchange their driving licences for a Spanish licence and will need:

  • application form;
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • residence permit, identity card or foreign passport, along with the Certificate of Registration in the Central Register of Foreigners for EU foreigners or residence permit for non-EU: original effect. Valid residence card.
  • Medical fitness report from a recognised medical centre (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving licence to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm);
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving;
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s licence of the same class issued by another EU country.


3. Diplomats and International staff

Spain allows diplomats and members of international organisations with offices or headquarters in Spain, together with their families, to obtain a Spanish driver’s licence without needing to undertake the proficiency testing theory or practice. The following documents must be submitted:


Requests are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who in turn send the application to the provincial traffic headquarters in Madrid for processing.

4. Schools, military and police organisations

Spain will exchange licences issues by the above types of organisations provided the following conditions are met:

  • normal/legal residence in Spain;
  • free from any driving ban or suspension;
  • psychologically and physically capable of driving for the relevant licence category.

 
The following documents are required:

  • application form (must be filed within six months of end of service – if applicable).
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • medical fitness report from a recognised medical centre (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving licence to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm);
  • certification proving active service or the end date.


Taking the Spanish driving test

Citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, will have to take the full Spanish driving test to get a Spanish licence.

You must apply at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico). You’ll need:


You must take lessons through a recognised driving school (ie. a family member does not qualify). Look online or in the Paginas Amarillas (Spain's Yellow Pages) under 'autoesceula'.

The test is divided into two: a written theory test (see some test questions) and a practical test. Both are usually taken in Spanish although you can take a translator with you and in some areas of Spain there are English-speaking examiners.

Road rules and tips for driving in Spain

  • Drive on the right in Spain.
  • Speed limits for passenger cars: 50km/h on hour urban roads; 90 km/hr on non-urban roads, no hard shoulder; 100 km/hr on non-urban roads, hard shoulder; 120 km/hr on motorways.
  • Keep your licence, vehicle log book and vehicle inspection documentation with you.
  • You must have an inflated spare tyre, reflective vests for driver/passengers and two warning triangles in the car.
  • You can only use mobile phones with a hands-free set.

 

Driving your own car in Spain

If you are driving a car in Spain that has been registered abroad, you must register it with the Spanish authorities after six months.

For more information

  • Dirección General de Tráfico: Spanish Traffic Office, with information about the Highway Code and traffic regulations.
  • To find a regional traffic office in Spain, click here.
  • RACE: Spanish national motoring organisation.

 

Expatica
Expatica ask the expert
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's free Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.


Updated 2012; November 2015.

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)


Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

2 Comments To This Article

  • Eduardo Garcia posted:

    on 6th October 2013, 18:42:39 - Reply

    1- License Validity: They are valid to lead in Spain all the permissions sent by the European Union. Other countries licenses will be valid in Spain providing that they are not expired and providing that they no more than 6 months have passed since its holder has acquired the normal residence in Spain. After these 6 months its holder will have to: - Exchange his license for a Spanish license if an agreement exists with the country that issued it:http://www.dgt.es/portal/es/oficina_virtual/conductores/canje_permisos - Obtain the Spanish permission overcoming the corresponding tests. 2- The process to get de license: The tests to obtain the license are; a theoretical examination of 30 multiple choice questions and a practical test of traffic on public roads of approximately 25 minutes of duration. If you practice with the automatic car, the permission remains limited to vehicles that have an automatic transmission. The Spanish government allows doing only the knowledge (theory) test in English. Corsa Driving School [Edited by moderator]
  • Christine Ferguson posted:

    on 28th May 2013, 05:39:30 - Reply

    Diplomatic and International staff - special dispensations....is this not blatantly discriminatory? Why do members of the general public (who pay officials' salaries ) not enjoy these same conditions?

    Are they a different species?