If you are an EU/EEA national living in Spain, driving regulations implemented in 2015 could force you to obtain a Spanish licence.
For foreign nationals living in Spain from the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – the Spanish government has approved new regulations that require those who have become Spanish residents to obtain a Spanish licence.
The regulation forces EU nationals who are legal residents in Spain to get a Spanish licence, in part because some countries, such as the UK, don’t require medical check-ups until age 70, and because some countries, such as Germany, issue driving licences that never expire. This law thus enables Spain to check the health conditions and ability of foreign drivers in Spain.
As of 19 January 2015, European foreign residents living in Spain were obliged to renew their European licences, which kick-started the process for obtaining a Spanish one – but not everyone had to do this. Read the latest rules and regulations in the guide to driving in Spain using a foreign driver’s licence.
Who needs to renew their driver’s licence?
According to Article 15, paragraph 4 of the Spanish Regulation General Drivers, it is compulsory for drivers to renew their EU/EEA driving licences whose validity is:
- permanent (never expires);
- 15 years or more on date of issue for Group 1 (AM, A1, A2, A, B and BE);
- five years or more on date of issue for the Group 2 (BTP, C1, C1E, C, CE D1, D1E, D, DE).
In addition, the EU/EEA citizen must have lived in Spain for more than two years.
There are two different scenarios to which the law applies:
- Holder of an EU/EEA driving licence that never expires or with a validity of 15 years or more for Group 1 (or five years or more for Group 2) and having Spanish residency since 19 January 2013 or before. In this case, you had to renew your driving license as per 19 January 2015.
- Holder of an EU/EEA driving licence that never expires or with a validity of 15 or more for Group 1 (or five years or more for Group 2) and having Spanish residency after 19 January 2013. In this case, you had to renew your driving licence after having Spanish residency for two years or more.
In addition, holders of EU/EEA driving licences who have Spanish residency must also renew their driving licence if it’s already expired or close to the expiry date.
Deadline and penalty
The deadline to renew your driving licence was 1 January 2016. If you did renew your EU/EEA driving licence under this regulation before this date, you could be fined €200. This law does not apply to Swiss nationals.
Until the law came into effect, there was only one procedure for EU/EEA nationals to obtain a Spanish licence without taking exams. This was called exchange (canje in Spanish). Generally, the licence exchange procedure was done voluntarily, when the expiry date was approaching, or the original driving licence was lost or stolen.
The regulation on EU/EEA driving licences offered a new procedure for obtaining a Spanish licence (an alternative to exchanging your licence) but the outcome remained the same. In both situations you obtained a Spanish driving licence, so long as you provided all the requirements and the country of origin certified your driving licence as valid.
However, the licence ‘renewal’ process has not eliminated or overwritten the licence ‘exchange’ process. They both still coexist, and EU/EEA nationals who are now obliged to obtain a Spanish licence can opt for either process.
These are some of the main differences:
|Renewing your licence||Exchanging your licence|
Both procedures are usually done in two parts and can differ depending on the region where you are living in Spain. The following two points refer to the procedure carried out in the provincial offices of Murcia and Alicante, as an example (contact your nearest DGT office for the procedures specific to your area):
- Application forms, original documents and photocopies are delivered at the corresponding DGT office. Photocopies are validated with the original documents, and the originals will be returned. If everything is correct, the DGT office sends a request to validate your licence to your corresponding driving licence office in your country of origin.
- If your country confirms that you hold a valid driving licence, it will be notified to Spain. Afterwards, you will receive a letter from the DGT so that you can surrender your original driving licence. The Spanish DGT office provides you with a temporary driving licence (usually for three months) while the original one is processed. After a few weeks, the final, original Spanish driving licence will be sent to your home by post.
The following chart contains three examples to give you an idea of how exchanging or renewing your driving licence in Spain is carried out.
Note: You should always go to your DGT office in person or visit the official DGT website to ensure you’re following the right procedure.
|Driving licence 1||Driving licence 2|
|Driving licence 3|
Clarifying general misconceptions
- You do not have to renew your EU/EEA licence in Spain just because you have Spanish residency – you have to be a resident for at least two years. Once you are under obligation to obtain a Spanish licence, you can opt to either exchange or renew your licence.
- This regulation is not for all countries, only for those that are part of the EU/EEA. The ‘renew’ law does not apply to Swiss nationals.
- You can’t exchange nor renew your EU/EEA licence without first having Spanish residency.
- If you only have an NIE number, then this is not classed as Spanish residency.
- If you only have ‘el padrón‘ registration (local census), then this is not classed as Spanish residency.
- The medical certificate is not an examination designed to refuse people, but to measure their basic capabilities for driving in Spain. Once done, the certificate states how many years the driver has until their next check-up, or restrictions, if necessary.
- Once you receive your Spanish driving licence, it has to be renewed periodically according to Spanish law, depending on your age and health conditions.
- Exchanging non-European driving licences follows a different procedure. See the guide to exchanging a foreign driver’s licence or contact your nearest DGT office to obtain more details.