UPDATE: Driving licence contradictions…

© www.gov.uk
Sample of the new photo card-style licence.

SPAIN, a country many of us have come to love, often for its contradictions. Sunny beaches and snowcapped mountains. Friendly waiters, but often abysmally slow service.

But, boy, can those contradictions be infuriating, as we at the Euro Weekly News have come to find out to our cost in what is rapidly becoming the Great Driving Licence Saga.

The question is simple – do holders of UK photo card-style licences have to change them for the Spanish version once they have been resident in Spain for two years, or can they carry on using their British licence until it expires and then renew it?

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As we said, a simple question, but trying to get a simple answer is no easy matter. We have had readers tell us they have been told by their local DGT Trafico department that yes, they must change them. But then visitors to another Trafico department get the opposite answer – no, they do not have to be changed.

After extensive research the Euro Weekly team thought we had the answer, as outlined in our report below. Just to double check, our reporter phoned the Trafico central advice line (again) to get the definitive answer. They told us that the changes only affect holders of old style licences valid for more than 15 years. UK/EU photo-style licences with a validity period of 10 years or less do not have to be changed.

But it would appear, according the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Spain, that different regional departments are interpreting the rules in differing ways and using ‘incorrect interpretations,’ leading to some people being fined who should not have been. Also, it says, the DGT official notice contradicts the Spanish official Reglamentos (rules) published

It begs the question, if the Euro Weekly News media group, with all its resources, cannot get a definitive answer to a simple question, what chance do our readers have?

We want to hear from you any experiences you have had. Please post your comments below telling us of your licence woes in Spain, or your good experiences with the infamous Trafico department….


 – Original article –

THE news that expats in Spain who have lived here for two years or more may have to renew their driving licence has caused some confusion. Here we look further into the matter to try and clarify the issue.


HOLDERS of European Union member states driving licences who have been legally resident in Spain for two years or more may have to renew their driving licences to meet new regulations.

The move, which does not affect people who already have a Spanish driving licence or a UK/EU pink, photo card-style licence, is aimed at those with old-style permits, valid for up to the age of 70. In some countries, like Germany and France, older licences had no expiration date.

The reason is that a January 2013 EU directive allows countries to insist that foreigners resident in a member state have a driving licence with the same validity period as those issued by that state.

In Spain a normal driving licence is valid for 10 years, or five years after the age of 65. The new regulations mean that people from the 28 EU states who are legally resident in Spain must renew any licences they hold that are valid for 15 years or more in the case of Group One (car and motorcycle) category permits, or five years or longer for Group Two (transport and large vehicle) permits.

For recently registered residents, the measure comes into effect two years after the date they became legally resident in Spain.

People who have lived in Spain for more than 183 days a year, or pay income tax in the country, are viewed as being resident in the country. People visiting Spain are unaffected by the changes, as long as they are non-resident.

It is still acceptable to drive on a UK driving licence as long as it is in date and one of the pink, photo card style, with a 10-year expiration date.

There are many UK citizens in Spain who still use their old UK paper licence which was issued up until 1998. That was valid, and remains so in the UK, until the age of 70. But for people legally resident in Spain it is no longer permitted. It must be changed for a pink photo card in Spain or the UK, or drivers face a €200 fine.

According to the British government’s official website www.gov.uk, the DVLA will not renew, change or replace lost or stolen licences if the holder is resident in Spain. Renewal must be done in Spain, effectively converting it into a Spanish licence.

That is a right for all EU citizens, but entails undergoing a medical aptitude test and may also need a certificate of eligibility from the DVLA.

In Spain, to renew or swap a driving licence, the process begins by making an appointment at the nearest traffic authority office, calling 060 or via the DGT traffic authority website www.dgt.es.

Proof of identity (national identity document, NIE or valid passport) and proof of residence and the original driving licence, plus a copy, must be presented at the initial appointment, during which a contact telephone number or email address will be required.

After the authorities make contact, a second appointment will be issued. Before attending this appointment, drivers must undergo an aptitude test at an official drivers’ medical centre, for which a fee is payable.

A recent 32mm by 26mm photograph, official application form and photo-check (both provided by the traffic authority) must be taken to the second appointment, along with proof of payment of the renewal fee of €23.50.

The changes are required under the 2006/126/CE EU guideline and aim to increase road safety and eliminate the more than 110 types of licence valid to drive in EU countries, giving a standard licence to all citizens.

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  2. Thank you. This update is much better and proves you can do it!
    A note for the future though is make the original article clear to avoid all this confusion.

  3. The original article was correct but I had to read it twice to see the bit in the second paragraph which refers to any
    license which is valid for 15 years or more. This excludes valid UK photo licenses which are only valid for 10 years. None of my friends spotted this and today it was the talking point at the bar and the market. Lots of my friends were asking me what they should do as they knew I was in the process of changing my perfectly legal Uk license for a Spanish one (my choice). The headline was what grabbed their attention so this clarification is appreciated.

  4. The UK photo licence is said to be an international licence. Therefore if this is to be an EU directive then why should it need to be exchanged for a Spanish one that cannot be read throughout the rest of Europe? I doubt that obtaining this Spanish licence will stop at €23 like most things in Spain there many hidden extras like having to pay a bank 10 -20€ to issue a document for paying in the €23 then taking that back. Do we have to pay to obtain the form and if you don’t speak fluent Spanish then there are more costs. I own a “UK proprietary built Registered Campervan fully taxed MOT and full insurance for the UK” for touring Europe. I had hoped to import this. However I have been advised that my campervan started as a, commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles even though converted cannot be imported into Spain. That’s problem one. Now under the new driving Spanish laws there comes another problem. Two years ago I underwent treatment for prostate cancer, now fortunately I am all clear BUT here is problem TWO. As things are at the moment Spanish cancer Patients are rarely allowed to drive. They need extra special permission from their Doctor to do so and such permission is unlikely. The Doctor will play safe and refuse. So obtaining a Spanish licence is not possible. However in the UK this ruling is relaxed providing the patient is not on medication that prevents driving.
    We are now closing up to return to the UK.

  5. i understand the law regarding driving licences as you have to give a current address to be legal.
    what i do find confusing is that in Spain you are required to have a medical every 5 years above the age of 55, while people driving on other countries driving licences, but buying a car and insuring it here in Spain do not have a medical, Does this invalidate the car insurance if involved in an accident and what are the legal repercussions? would the car insurance be deemed invalid????

  6. Do the people with the new credit card EU license still have to take a medical exam and register with Trafico if they are resident? I have heard this but can find no law or notification on dgs.es website.

  7. Its mainly the old drivers that the police should look for the most. a lot of them the licence have expired and still drive on english reg plates for years with no tax or insurance cause they know there not going to get pulled over

  8. Following my mail from yesterday regarding the changing of driving licences, this was posted a couple of hours later by the Citizens Advice Bureau : At last, the facts have been posted in agreement with our argument and by what seems to be a Guardia Civil page. This is what they say. “We want to comment another time this new law about to change the european driving licences. It only affects to licences issue for more than 15 years or undefines. As you can see in the photo, British licences are issue for 10 years so if you have one of this, you do not have do anything”. Underlined what we have pointed out in our document in our library. ‘EU residents ought to renew their driving licences. This obligation ONLY affects those who have indefinite permits (no expiry dates) or with dates exceeding 15 years)

  9. Hi…information regarding the new Spanish driving licence. It wasn’t made clear in you article last week that if you already have a UK licence which is the plastic credit card type which has an expiry date on it…then you do not need to change to a Spanish licence until that date .

  10. [quote]Hi…information regarding the new Spanish driving licence. It wasn’t made clear in you article last week that if you already have a UK licence which is the plastic credit card type which has an expiry date on it…then you do not need to change to a Spanish licence until that date .
    So if you get caught speeding in Spain the fine goes to your old uk address they can’t give you points in Spain on uk license

  11. We are a group of Spanish Traffic Police Officers located in Torrevieja, who has launched a page on facebook to inform European Drivers about all the information related to traffic matters. The articles are published in English because we think most of foreigner drivers does not follow the traffic laws because they do not know it. So we would like to communicate you and your members are welcome to join us and ask any question you have related to traffic.

    In a couple of days we have reached 1.700 followers, this make us work harder every day to inform them, about all changes they are taking place every day in the traffic laws.

    The page on facebook is called N332, in honour to the main road which goes through the coastline where we work every day.

    Thank you very much

  12. It’s actually not that difficult to change a British one for a Spanish one, which has the advantage that the number is the same one as your ‘NIE’ and VAT number (if you run a business) and It serves as photo identity in the bank, shops etc.. Replacing it when it needs renewing is cheaper that renewing a British one.
    You can always change it back if you move back to the UK. I’m really missing the point here – whey wouldn’t you change it if you live here?

  13. Citizens Advice Bureau Spain, though not suggesting that expats from Britain do not renew (nenovar) their licences as suggested by the DGT press release on the 29/12/2014, we have questioned the DGT in writing. Our knowledge of the EU directive and the Spanish normativa on EU driving permits, led us to research the demands from Trafico. Our research found that DGT have used options in the EU directive to enforce expats to renew their licences in Spain. Our challenge to the DGT is that whilst the EU directive does allow for independent EU countries to take up the options available, this is not reciprocated in the Spanish normativa, it can not therefore be considered as law, so not enforceable. We had discussed this important issue with our lawyers and a judge who agree with our findings. We must exhaust all avenues in Spain for clarity before we can proceed to take the matter to the EU. We hope the Euro Weekly, the newspaper that probably reaches the majority of our community in Spain, will consider publishing the results.

  14. You recently published an article about the driving licenses for foreigners in which it was stated that if a person held an European photo card then it was not necessary to apply for a Spanish license.

    This contradicts information that I have obtained from Guardia Civil Traffico in Granada. I am informed that if a person has been resident in Spain for two years, even though a photo license is held, application must be made for a Spanish license.

    There appears to be much confusion surrounding this subject and I am sure that a definitive answer can be obtained and published in order to resolve this issue.

  15. What I don’t understand is that if you are a resident in Spain, that means you no longer live in the UK. If you have never changed your address on your driving license, you are driving illegally anyway. Most people that refuse to change over are the older drivers because they don’t want to do a medical or any tests, but how many times do you see drivers over 70 getting pulled by the guard of civil unless they have crashed?.

  16. In June 2013 I decided to change my UK licence to a Spanish one because I am a resident here and I feel its the right thing to do. I had the medical done, and I had the documentation needed to do the task in hand. I went to trafico in Alicante and went through the process needed to change my licence. No problems there….paid etc… I was given a receipt and told to wait until I hear from them (by letter to my home), to come back in to hand over my UK licence to them in Alicante. I have waited and waited and I had to call someone who speaks spanish to enquire, for me, what has happened as I have heard nothing. It is now November 2014. This woman enquired for me and the answer she received back from Trafico was that they have heard nothing from DVLA . Trafico was informed to re-submit and I was told to wait again. It is now Feb 16 2015 and still no reply. My Question(s) is (hoping for an answer to my predicament), as my licence is due to expire in November this year, should I go through the whole process again (medical etc), or just get somebody to go to Alicante for me to sort it out? Any offers?
    Thanks all

  17. I paid someone to do it all for me. I paid 55€ when I got the piece of paper saying that it had been changed over, then I paid another 55€ when I had to hand in my old driving license. That took about 5 months but I could drive with the provisional piece of paper.

  18. Rob. It is not illegal to have a UK address on your licence, DVLA accept that address can not be change once out of the country. The change over is surely a matter of choice. That until the law in Spain is amended and EU law transposed. Afraid DGT made a big mistake in this case.

  19. Hello

    I am Spanish, my wife is German.
    This is tremendously stupid. We are in Europe.
    All of us have a European driving licence.Think of young people, workers, will they change every two years if they move to another state? for example Germany engineers of VW work in Germany 2 years, France 2 year, Spain 2 years….in 10 years it will change 3 times??? This law is just to raise money.A fine of 200 euros for not having a divers license European-Spanish? WE ARE IN EUROPE,

  20. Enrique. Sympathise but It is important in the case of your wife, a German licence does not have an expiry date, in this case your partner would need to renew for a Spanish permit. Yes the licences are EU licences. One Europe, not so sure. Saludos.

  21. Aled. Everything you state is correct expect that you must not renew in the UK whilst you hold residency status in Spain. The answer to your missing the point questions is really quite simple; ‘choice’

  22. this law will be removed soon.
    A community worker, working in many states, you can not change your driver license, every time you change of the stats.

    We must organize and report to the European court, directly attacks the freedom of movement, equal …..

  23. Why they made the uniform EU licence. The lawmakers in the EU should have included the options for categories when it was decided in 2013 to use the uniform permit which most have. Suggest that many are too willing to take and new regulations on board (not maybe in this case) which are ways of taxing Europeans yet again. Think what we need is to insist this one Europe that we were promised, with as you say and so does the law, giving us freedom of movement. But the lawmakers have added lots of buts.

  24. how come that Spanish government is asking to renew EU driving licences that don’t have renovation date? where’s the logic here? is this law legal?? I have some serious doubts about this…

  25. I became resident in Spain 18 months ago and having lived here for 13 years I have learnt that it is always best to do the spanish way so I have applied to change mine over. The only downside is that Gestor has told me it will cost 99.78€ plus the fee for my medical, unknown at this moment, at least after that I will not panic if I should or shouldn’t have changed it over.

  26. Hi Andrew, your like me, in respect, that changing your licence is the right thing to do if you are resident here. The price you paid for your medical is very similar to what I paid and a fee of around 30 euro will be the other fee you have to pay. You say that you don´t need to panic, but that´s if everything goes to plan. I don´t mean to make you worry but I have been waiting for nearly 2 years, and my licence runs out soon…so I am the one who needs to panic.lol. I have got someone to look into what the problem is, and the reply is that DVLA have not replied to any emails sent from Spain. Watch this space for the follow up information of my progress

  27. I have just found out that my UK plastic driving licence expired 5 years ago, my paper copy, continues till 2023.
    I was looking at them in order to instruct solicitors to change mine over. I am now afraid that I will not get a Spanish one, a medical is no problem. I just want to be legal on the road.
    Can anyone help, my late husband handled all the paperwork. A good reason to marry a solicitor, until, you loss them. Thanks

  28. I have just been issued with a denuncia by the Policia local in Lliria, Valencia,for having an English licence. It was issued on 20/11/2014 and it expires on 19/ 11/2017 ie three years. It is the latest plastic security version…….The reason that I have not changed it for a Spanish Licence is simply, that I may have to go to the UK at a moments notice. One of my Granddaughters Maisie has a brain tumor., She is Nine years old.If I change my licence and am without one. I will not be able to hire a car on arrival in the Uk……..Looking at your comments above waiting two years is not an option for me…….. I am integrated into the Spanish way of life and work very hard as last years President of my local Rotary club. We have raised over 70.000 euros for The cancer Hospice in Valencia and helped fund numerous other charities and Infirm children in their homes……..This all counts for nothing. We are simply seen as cash cows here in Spain by some people…….I will fight this denuncia in court and will inform You of the outcome.

  29. Hi Colin. Not sure if this will help but, if you ring DVLA Swansea and ask for a certificate of entitlement, they will fax or post to you within days. But won’t email. Th cost is £5.00 .i have found out that the only thing that the Spanish authorities require, from DVLA is the certificate, which confirms, you are free to obtain a new licence, ie no bans, or legal reason that you would not get a licence in the UK.
    I have mine on the way, before I start the process. I am informed it will only take a week or so, if that .to get your new licence, with the certificate. Good luck.

  30. Hi Caroline. Thank you for the info. I am off to the UK next week, so I will do what you say and maybe something good will come of it. Good luck to you too and hope all goes well for you.

  31. Neil. Please read the copy of the EWN following this one. You will find more information on that issue. Also as stated in the article, we are willing to assist if you have been fined under the two year rule.

  32. There seems to be a great deal of discussion based on “We are in the EU and our driving licence should cover all countries in the EU”
    As I understand it, my Permanent Residency in Spain means that I do not have a UK address – which I do not – I must therefore obtain a Spanish driving licence because the UK authority will not issue a UK licence without a UK registered address.
    The Spanish isued licence is valid in all EU countries. So travelling back to UK using the Spanish licence is no problem as using your Spanish plated car is also no problem. (You are, apparently, not allowed to retain a British plated car in Spain legally for longer than 6 months – I am informed.)
    The majority of British permanent residents in Spain will have a British passport and that will authorise the Spanish licence.

    I do not understand what problem is raised in obtaining a Spanish Licence in exchange for the English one. When you lobtain a Spanish license they retain your British licence and, I was told, send it to the UK to confirm that you have been issued with a Spanish licence. However I can not authenticate that information, only to state that my British driving licence was retained when I obtained my Spanish licence.


  33. I have said the same thing but other people say you don’t need to change a lot of the English driver that won’t change to a Spanish license are the older drivers that don’t want to do a medical or the little test on computer but then again how many old age drivers do you actually see getting pulled over by the police and they are the worst ones most of them are pissed anyway

  34. we are residentes here for 12 years with german 50 year old driving licences with open end. had to change it in almeria, giving up our originals and received after 4 month the new spanish ones by post. had to do medical because of our age, licence valid 5 years

  35. Whoop Whoop. FINALLY. It has taken me nearly 3 years to get my licence. Trafico saying they have heard nothing from DVLA and DVLA saying they have heard nothing from trafico. As it happened, trafico in Alicante had forgot to process my application. I received my licence at last, and trafico only put permissions on for me to drive a car only. I have a full licence for a motorbike as well. So it cost me another 40 euro for my licence to be processed correctly with what I am entitled to drive/ride.
    Happy days at last.


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