British drivers living in Spain who didn’t register intent to exchange UK licence for Spanish will have to take a test after British card loses validity in EU at the end of June

Updated 8 April: As we know, those who live in Spain with a valid UK driving licence will be able to continue using this to drive in Spain until 30 June this year. Thereafter, there are two processes to exchange a British licence for a Spanish one, depending on whether or not the intention to exchange was registered with Tráfico before 30 December 2020, the end of the Transition Period. The rules to exchange for those who did register the intention are HERE, they remain unchanged from before Brexit for those legally in the country by then, but I’m afraid it’s confirmed that those who did not register their wish to exchange must now follow the DGT process for non-EU nationals which includes taking a driving test. There are apparently talks about the possibility in the future for a bilateral agreement but at this moment, that’s all up in the air. British driving licences lose their validity for use in Spain after 30 June and residents wishing to continue driving here must exchange their UK document for a Spanish one in one way or other.

Updated 28 March: As non-residents who spend prolonged periods here continue to leave before the 90 day deadline on Wednesday, police are reminding the legal residents who remain that they have until the end of 30 June to exchange their UK driving licence. If you are resident under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement (living in Spain with proof of arrival before 31 December 2020) and have registered your intent to exchange with Tráfico, the system is straightforward and you need to get on with it now by making an appointment to exchange it before 1 July. Those who arrived after 1.1.21, or who haven’t registered an intent to exchange a UK licence, will need to wait still to find out what system will apply and whether it will involve a driving test. The important thing to note, above all, is that if you’re living here and have a UK driving licence, it will not be valid for you to drive on it from 1 July. The current information from Tráfico is HERE.

Original post 18 February: There has been much discussion and confusion but the requirements for UK licence holders driving within the EU as well as for EU licence holders driving in the UK are now clear and as follows:

UK photocard driving licences remain valid for visitors driving in Spain though those with a paper driving licence only, or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, may need to purchase an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway. The type of IDP needed (there are three), depends on the countries in which they wish to drive. The UK Government recommends checking with the relevant embassy before travelling.

Drivers should check that their insurance policies cover driving abroad. Any UK car insurance policy that provides the legal minimum coverage for travel in the EEA remains valid for driving in Europe but must be accompanied by an insurance ‘green card’, an international certificate of insurance provided by insurers that guarantees the minimum third-party motor insurance cover required by law. The British Government is hoping for the EU to issue an Implementing Decision allowing the UK to be in the circulation zone in which a green card is not needed but until that decision has been confirmed, the Government advises all UK visitors driving their own vehicle in Spain to obtain a green card. As well as a green card, UK-registered vehicles must display a GB sticker at the rear even if the number plate includes the letters GB on their own or with a Union Flag, features which in some other parts of the EU mean the sticker’s not required. 

Those who live in Spain and are currently using a UK driving licence, will have to exchange it for a local one. The deadline for doing so varies throughout the EU but in Spain it’s 1 July this year. These licences remain valid for UK visits, and with EU insurance, an IDP is not needed, though an insurance green card or other proof of insurance is required for their own vehicle when driving in the UK. Although exchanging a UK licence for a Spanish one remains straightforward for those who registered as resident before the end of the Transition Period and also notified Tráfico of their intent to exchange their licence, the rules have not been confirmed for the exchange of licences held by those who moved to Spain after 1 January this year. 

Anyone who is an EU licence-holder living in the UK including those who exchanged here and return to the UK to live permanently can continue to use their Spanish licence as long as it remains valid, subject to UK licence renewal requirements. These require an EU licence to be changed to a UK licence when the driver reaches 70 years of age or three years after the holder becomes resident, whichever is the later. UK residents with an EU licence can exchange their licence for a UK one, if they wish to do so, without the need to take a test again.

The information above is currently officially confirmed, but as on so many other issues negotiations continue, not least about exchanging licences, and so these rules could change.

6 Comments

  1. Hi
    I have a Property in Tenerife and also I own a car that was purchased and insured there.
    I’m not a resident

    Can I drive on my UK license whilst I’m there or do I need an international one
    Thank you

    1. Author

      As it says above at the start of the second paragraph, “UK photocard driving licences remain valid for visitors driving in Spain”.

  2. I have an isle of man licence and tried to exchange it for a spanish one since I am resident here in Tenerife. Tráfic would not accept it despite having completed the medical exam required and having all the necessary paperwork. I am therefore still driving a spanish car on spanish insurance with the IOM licence not knowing what else to do. I suppose and IDP would possibly be the solution now.

    1. Author

      Tráfico has confirmed that IoM licences can’t be exchanged here, and so although an IDP would be fine if you were a visitor, as a resident you must exchange and therefore a test is needed, I’m afraid. I know someone else here right now from the IoM in this exact situation, and after six months that licence is not legal to drive on, sadly.

  3. So we can drive on hols in UK with Spanish licence irrespective of age.

    1. Author

      I can’t give confirmed advice about what happens in the UK, but as it says above, “Those who live in Spain and are currently using a UK driving licence, will have to exchange it for a local one. The deadline for doing so varies throughout the EU but in Spain it’s 1 July this year. These licences remain valid for UK visits.” The only question is whether you have a licence that is valid here. If it is, it is valid in the UK for short visits (I understand they interpret this as less than one year).

      There is apparently an issue for those around 70 years old who return to live in the UK but as I understand it, anyone with a valid EU licence can drive in the UK for short visits. I can only refer you to the further official information in the links in the article above. You can also double check with GovUK HERE.

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