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Exchanging your British driving licence for a Spanish one: What you need to know

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Exchanging your British driving licence for a Spanish one: What you need to know
Photo: anyaberkut/Depositphotos
10:10 CET+01:00
Thanks to the increasing possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, exchanging a UK driving licence for Spanish one has suddenly become an urgent issue for Brits living in Spain.

Officially the rules, that were updated in 2013, require residents in Spain to exchange their licence for a Spanish one within two years of residency (depending on the sort of licence they had).

However given the option is voluntary, many long-term residents never got around to it.

But now, with a no-deal Brexit looming, it is more important than ever to exchange your British licence for a Spanish one.

READ ALSO No-deal Brexit: Britons in EU could be forced to retake driving tests

If there is no deal between Brussels and London, those who have not swapped their British licence for a European one before Brexit D-Day on March 29th may be forced to retake their driving tests in their adopted country.

A sudden rush of last-minute applicants means appointments at offices of the government's Direccion General de Traffico (DGT) around Spain are filling up quick, so there is no time to lose.

The process of exchanging a driving licence issued by an EU country for a Spanish one should be quite straightforward, but of course, as anyone with experience of Spanish bureaucracy knows, there can be hiccups along the way.

There are two options to swap your driving licence for a Spanish one. The result is the same but the processes are slightly different.

You can either RENEW your licence or EXCHANGE it and it all depends on how long you have been resident in Spain, your age and when your licence expires.

Renewal guidelines:

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, 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.

For all other cases it is likely to be the exchange option.

DGT explains it for renewals HERE or exchanges HERE:

Once you have decided what to go for follow follow this step-by-step guide to simply the process.

Make an appointment

The first challenge is to secure yourself an appointment  - Cita Previa - at your local DGT office.

You will need to go to the DGT website and choose the right options from the drop down menu.  

Choose either: 'Renovación de permisos de conducción comunitarios' for renewals OR 'Canje de permiso de conducción europeo' to exchange

Once there, put in your location and choose the Reino Unido option, then cross your fingers, say a prayer and click “continuar”

The chances are you will be told that all the available appointments for the coming days have been filled and to check back later. Repeat the request several dozen times over the course of a week and you might be luckily enough to snag yourself a slot.

Insider tip 1: If the nearest office to you is full try one in a neighbouring town or city, For example the first available appointment for the central Madrid office was a 6 week wait. But in Alcala-de-Henares (just a short train ride away) it was possible to get one within a week.

Insider tip 2: Some people have reported that they were able to apply for an 'exchange' at a 'renewal' appointment. Don't bet on it, but it might be worth a try!

Get the right paperwork


Photo: Billiondigital/Depositphotos

Once you have secured the appointment, make sure all your paperwork is in order.

You will need:

  • Your British driving licence (or if it is lost or stolen then a certificate of entitlement issued by DVLA and translated in Spanish)
  • Your ID, take passport, NIE and Padron. In some places it has been known to ask for your National Insurance Number in the UK so they can check up with the DVLA
  • A medical certificate (For renewal only).
  • Two recent photographs, passport size.
  • Application form.

You can download the forms, print them off and take them with you. Renewal HERE or Exchange HERE.

The process

At the first appointment you must present the filled in renewal/exchange form, present your originals of the documents required and handover copies. The DGT will then verify the authenticity of the licence with the DVLA and once verified they will contact you and tell you to make a second appointment.

This is when you need to take the medical test. (For renewal only, not exchange)

At the second appointment you hand over your original driving licence and medical certificate and will be issued with a temporary Spanish driving licence which is valid to drive in Spain until your new licence is issued.  

After a few weeks, the final, original Spanish driving licence will be sent to your home by post.

About the medical certificate

Photo: Deposit photos

You only need to make an appointment for a medical after you have made your application at the first appointment with the DGT, it only has a validity of three months so you don’t want it to expire before your second appointment.

The medical test is carried out at a centre approved by the DGT. They will be able to give you a list of the approved centres at the first appointment. There is also a list of approved centres on the DGT website HERE:

The medical test is very basic and is designed simply to check that you have no physical disabilities to prevent safe driving. You will be asked a series of questions about pre-existing medical conditions and take a simple eye and hearing test.

How much will it cost?

You will have to pay an application fee at your first appointment. This can be done using a bank card but cannot be paid in cash.

Fee for renewal is €24.10  and for exchange is currently (Feb 2019) €28.30

NB: If your driving licence is lost or stolen:

If your UK driving licence is lost or stolen, you can apply to the DVLA for a ‘certificate of entitlement’ in Spanish that can be used to apply for a Spanish driving licence.

More Information: 

If you have been through the process, then let us now how the experience was and whether you can offer any tips to those planning on doing it soon. Leave a comment below or email news@thelocal.es

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