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Brexit: How residency hold-ups could mean many Brits in Spain need to sit their driving test again

Brexit: How residency hold-ups could mean many Brits in Spain need to sit their driving test again
Photo: UK driving licence photocard. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)
Processing delays in Spanish residency applications could mean Britons in Spain miss the deadline for exchanging their UK driving licences for Spanish ones and have to sit their exam again. 

The repercussions of Brexit on the lives of Britons in the EU and Europeans in Britain continue to stack up.

Hundreds of British drivers in Spain currently face a veritable catch-22 scenario involving their residencies and their driving licences, citizens rights group Brexpats in Spain has revealed. 

As things stand, UK nationals who are Spanish residents will be allowed to drive in Spain with a valid UK driving licence until June 30th 2021. 

They had until December 31st 2020 to register their intent to exchange their licence for a Spanish one and Spanish authorities offered them a grace period of 6 months until June 30th 2021 in which to carry out the licence exchange. 

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of Britons who applied for residency in Spain under the Withdrawal Agreement and are waiting for confirmation that it’s been approved, meaning they risk missing this new deadline and having to sit their driving test – theory and practical – again in Spain. 

“In some places there are huge waiting lists for the carta de resolución (results letter for approval of residency) which obviously you can’t exchange your British driving licence without,” Anne Hernandez, head of Brexpats in Spain told The Local.

“In places with a higher concentration of Brits such as Málaga and Alicante there are long waits for residency.

READ MORE: How long are Britons waiting for their residency in Spain to be processed?

“Lots of Brits are worried they’re not going to get that processed before June 30th,” Hernandez added, stressing that the carta de resolución rather than the actual TIE residency card will be enough for UK drivers to be able to register their details for a licence exchange with Spain’s DGT traffic authority.

“It’s just not working, the problem is not everyone will be able to prove they fall under the Withdrawal Agreement by June 30th,” Brexpats in Spain Vice President Richard Hill told The Local.

The rules for British drivers in Spain are now the same as for most other non-EU/EEA nations, who can drive in Spain with their original licences for a period of six months after obtaining residency. 

READ ALSO: Driving in Spain – Who can exchange their licence and who has to resit the exam?

Brits who can prove they fall under the Withdrawal Agreement – in essence that they were living in Spain before December 31st 2020 – should technically be able to avoid having to sit their driving exam again by exchanging their licence. 

“But what’s going to happen is that there’s going to be hundreds or more – and I think that’s not an exaggeration –  of British people who find themselves in limbo and have to take a Spanish driving test,” Hill, who is based in Alicante, said.

READ ALSO: Can I take my practical exam in English?

“Many of these people have been trying to comply, it’s an awful situation.

“We’re assured by the UK Embassy they are working on getting a reciprocal agreement over driving licences but this hasn’t been confirmed yet.”

These discussions have been ongoing since at least the start of 2021. Other European countries are also at different stages of negotiations regarding the exchange of UK licences of their British residents.

READ ALSO: How do rules for exchanging UK driving licences compare for Brits around Europe?

“The UK and Spain are currently in discussion about an exchange process, longer term,” – Regional Consular Policy Adviser at the British Embassy in Madrid Lorna Geddie said during a Q&A in April.

“Spain doesn’t have to give us an extension, they’ve already been very kind giving us this 6-month grace period. But we are asking if there will be another extension to the June 30th deadline,” Hernandez concluded.

UPDATE: On May 27th, the UK Embassy in Madrid announced that British drivers who registered their details to exchange their UK driving licences for Spanish ones before the end of last year will get an extra six months in which to carry out the swap until December 31st 2021.But what does the extension not cover for British drivers? FIND OUT MORE HERE

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