Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th

The British Embassy in Madrid announced on Wednesday that Spanish authorities have for the fourth time extended the period of validity of UK driving licences in Spain, as negotiations over the mutual exchange of licences continue with no deadline in sight. 

Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th
UK licence holders in Spain will have another two months during which they'll be able to drive in Spain, with negotiations over an easy licence exchange still ongoing. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The Spanish government has approved another two-month extension to the validity of UK licences in Spain, several days after UK Ambassador for Spain Hugh Elliott announced he had requested a longer grace period as the February 28th deadline neared. 

“Following the Ambassador’s message last week we are pleased to let you know that yesterday the Spanish Government confirmed an extension of the current grace period for the recognition of UK driving licences,” the UK Embassy in Madrid wrote in a Facebook message.

“That means that those of you who were living in Spain before January 1st 2021 can continue to drive in Spain with your valid UK driving licence until April 30th 2022,” the British Embassy explained. 

“If you moved to Spain after January 1st 2021, your licence will be recognised for six months from the date you obtained residence, or until April 30th 2022, whichever is later. 

“For those of you who registered your intention to exchange your licence with the DGT before December 30th 2020, but have not yet done so, you have until April 30th to request an appointment.

The news will give some respite to UK licence holders in Spain, but the UK Embassy continues to suggest that people should make the necessary arrangements to take the test if it’s imperative that they continue to drive, regardless of whether a deal is reached or not. 

“I recognise that for language reasons this is not an option for many of you,” HMA Hugh Elliott stated last Thursday, in relation to the fact that the practical driving exam in Spain is with a Spanish-speaking driving examiner and can’t be done in English.

The vast majority of EU countries have been able to reach a deal with the United Kingdom over the recognition and easy exchange of driving licences post-Brexit, but Spain remains an outlier.

Driving licences: How does situation for Britons in Spain compare to rest of Europe?

“I can’t go into the details of the negotiations, but I can say that they are ongoing, there are regular meetings and there’s a strong will on both sides to reach an agreement,” the British Ambassador added.

“This process is of course taking much longer than we’d hoped and of course that creates anxiety for you, I know.”

It is unclear yet if any future agreement would be beneficial just to British residents who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or other UK licence holders who have moved or will move to Spain to become residents after Brexit came into force on January 1st 2021.

Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences (some need an international driving permit from the very beginning). 

After that, they have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch. 

The situation described in this article doesn’t apply to British tourists with UK licences visiting Spain who are for example renting a car during their holidays.

The issues affect UK licence holders who are residents in Spain.

READ ALSO: The challenges Britons in Spain face in 2022

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Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.