After Brexit, Do I Need an International Driving Licence in Spain?

Prompted by recent comments on various facebook groups, I did extensive research and found that relevant sources, government and semi-official, Spanish and British, mentioned different things on their websites or facebook pages, relevant for the situation post a no-deal Brexit. We check those sources regularly and it appears that the information provided has been edited recently.

The websites of DGT Tráfico, Moncloa and the Spanish Ministry now do not mention the International Driving Licence (IDL) at all, other sources do. All the official Spanish sources mention that in a no-deal scenario UK licences are valid to drive during the 9 months ‘grace period’ and refer to the ‘general rules’ for once the 9 months have passed. Reason to go back to the source to find factual info on those general rules. The source in this case is the General Reglament for Drivers as that deals with the validity of driving licences/permits.

What licences are valid to drive in Spain?

  1. All licences from EU and EEA countries (art. 15).
  2. Licences from non-EU countries, issued in compliance with Annex 9 of the Geneva Convention or Annex 6 of the Vienna Convention (art. 21.1a).
  3. Licences from non-EU countries but issued in Spanish, or accompanied by an official translation by a sworn translator e.g. (art. 21.1.b)
  4. International Driving Licences that accompany a non-EU licence that is in date (art. 21.1.c)
  5. Those from non-EU countries, but recognised mutually through international bilateral or multilateral convenios (art. 21.1.d)

We all know about the licences from category 1. Valid for visits as tourists, so non-residents. Residents need to check if their licences are subject to the ‘2 year resident protocol’ and if not, their licences are valid to drive here until the photocard needs to be renewed for a Spanish one. Residents from the UK, can still exchange or renew their licence for a Spanish one, during the transition period, so until the end of December 2020, both to make the first appointment to submit the paperwork, as to hand over original the UK licence to receive a temporary Spanish permit in return. After the transition period, it will no longer be possible to exchange or renew a UK licence for a Spanish one. You have to take both theory and practical test to obtain a Spanish permit. Your UK licence will be valid to drive in Spain for a limited amount of time, see the paragraphs below.

What category will UK licences be, once the UK has left the EU (post transition period?)

In my interpretation, all UK licences issued pre-Brexit will be in category 2, as they are EU format and all EU licences are issued in compliance with the Conventions mentioned. If the UK does not change anything to the format of the pink photocards, licence codes etc. then most likely licences issued post-Brexit will be in category 2 as well.

This interpretation is in line with the info on the Spanish websites mentioned above, re no IDL needed during nor after the transition period.

How long can I drive in Spain on my non-EU UK licence after the transition period?

Once an authorised resident, for max. 6 months. If not a resident (yet), for max. 6 months after arrival in Spain.

But, after Brexit, once the transition period has passed, as a UK passport holder, I can only visit the Schengen zone for max. 90 days?

Yes, but imagine a situation in which a non-EU immigrant has obtained a residency visa, has applied for residency in Spain, but is waiting for his TIE residency documentation. This whole process can take longer than 90 days, so then this provision is useful.

What to do after those 6 months?

As a resident, after the UK has left the EU in a no-deal scenario, you´ll need to obtain a Spanish driving permit by sitting exams.

Informative article from the DGT

Information exchange UK licence for Spanish from DGT website.

With an IDL, can I extend that period of 6 months?


So, where does the confusion about the IDL from?

Probably from the assumption that all non-EU driving licences need to be accompanied by an IDL to be valid to drive in Spain. Not taking into account that UK licences meet the criteria under point 2, so are valid to drive in Spain on their own.

And what if the UK signs a Withdrawal Agreement?

If they sign a withdrawal agreement that includes a transition period, then the status quo will continue during that period, i.e. continued mutual recognition of validity of driving licences. Same rules re renewal/exchange etc. What happens after that, depends on future negotiations. Worst case scenario would be if the UK changes the format of the driving licences so that they no longer comply with the Convenios mentioned under category 2. Then you would need an IDL to legally drive in Spain. Best case scenario would be if negotiations lead to a convenio that allows the exchange of UK driving licences for Spanish permits, so without having to sit exams to obtain them.



Please note: The information provided is based upon our understanding of current legislation. It is not legal advice but is provided freely to enable you to be properly informed. We recommend that if you are considering taking action, you should seek professional advice.

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