Change Foreign Driving Licence to Spanish – Why, When and How

Why? When the licence needs renewal (either about to expire or already expired): To comply with legislation that mandates that you should only renew you driving licence in your country of residence. So if you reside in Spain, you renew in Spain.

When? That depends on whether your licence is from an EU or non-EU country and on the kind of licence you hold.

Update re Brexit: advice from the UK Government.  The Brexit Protocol from the DGT in case of a no-deal Brexit and our update 9.11.2019 about driving in Spain post a no-deal Brexit.

EU licences.

Self explanatory: you renew (obligatory exchange / renovar comunitario) your EU licence for a Spanish one when your licence is about to expire (up to 3 months before that).
But you could be required to renew sooner, after 2 years of residency, if your licence does not meet the requirements laid out in the ´2 year resident protocol´ as published by DGT/Trafico in December 2014.

1. If you hold a licence without expiration date, like the old paper only UK licences or the German, French or Belgium older ones. CAB Spain does not have any issue with the legality of this requirement.
2. If you hold a photo card licence, valid for 10 or 15 years before the photo has to be renewed and you have any of the categories C and/or D on them and on the back of the licence, their validity period has not been cropped to 5 or 3 years (holder under or over 65) but instead shows your 70th birthday or no end date at all.

CAB Spain has published several articles on the illegality of this requirement, but we fully understand the practicality of complying, to avoid fines. For more info, click this LINK.

All obligatory exchanges are treated as renewals (renovar comunitario) and require a medical.

You do NOT need to renew your EU licence for a Spanish one if it´s a photo card, in date and

  • only for categories A and/or B
  •  contains categories C and/or D, but on the back of the licence their validity periods have been cropped to 5 or 3 years (holder under or over 65)

Non-EU licences

  • from Spanish speaking countries with a convenio are valid to drive in Spain, provided the licence is in date. After  registering as resident, holders have 6 months to arrange for either a canje/exchange or a renewal (if close to expiration date).
  • Non-EU citizens with licences from countries without a convenio with Spain (like USA, Australia, Canada) can only drive in Spain with an international driving permit, provided their regular licence is still in date. After registering as resident, their international licence will only be valid for 6 months and they will have to obtain a Spanish driving permit. This will involve having to take both theory and practice exams.

Voluntary actions with regards to foreign driving licences:

    • register your licence with Trafico, your NIE number will be printed on it and you will be registered for the ´points system´ like all Spanish drivers.
    • arrange for a canje/exchange (voluntary exchange) where your new Spanish licence will have the same end date of your present one. Note: only available for EU licences and non-EU licences from countries with convenio and only if your EU licence meets the ´2 year resident protocol´ requirements. A voluntary canje/exchange doesn´t involve a medical.

Info canje non-EU but with convenio here.

How? This FAQ from our website describes the procedure, provides links to forms etc.

FAQ How to renew EU Driving Licence.

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.

How Can Citizens Advice Bureau Spain Benefit You?

As an expatriate living in Spain; do you find that the Spanish bureaucratic system can be disconcerting? Have you discovered that the simplest of transactions are difficult to conclude? Find yourself searching for answers to problems only to discover that there is nowhere where you could find a solution? I am assuming that the answer is yes and that is why should be a member of our web site if you arent already.
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