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Must All Residents Exchange their Licences for Spanish after 2 Years of Residency?

Posted in: Latest News, News Articles,
Author: Richelle de Wit
Tags: , ,


The headlines of several online publications, quoting a press release from the DGT/Trafico website, certainly suggest so, but reading the next few lines of the press release, confusion sets in. We cross checked with the relevant Spanish Reglamento and European Directive, read publications that quote high ranking DGT officials, and found quite a few inconsistencies.

Here is our interpretation of the European Directive.

  1. All European licences should be recognized reciprocally.
  2. As of 19.1.2013 maximum validity for categories A and B is fixed at 10 years, but countries can decide on 15 years. Maximum validity for categories C and D is 5 years. Although it does not tie in with the public reassurances of mutual recognition as described above, there is also an article in the EU Directive that gives individual member states the option that if you carry a licence with validity dates that do not correspond with the above mentioned and establish residency in another country, that country can require you to renew (renovar) your licence after 2 years of residency.
  3. Individual member states can decide to decrease the validity period of certain categories as of certain ages.
  4. Individual countries can decide on a medical upon renewal of a licence. Once you become a resident of that country, naturally, you will have to abide by this as well.
  5. You need to renew your licence, upon expiry date, in your country of normal residence (or study – for at least 6 months prior to renewal)

This is what the Spanish Reglamento de Conductores states.

  1. Driving licences issued in any Member State of the European Union and the European Economic Area under Community legislation remain valid in Spain with the same conditions as had been issued in the country of origin, except for those drivers of an age that corresponds with the minimum age for Spanish licences for that specific category.
  2. Licences of categories AM, A1, A2, A, B y BE are valid for 10 years, those of categories BTP, C1, C1E, C, CE D1, D1E, D, DE for 5 years.
  3. Decreased to 5 and 3 years respectively, when you reach 65 years of age.
  4. Foreign residents need to comply with the Spanish requisites with regards to licences. They are obliged to have a medical and have their licence registered in the Registro de Conductores, this results in that the Spanish validity periods can be entered there and the points system can be applied. They will maintain their original licence.

Only in the case that the medical gives reason to restrict or adapt the licence in any way, the holder will have to exchange his licence for a Spanish (canje de oficio).

Foreign residents with licences with no expiration date, so indefinite, need to renew (renovar) their licence after 2 years of residency. They will receive a new, Spanish licence with validity periods for the categories, corresponding with the above mentioned. For these resident this would mean that they will have to register their licence when they become resident, incur costs for medical to do so and after 2 years, need to start the process again, this time to renew (renovar) their licence.

As the Reglamento does not provide a concrete ´window´ during which residents that hold an indefinite licence can comply with this obligation to renew (renovar) their licence, we would advise to start the process well before the 2 years of residency are up, to prevent fines, which could be incurred as soon as day 1 of third year of Residency.

  1. Notwithstanding the above, residents can also voluntarily register their licence. This is a contradiction as article 15.4 clearly states that all residents must have a medical and consecutive inclusion of their licence in the Registro de Conductores.
  1. Foreign residents can also decide to a voluntary exchange of their licence for a Spanish driving permit (canje por otro español equivalente).

An article in a Murcia publication has an example of one of the DGT official’s ” incorrect interpretation” of the law, so therefore not surprising that fines were issued in some regions. It is of great concern also that due to misguided interpretation of the law, you will find that most of the DGT offices are registering licences without telling residents that they should take a medical and, inform them of change in validity period of CD category. ’Centros de Reconocimiento de Conductores’ (medical centres specialising in tests for driving licences) are also not informed.

Summary of the DGT/Trafico press release:

I           In our opinion, the above-mentioned: ‘Compulsory registration of the foreign residents driving licences’ cannot be enforced. Spain had insisted that this was to be complied with in the past, but they were forced to revoke by European Court.

II         The Spanish Reglamento does not back up the press release by DGT/Trafico and their statement that certain licences need to be   exchanged after 2 years of residency. Only indefinite licences need to switch to Spanish licence by process of renewing (renovar) after 2 years of residency. The European Directive could be interpreted to give this option, (see above) but the Spanish Reglamento has not included it, therefore it is not law in Spain.

III        Spanish authorities should insist on a correction by DGT/Trafico before expats fall victim to this incorrect and confusing interpretation.

IV        CAB Spain will seek legal advice on the possibilities to denounce DGT/Trafico the minute we receive notice that an expat been affected by the recent announcement by Trafico.

CAB Spain is not advising any of the readers that they should not exchange (canje) or renew (renovar) their UK valid licences for a Spanish version. We are merely providing facts based on the law.

For a complete picture of this issue as it developed all through 2015, please read our OTHER ARTICLES on this subject as well.


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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