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British Driving Licences in Spain
Sunday, 15 March 2009

Written by Dave Fisher 

I have been asked to clarify the current situation for British driving licences; 

Firstly, there are several (legal in England) driving licences; the old paper licence, the first style of plastic licence, and the new European style licence.

So let me first state; you are not in the UK! You are in Spain and therefore come under Spanish laws; the DVLA has no authority in Spain and can not answer questions as to the laws of Spain; Spain does not have to adopt EU driving licence regulations until (currently) 13th January 2013.

The driving regulations in Spain have changed over the last six years; once upon a time the old paper licence was regarded as illegal and people were fined for producing it (although it was still a valid licence in the UK).

However IN THEORY, the old paper licence is now valid again; here I will digress; if the man in the green uniform with the pistol in a holster at his hip (Guardia Civil) has had a bad day, then he will rearrange the driving regulations to suit himself! If he can not determine your licence is valid – then it is invalid, and you will get a fine. You may or may be able to get it overturned – but it will take time, trouble and hassle – have you never seen the bureaucracy that is Spain.

Nowadays, in theory, all UK licences which are valid in the UK are valid here if combined with a current passport (original not paper copy unless Guardia Civil is in a good mood).  

So let’s have a look at a (new style plastic) driving licence and the information it contains that we might be interested in:-

- item 1 is your surname

- item 2 is your first or given name

- item 3 is your date of birth

- item 4a is the date the licence was issued

- item 4b is the date of expiry

- item 5 is your photograph

- item 11 is the expiry date for the licence class (lorry, van, car)

- items 13 & 14 are for permissible health defects (glasses etc)

So when you hand your licence over for inspection depending on mood, the officer will:-

ensure that item 4b is in the future;

that the expiry date for class of vehicle you are driving is in the future 

now he will subtract your date of birth from today’s date and calculate your age; then:-

  • if you are under 45, he will add 10 years to the issued date
  • if you are over 44 and under 70 he will add 5 years to the issued date
  • if you are over 70 he will add 2 years to the issued date

Now if that calculation gives a result that is before today’s date, he will ask to see your medical certificate that says you are fit to drive (and it has to be in date).     

So why are you so attached to a British licence anyway? For about 20 euros you can have it changed to a Spanish one. If in date & legal, then you should not require a medical as the Spanish authorities will accept your health as good on the day of exchange

So if your licence is out of date then what to do?

The DVLA will send UK driving licence renewals to UK (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales & England) addresses ONLY.

It is a forgery to send it to where you do not live for more than 6 months of EVERY year therefore invalidating the licence.

The address on the licence is (for now) accepted as not being necessarily correct; so your address does not currently matter to UK or Spanish police.  

So change it; I have had a Spanish licence for 6 years, and because of driving “the Green Goddess” I have renewed it twice; I have hired cars in England 20+ times in that period without any problems. Go to Trafico in Cádiz, with two passport sized photos; your passport and a photocopy, your driving licence (both parts), with a photocopy of both sides of the plastic card and a photocopy of the paper part. At the central desk ask for the two forms necessary to exchange your licence (Canje permiso de conducir). Complete and pay the fee, then take the completed forms upstairs.

Simple easy and also much easier for the Guardia Civil to understand. 

Below are some recent links on what is happening to British licences:-





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