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There is a lot of confusion in Spain about the validity of driving licenses issued by other EU and EEA countries. EEA stands for European Economic Area and it is equivalent to the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The Royal Decree 818/2009 of May 2009 and the following modifications that were enforced on the 11th September 2010, clarified this matter. The new European driving license will take effect from 2013 and this will supersede present regulations.

Validity of EU and EEA driving licenses in Spain

A driving license issued within the EU or the EEA will be valid in Spain with exactly the same conditions as the issuing country except for the minimum age for obtaining a driving license that will have to comply with Spanish regulations. Of course, the driving license will lose its validity if it is invalidated in any country of the EU or EEA.

If the holder of the driving license is a resident in Spain then he will have to comply with the Spanish regulations related to:

  • Validity date
  • Psychophysical abilities
  • Assignation to a point system

It is no longer compulsory to register the driving license with the Spanish authorities within 6 months of taking up residence in Spain. However if you have already registered your driving license in Spain, any validity extension will have to be accompanied by a psychophysical aptitude report issued by a Driver’s Test Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores). If the driver has any disabilities that may worsen with time and which might interfere with their driving, the validity period will be decided at the time of the psychophysical test.

If the original driving license has no expiration date (Belgium for example), the driver will have to register his driving license with the DGT (Direction General de Trafico) two years after taking up residence in Spain. The Spanish validity rules will be applied in any case. For drivers under 65 years of age and for licenses BTP, C1, C1+E, C, C+E, D1, D1+E, D and D+E: 5 years. All other licenses: 10 years. For drivers of 65 years of age and over, and for licenses BTP, C1, C1+E, C, C+E, D1, D1+E, D and D+E: 3 years. All other licenses: 5 years.

This means that the license holder will have to register his foreign EU driving license and pass the psychophysical aptitude test within the applicable period of residence of 10, 5 or 3 years.

Expiration, loss or deterioration of a foreign driving license

In the majority of EU countries it is not possible to extend, renew or duplicate your driving license unless you are a resident. This leads to an interesting problem for foreign EU residents in Spain. In case of expiration, loss or deterioration of the driving license, the foreign EU resident cannot return to his home country or apply for a duplicate or an extension from the Consulate, as he is a resident in Spain. In other words, the foreign EU driving license holder has no other choice than to exchange their driving license for a Spanish one.

In this case, the license holder will be able to obtain an equivalent Spanish driving license in any provincial Traffic Department Office (Jefatura Provincial de Trafico)”. All that they will have to do is to fill in a form, provide a passport type photo and surrender the old driving license, which will be sent to the corresponding consulate in order to notify the authorities of the change.

Exchange for a Spanish driving license

At any time the driving license holder will be able to exchange his national driving license for a Spanish one, by requesting the change in any “Jefatura Provincial de Trafico”. Again the old license will be sent to the consulate in order to notify the authorities of the change.

There are several cases where the exchange is compulsory. These are when:

  • When there is a driving violation associated with a loss of points
  • When the Spanish authorities revoke the driving license
  • When in accordance with Spanish law it is necessary to impose restrictions or special limitations to the driving license, not contemplated on the original document.

Our recommendation

If a EU citizen decides to take up permanent residence in Spain we recommend exchanging the driving license for a Spanish one, as it is a quick and inexpensive procedure.