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 Elle Draper

Should I change my UK driving license for a Spanish one?

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One of the most common questions we are asked is “Should I change my UK driving license for a Spanish one?” With this in mind, we’ve asked an expert.

Should I change my UK driving license for a Spanish one

The following information is kindly provided by Mónica Suárez from MSPeasylife.

Renewal of the Community Driving Licence

“From 19 January 2013 there is a single European driving licence and the renewal of the document will be made by issuing the single European model and in accordance with Spanish Law.” DGT

Since January last year there have been many people who have come to my office concerned about whether or not they should renew their UK driving and afraid of being fined if they don’t.

The fact is that, despite the amount of information that can be read in forums, social networks and even newspapers… unfortunately correct information is not always provided. This can cause confusion and in some cases, push people to a state of unnecessary panic.

Of course it is necessary to satisfy the obligation to renew the UK driver’s license IF certain characteristics are met. The following questions will allow you to establish whether YOUR driving license needs changing or not. You will need to have your residence certificate (green card or paper) and driver’s license with you.

  1. Did you get your Residencia Certificate before 19/01/2013?
  2. Did you renew your UK Driving Licence while being Resident in Spain?
  3. Did your Driving Licence expire?
  4. Check categories Group 1: AM, A1, A2, A, B & BE. Do they have NO expiry date or it is after 19/01/2030? „
  5. Check categories Group 2: BTP, C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, DE & DE. Do they have NO expiry date or it is after 19/01/2020?

You have to EXCHANGE your UK Driving Licence…

  • If you have answered YES to Question 1 AND YES to any of the other 4
  • If you have answered NO to Question 1 BUT YES to any of the other 4 then you will have to exchange it  within 2 years of residency (i.e. if you are legally residing in Spain as from 06/06/2015 you must renew your driving licence on or after 06/06/2017).

Now you have the answer, the next step would be to decide if you do it on your own or contact a professional to help you with the process. The most important thing is that, if you have any doubts at all, always contact an expert: you will be saving yourselves time and money.

For further information, please visit the DGT website

Mónica Suárez

ELC – Easy Life Coodinator




+34 675 364 184

22 Responses to Should I change my UK driving license for a Spanish one?

  1. Robert brugman June 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    My wife ‘registered’ her drivers license. Is this mandatory?

  2. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper June 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Robert. We can’t advise on individual licenses. If your question isn’t answered above… it may be a little more complicated, so we recommend that you speak to an expert in your local area – they should be able to sort you out.
    E x

  3. Robert brugman June 7, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Is this so difficult to answer and that answer applies to a lot of people. Does a EU citizen that official lives in Spain need to register their drivers license or not?

  4. T June 7, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Can I confirm point 2. Are you talking about renewing your UK Driving Licence in the UK while being Resident in Spain?

  5. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper June 7, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Yes because you can’t renew a UK driving license in Spain – you have to do it via the UK.

  6. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper June 7, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Robert – your question may be clear to you, but because we do not know your wife, we would not wish to guess certain information and therefore steer you wrong.

    We did not answer your question directly because of various reasons…
    a. You did not specify what nationality your wife is.
    b. You said that your wife “registered” her driving license but not in which country, only that she lived in Spain.
    c. You do not explain what you mean by “register” – do you mean “apply”? “Renew”? Or something else?
    d. An EU citizen can be from any number of 28 countries… regardless of whether they live in Spain.

    So – as said before – it would be better to speak to an expert local to you who would have access to all the extra information about your wife that we don’t.

    Kind regards


  7. Robert brugman June 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    1. Dutch drivers license
    2. Officialy moved to Spain

    It’s really not a complicated situation. A situation that a lot of readers I think can relate to.

    My wife was told that the license has to be registered at the DGT, where they add a number on it.

    This would be the procedure in stead of exchanging the Dutch license with a Spanish one.

    My question is
    Is the registration of a drivers license mandatory for a eu citizen when she or he doesn’t exchange the license for a Spanish one.

    I hope this is enough to say anything about it.

  8. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper June 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks Robert. That makes it a lot clearer.

    I would guess that because the DGT in Spain has got your wife to do it – that it must be okay. I wouldn’t know how the Dutch license compares to a Spanish one – only a British license comparison. But to be certain, I’ll drop a message to Mónica Suárez and get her advice for you.


  9. Donna Shafto June 7, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    My husband changed his license to Spanish from UK. And when he got it he didn’t realise until a month later , that his test that he passed for his motorcycle wasn’t on the license. He went back and they said , he has to pass a test again
    Is there anything we can do about this. He shouldn’t have to pass his bike test again.

  10. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper June 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Urgh! Yes, we’ve heard that license entitlements disappear. It is apparently possible to get your UK license changed to a Spanish one but not lose the entitlements… but we don’t know how easy that is.
    I haven’t heard of anyone getting their entitlements back after they’ve been removed. I agree that they should be reinstated when switching back again.

  11. Mónica Suárez June 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Hello, hope this info will help
    – This law applies to all EU driving licences
    – About “Register” or ” Exchange” both are voluntary, BUT can only be made if your driving licence and/or your Residencia Certificate hasn’t any of the characteristics described above
    – If you are Resident in Spain you CAN’T renew your driving licence in England: driving licence has to be renewed in the country you live
    – Regarding the test, my advice would be go back to where you had it done, as they should have it registered and should be able to check if they did it wrong

  12. Robert June 8, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Hello Mónica,

    Thank you for your reply.
    If I understand it correctly, I don’t have to register my Dutch drivers license. I can use it as it is, without getting into problems here in Spain?

    I wonder why anyone would want to register it then, if it is not mandatory.

  13. T June 9, 2016 at 2:30 am

    Hi Monica,

    What happens if you get your residencia in 2012 and return to the UK for 10 months in 2013/14 and during this time you renew your licence. You then move back to Spain in 2014 and continue to use the same residencia until the present day. Will the licence be accepted when you try to exchange it?


  14. Kate Blackburn July 12, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    With all this Brexit, do we as Spanish residents still have two years to renew our licence. Many people are saying we must do this immediately now or face a fine if stopped by the guardia. Both my husband and I have EU licences.

  15. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper July 13, 2016 at 12:15 am

    The law is unchanged until the two year period is up – regardless of what “Many people” may say. This two year period is confirmed by the British Government and the Spanish Government. You can’t legally be fined if you have followed the existing rules.

  16. Kate Blackburn July 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you, that has reassured me and I will pass this on to anyone who tells me otherwise. This site is a great help, keep up the good work.

  17. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper July 14, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Our pleasure. Honestly – until the Powers That be have sat and negotiated everything and it’s all set in stone – none of the laws will change. We’ve got two years at least.
    Thanks for your kind words about the website.
    E x

  18. Kevin March 17, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    A very informative posting.
    One question, If you have a UK licence and you have not taken residency do you need to change to a Spanish licence. Surely if you don’t have residency you do not fall under these rules.

  19. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper March 17, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Kevin.
    If you haven’t taken formal residency because you don’t qualify for it… then you are correct and don’t need to change it.
    However – if you haven’t taken formal residency although you should have done (for example if you are here more than 183 days per year) then it’s just totting up the infractions.
    E x
    PS: I would hazard a guess that many people are sitting on their UK licenses now to see what effect Brexit has (otherwise they may change to Spanish but then change back to British if they head back). Officially they should still be changed if the criteria detailed in the article applies to them… but you can’t blame people for not wanting to.

  20. Helen Anderson April 4, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    How do we go about changing our English license for a Spanish license does the procedure take very long?

  21. Mike Thorogood May 31, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I am 74 years of age. I have a UK issued driving licence issued 2016 which expires January 2019. Do I have to exchange this for a Spanish one ? I have residencia dated 2011.
    Thanks for your useful website.

  22. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper May 31, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Hello Mike.

    You were already resident in Spain when you got that license. Was it a replacement for your previous one? Or were you learning to drive for the first time?

    If a replacement – then officially you will need to get it swapped for a Spanish one as soon as possible.

    If it was your first ever driving license, then you’ll need to get it exchanged within 2 years of its issue – so some time in 2018.

    However – get some local advice because some Trafico offices are reported to be saying “No” just now – until the EU negotiations are all sorted. You may be better sitting tight for now – but that last sentence is only personal opinion and should not be taken as legal advice.

    Elle xx

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