Life in Spain

Sun 24 Nov 2013

This is not "hot off the press” news – in fact it concerns law that came into effect some time ago.. However, since it relates to your driving license (licencia de conduccion), a reminder was thought to be a worthwhile topic.

The rules for driving licenses in Spain, concern your country of origin. Drivers from some countries are allowed to keep their own or simply exchange it for a Spanish one. Some are required to exchange it, and some cannot be exchanged. This latter group of drivers need to take a Spanish driving test, which has both theoretical and practical sections.

People with an EU License are allowed to drive using that license in Spain – providing the holder is at least 18 years of age. There is no need for a license exchange unless the holder wishes it. However, those that choose to keep their EU License should not forget that Spanish conditions apply while they are in Spain. This covers the period of validity, the need for medical examinations, tax payments and any penalties that have been incurred. If penalties have been incurred, the authorities may insist that the holder obtains a Spanish license to make the process easier.

Although there is no legal requirement for EU license holders to change their license, there is a requirement to register with the traffic authorities within 6 months of arrival in Spain. This should be done at the Central Register of Drivers at their local traffic office. This registration involves a medical examination which can be done at authorized centres. The test will be for both mental and physical fitness.

Despite it being legal to drive in Spain on an EU license, the issuing country will not allow a change of address to another country, Spanish authorities recognize that a license may not carry the actual address of the holder and are happy to take this into account.

If the driver feels that a change of license is the best option, then it’s necessary to go to the local traffic office and make an application. ID proof needs to be presented – a passport for example, along with proof of residency status, a written declaration confirming no suspension from driving, a declaration confirming the holder has no license in another country and finally 2 recent passport-sized photographs.

The Spanish driving license is plastic and the size of a credit card, and bears a list of the vehicles the holder is entitled to drive. Included too is the holder’s date of birth, name and NIE number plus the holder’s photograph. All in all, since it has to be carried when driving, it’s a useful piece of ID. For holders under 45 years of age, license renewal needs to occur every 10 years – every 5 years for those between 45 and 70 years – and every 2 years for those over 70.

People from countries outside the EU are able to drive on their original license for up to 6 months after they have obtained Spanish residency status. While driving on this original license, it is a legal requirement to carry a Spanish translation at all times.

The documentation for exchanging a license from a non-EU country is similar to that for an EU license, but also includes a certificate of psychological aptitude which has been issued following medical examination, and written confirmation that the original license is authentic.

Every driver starts off with an allocation of 12 points and with no offences this can be raised to 15 points. Points are deducted for any driving transgression. A list of offences and the points penalty involved can be obtained from the local traffic office. Their website also allows drivers to check their points tally at any time.

Those who are not officially resident in Spain will simply be fined for traffic offences, with an expectation that these will be paid on the spot.

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