Britons living in Spain have been waiting patiently throughout 2021 for negotiations between the UK and Spain to be concluded allowing Britons to drive in the country, in the long-term, without having to exchange their license for a Spanish one. Without such an agreement in place, Brits are required to resit the practical and theory elements of their driving test in Spain: This is a process that is both time-consuming and expensive.
Whilst a final decision has yet to be reached, whilst the negotiations continue to take place the validity period of UK driving licences in Spain has been extended again, this time until February 2022. Here’s everything you need to know about this extension, and how it might affect you:
What is the Official Announcement?
The news of the extension was officially announced via the British Embassy Facebook page. In a statement, the Embassy said that “Further to the Ambassador’s message last week, we are pleased to let you know that the Spanish Government has today confirmed the extension of the grace period during which you can drive in Spain using a valid UK licence until the end of February 2022.”
They went on to state that “As you know, the UK Government is committed to reaching a long-term agreement with Spain so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test. Negotiations are continuing and we stand ready to conclude that agreement as soon as possible. But unfortunately, we are not there yet.”
The statement ended by reminding Britons that “We recognise that the extension is relatively short, and therefore it is important that – if it is imperative for you to drive – you consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now."
What Does the Extension Mean?
The extension doesn’t mean that you won’t have to take a Spanish driving test. It just gives UK driving licence holders who live in Spain permanently, and who previously registered their intent to exchange their licences, more time to do so. If you didn’t register your intent to exchange your licence for any reason, it also means that you can continue to drive in Spain during the interim extension period without taking the Spanish driving test: after this period is over, if an agreement is not reached you will no longer be able to drive in Spain.
Who Will Be Affected by This Change?
This extension is applicable if you are a UK national living in Spain. It will allow UK nationals living in Spain to continue driving in the country with their UK driving licences until the end of February, unless another extension is granted or an agreement is finally reached. If you are visiting Spain for a holiday or short break then you will not be affected by this, and continue to use your UK driving licence when you visit Spain.
When Will an Agreement Be Reached?
We have no idea when, or whether, a reciprocal driving licence agreement will be reached between the UK and Spain. The latest extension is the third extension that has been granted as a result of this process, which began when the UK made the decision to leave the EU. The last extension before this one was granted in October, which extended the validity of these licences until the end of 2021. If an agreement is not reached before the end of February 2022, it seems likely that this extension will be offered again.
The negotiations that are currently ongoing between the UK and Spain are intended to simplify the process of driving in Spain for British nationals: It is hoped that Britons will be able to exchange their licences for a Spanish equivalent without sitting the Spanish driving test. This test can cost potentially thousands of Euros, and the process is also very time-consuming, so if these negotiations are successful, this will be a huge benefit for Britons moving to Spain in the post-Brexit world.
What About for Spanish Citizens Living in the UK?
The process of driving in the UK with a Spanish driving licence is much easier than the process of driving in Spain with a UK driving licence. This was acknowledged by UK Ambassador Hugh Elliott, who stated in a Facebook discussion that “Many of you have also rightly pointed out that Spaniards resident in the UK are able to exchange their Spanish licence for a UK one without taking a practical test”. It is hoped that this same privilege will be accorded to Britons in Spain, as part of a reciprocal agreement.
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