News: What Happens Next If You Have a British Driving License in Spain?

After waiting for more than a year for negotiations between the British and Spanish governments to be finalised, it was finally announced that on 1st May, UK driving licenses would no longer be valid for residents to use to drive in the country. This is considered to be the worst-case scenario for many British driving license holders living in Spain, but according to Hugh Elliott, the UK Ambassador to Spain, negotiations between the two countries are not yet complete.

So, what happens next if you have a British driving license in Spain? Will you be affected if you’ve already registered your intent to exchange your British license for a Spanish one? And will you have to take the Spanish driving test? Here’s everything you need to know:

What Happens Now?

There are currently 407,000 UK nationals living in Spain, but we don’t yet know how many of these nationals will be impacted by this change. If you’re a Briton living in Spain then, in the vast majority of cases, you will have registered your intent to exchange your UK license for a Spanish one before 31st December 2020. This was widely publicised and advised by the British embassy at the time. In those circumstances, you will be unaffected by this change.

However, if you chose not to register your intent to exchange your license, moved to Spain after the end of the withdrawal period, or register your intent to exchange your license before the end of the transition period but did not complete the exchange process by April 30th then you will be impacted by this change. According to the British embassy in Spain, it is important to remember that this policy change will also apply to Gibraltar license holders who are resident in Spain.

What If I’m Visiting Spain for a Holiday?

If you are visiting Spain from either the UK or Gibraltar on a short-term basis then you will not be impacted by this announcement, and will still be able to drive on Spanish roads using your UK driving license. If you have recently moved to Spain then you may also not be immediately impacted, as you are able to continue using your UK license for the first six months of your residency (to give you time to secure a new one).

What Happens Next for UK License Holders Living in Spain?

Negotiations between British and Spanish authorities are still taking place, so it is still possible that you will regain your driving rights without having to take the Spanish driving test in the near future. You could simply stop driving for a while and wait to see what happens next. However, the British embassy are advising that drivers with UK licenses in the country start preparing to secure their Spanish driving licences now.

In a Facebook update the embassy stated  “If you are affected by this change and need to drive, you should not wait for the outcome of the negotiations and should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been advising for some time now...Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK Embassy has stressed.

If you haven’t yet exchanged your license then you should stop driving immediately. You license stopped being valid on 1st May 2022. If you are caught driving without a valid license, you face a 200 euro fine.

Taking the Spanish Driving Test

Many Britons are reticent to sit the Spanish driving test because it is considered to be one of the most time-consuming and expensive driving tests to pass in Europe. What’s more, they are also concerned about taking the test in Spanish if they are still not comfortable with the language. In order to pass your driving test in Spain you will need to sit both a practical and theory exam: the theory test can be taken in English, whilst the practical test is always taken by a Spanish-speaking examiner. You can however take your lessons with an English-speaking instructor

You will also be required to provide a psychophysical aptitude report from an authorised Driver Centre and pay a fee. Because all of this is so time consuming, if it is important that you have your driving license, you should start taking steps to secure this as soon as possible.

Why Are Negotiations Still Ongoing?

Negotiations between the Spanish and British authorities are still ongoing because no agreement has been reached on the reciprocal use of driving licenses between the two countries. Almost all other EU countries have already reached agreements with the UK, but this agreement has stalled in Spain. According to a source at the UK embassy, the main reason for the holdup is because “Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the agreement. This was not requested by other EU Member States and is part of Spain’s nationwide ambition to improve road safety. As such, this has naturally taken more time than all the other agreements which the UK has been able to complete.”

We have not been given a timescale for when these negotiations will be completed, but given that no extension for mutual license use was issued on 30th April (after three preceding extensions were issued) could this be taken as a sign that negotiations are not going well?

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