There’s potential good news for British drivers in Spain this week, as the UK and Spanish governments are currently in talks to extend the validity of British driving licenses in Spain. The current deadline for this extension is 31st October, but it is hoped that this will be extended further, in a move that would be very welcome news for Britons who are currently living in Spain.
According to British Ambassador Hugh Elliott, it is highly likely that these talks will be successful, and that British citizens who are still driving with their UK driving licenses in Spain may not now need to exchange these for Spanish driving licenses and take a Spanish driving test. Here’s everything you need to know about how this decision might affect you:
Understanding the Current Rules
Before these talks began, the rules for driving in Spain were that Britons could use their UK driving licenses up until the 31t October. Beyond this point, any Briton living in Spain wishing to drive in the country would have to obtain a Spanish driving license by taking and passing both the theory and practical elements of the Spanish driving test: their UK driving licenses will no longer be valid in Spain.
The initial deadline for this change was set to be the end of June; it was then extended to the end of October, and now ‘optimistic’ talks are in place for it to be extended again. When asked directly about the discussions surrounding this process, Mr Elliott said that following a meeting with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), he was “hopeful” for a further extension. A move that would no doubt put many expats in Spain at ease.
Many Britons who were living in Spain before the UK left the EU will not be affected by these rule changes, because they will have already exchanged their driving licenses: Britons living in Spain prior to January 2021 were required to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones and, if they couldn’t get an appointment to do so, they had to signal their intent to do so online, before the deadline. Any drivers who did not complete the application to exchange their licence would potentially need to take a practical driving test in Spain in order to get a Spanish licence, although these new talks may well negate this requirement.
Will There Be a Bilateral Agreement?
Talks between the Spanish and UK governments are set to be going well, and although they are ongoing, we do know that both sides would like to negotiate a bilateral agreement for driving license usage: if this agreement is successfully negotiated, then it is hoped that Britons living in Spain will be able to continue using their UK licenses, and that Spaniards living in the UK will be able to continue using their Spanish licenses.
We can only wait to see what the outcome of these discussions will be, but the UK Government said: “Negotiations are underway between the British and Spanish Governments to agree on long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing a practical test.”
What About Driving on Holiday?
If you are not a Spanish resident then you would be impacted by this update, because this legislation doesn’t affect British nationals who are visiting Spain in the short term. If you are only visiting Spain for a holiday then you can continue to use your UK driving license to drive in the country. This is also true if you own a home in Spain, but only visit for holidays and short breaks (within the confines of the 90 in 180 day rule). For tourists and non-residents, UK driving licences remain valid for six months after the tourist arrives in Spain.
Changing Your Stickers
An additional driving rule that you should be aware of this month is that, if you’re driving a British car in Spain (or elsewhere in the EU) then that car should display a UK sticker rather than a GB sticker. That rule came into place on 28th September 2021, and some British tourists have already fallen foul of these rules with the police in Spain, so it’s important to change your stickers before you start your journey to Spain.
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