ARE YOU DRIVING LEGALLY IN SPAIN?
Mark Nolan / 2012-07-01 18:15:55
There has been a lot of discussion about driving in Spain whilst using a UK registered driving license and a number of reports of people receiving fines for being a resident in Spain whilst using a UK driving license. Firstly, it ought to be said that converting a driving license to a Spanish one is a simple process and is not very expensive at all.
In terms of the rules regarding driving in Spain, there are a lot of “experts” offering advice, some of which may indeed be relevant, but some of which is considerably out of date.
Even the UK Foreign Office are unable to offer definitive advice, saying that, “Definitive information should be obtained from the Spanish authorities”, a notion which is reinforced by the UK DVLA, which also says, “If you move to another country, you should check with the driving licence authorities there for information about driving and exchange of licences”, so extreme care should be considered if the advice comes from anybody other than the Spanish authorities.
But therein lies the biggest problem in that there seems to be a fear in contacting the Spanish authorities for advice and would rather speak to our ex-pat experts, and a lot of the information either changes or is out of date.
Highly respected European representative in Torrevieja, Graham Knight, has provided information on the matter, but also emphasises that he is not in a position to do so with authority, saying, “In my UNQUALIFIED opinion, it appears that the law states that a non-Spanish EU resident in Spain can continue to use his own drivers licence for a period of up to TWO YEARS after which he must submit him / herself to the same 'psychotectical' tests which are applicable to a Spanish licence. You will see below, a mail I have received from a British resident in Torrevieja and my answer to his enquiry.
Whilst my interpretation / opinion is nothing more than my own interpretation of the law (having had the benefit of an explanation from the Policia Local), this information may be of interest to the international community as there obviously remains considerable confusion over this matter which, in some cases, is proving expensive!”
One of the problems which is quite obvious with the situation is that many people move to Spain and no longer have an address in the UK to which the driver could be traced if the situation were to lend itself to that, in the case of a traffic offence, accident or worse.
The Foreign Office also state that, “You should bear in mind that once your UK photocard licence expires you will not be able to renew this with the DVLA if you are residing in Spain so you may wish to convert you licence over to a Spanish before it expires.”
Which takes us back to the original point that by far the easiest and cheapest course of action, as well as one which would make your life easier, is simply to convert your license to a Spanish one at the earliest possible time, the Trafico office in Alicante will be able to advise you on everything you need to know, although a translator may be needed if your command of the native language is weak, but there is nothing to fear from the tests, they are not like a typical driving test in a car with an instructor, it is a simple question and answer session about your health and then a co-ordination exercise.
Although the process takes some time, it really is simple and really is nothing to fear, if you have any doubt, check with your local legally registered legal adviser or solicitor, but it is a procedure designed to be carried out by individuals, and so, albeit bureaucratic and administrative, once done, you can be safe in the knowledge that you are driving within the confines of anybody´s interpretation of the law.