It has always been the law that EU residents must, before their current licence expires, apply for a driver’s licence from the country in which they are now resident. However complications arise because some EU member states do still issue licences without a specific duration, now these must be exchanged within 2 years if their citizens take up residence in another EU country.
The new legislation (BOE número 138 de 8/6/2009) makes it mandatory that all EU residents exchange their licences for a Spanish licences within a maximum of two years of taking up residency.
Drivers’ licences with a specific duration should also be exchanged within 2 years, and the only difference is that there exists the alternative of having the licence inscribed with the DGT.
The inscriptions of licences do tend to take 6 months or so, as these get sent to Madrid to have this done, during which time the driver is given a temporary card licence for 3 months, after which it has to be renewed, and this temporary licence is only valid for driving in Spain. If drivers prefer to do this rather than the exchange, they can, providing that their EU licence has a square no. 13 on the back. Once the inscription is done, the driver will be in possession of his original EU licence with an inscription on the back in square 13, confirming that it is registered with the DGT.”
The bottom line is – no longer will EU drivers’ licences be acceptable on a long term basis when you take up Spanish residency, don’t blame Spain for this – it’s EU wide.
Another reason for the change – it is easier to control law breaking drivers and enforce points penalties when the resident driver holds a licence from their adopted country.
Doubtless this will prove to be unpopular so let’s focus on the positives.
The new law takes away all the ambiguity – basically go Spanish. It was the case before anyway.
This will also help remove a lot of illegal drivers from the roads making it safer for everyone else and it will ensure that your insurance policy is not invalid.
A Spanish driver’s licence can be used as a proof of ID, under most circumstances (not all)
The “Canjes” or Exchanges are easy to do because they only take about 3 months, during which time the drivers are in possession of their licences, and only have to drive with the temporary cards for a short time. Holders of the licences which have been exchanged or inscribed will both receive letters from the DGT advising them when they need to renew their licences. Drivers’ licences can only be renewed in the country of residence, so if a driver should decide to inscribe his licence with the DGT (Tráfico), this would only be worth doing if the licence has a long validity, because when it comes up for renewal, it will have to be exchanged anyway.”
Remember to keep Tráfico informed of any changes of address, so that you receive their reminder letters for renewals etc. We can also do this for you, should you not wish to go to Tráfico personally.