British citizens resident in Spain have until 30 April 2022 to exchange their UK-issued driving licences for a Spanish one after the Spanish government extended the grace period for a further two months.
This means that British nationals who were legally resident in Spain before 1 January 2021 can continue to drive with their UK licence until the end of April, while the UK licences of those who moved after 1 January 2021 will still be recognised for six months from the date they obtained legal residence or until 30 April – whichever is later.
As things currently stand, because of the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 January 2020, British nationals living in Spain who wish to drive in the country after the eventual end of the grace period would have to take both a practical and a theory test in Spain if they fail to complete the exchange in time.
However, the British Embassy in Spain says that negotiations with the Spanish authorities are continuing and that it is committed to reaching a long-term agreement so that UK licence holders can carry out the exchange without taking a test.
The possibility for Spanish and British citizens resident for more than six months in the UK or Spain, respectively, to exchange their driving license for a British or Spanish one, as appropriate, and the conditions under which such exchanges may be made, is also under discussion.
That said, in a post on its Brits In Spain Facebook page, the British Embassy in Madrid warned: “If it is essential for you to drive, you may not want to wait for the outcome of the ongoing negotiations and you may decide to apply for a Spanish driving licence now.”
Brexit and the long-standing driving licence issue
When the UK ceased to be a member state of the EU and became a third country on 31 January 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transitional period until 31 December 2020.
In response, Spain approved Royal Decree-Law 38/2020, on 29 December 2020, adopting several measures to adapt to the new third State status of the UK.
Among these measures is the one contained in Article 15, which established that drivers holding British licences could continue to drive in Spain under the same conditions as before the end of the transition period.
During this grace period, however, UK licence holders resident in Spain were expected to exchange their licences for a Spanish one with the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT).
However, thanks in no small part to the pandemic, and the resulting shortage of appointments available with the DGT in areas with large expat communities, this grace period has been extended several times, most recently until last Monday, 28 February. Now, those who wish to make the exchange have a further two months.
It must be noted that the issue of exchanging licences will not affect British licence holders who visit Spain for periods of less than six months.