UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott posted a last-minute announcement on Friday evening, just hours before the April 30th deadline for UK licence validity, confirming one of the worst case scenarios for British driving licence holders living in Spain.
“We’re not there just yet. And we will not have reached an agreement in time for the end of the current grace period (April 30th),” Elliott said in the Facebook video post regarding the fact that Spanish and British authorities have still not been able to reach a deal over the mutual exchange of licences.
“What does this mean for you? It means that if you have been resident in Spain for longer than six months, your UK-issued licence will no longer be valid to drive here from May 1st (2022).”
So British driving licence holders who have been living in Spain for more than six months and did not manage to complete the exchange process yet in time, cannot drive in Spain with their UK licences from Sunday May 1st 2022.
“We know this will cause significant difficulties for those who have not yet been able to exchange their licence,” Elliott regretted.
“I am relieved that most of you were able to exchange your licence as advised before the end of the transition period.”
There are no official stats on how many drivers will be affected by this, but with the latest British population stats in Spain pointing to 407,000 residents, it’s likely to be thousands.
“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK Embassy stressed.
“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.”
Spanish authorities have previously given UK driving licence holders four grace periods (of three or two months in length each), but there has been no further extension of UK licence validity granted this time.
So does this mean there is no deal and UK drivers residing in Spain will have to sit their driving exam again to get a Spanish licence?
It’s still unclear. According to the British ambassador, Spanish and British authorities have “agreed to rapidly accelerate talks next week in the hope of reaching an agreement soon as we already have in almost every other EU Member State”.
“You can be assured we are doing all we can to secure a long-term solution swifty,” Elliott concluded.
The UK Embassy in Madrid reminded viewers that this does not affect visiting motorists from the UK or Gibraltar or UK licence holders who have recently moved to Spain, or British tourists visiting Spain. You have six months from the date you get your residence document to take a Spanish test.
Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences (some need an international driving permit from the very beginning, not Brits).
After that, they usually have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch.