Mid-October Driving License agreement negotiations update

by Lorraine Williamson
license agreement negotiations
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We are now at the middle of October and still the license negotiations continue, and no agreement has been reached. Almost six months have passed since the final extensions ran out and expats living in Spain with a UK driving license were no longer legally able to drive in Spain.

Negotiations have continued between the UK and Spain since then. But on the surface, little appears to have changed. However, there have been various updates advising that much is happening behind the scenes. Although due to the delicate nature of the negotiations, the UK government “cannot go into the details as it could risk derailing the negotiations”.

The UK Embassy for Spain and Andorra advised via their official Facebook page, that, “it continues to be a priority, and UK Ministers raised the issue again with their Spanish counterparts during our annual UK/Spain “Tertulias” summit last weekend in Oxford”.

All the most recent updates from the Embassy state that they continue to make progress on the outstanding points. However, as we do not know what these outstanding points are, or indeed, how many points are outstanding, there is no way to estimate how difficult or lengthy the negotiations could be.

Once again, assurances were given that all messages are read. And whilst they cannot be replied to individually, the Embassy took the opportunity to answer the most common questions. These are detailed below!

What happens once the driving license agreement negotiations are finalised?

Once the negotiation teams have agreed the text, it will then go forward for final legal and political approvals. On the Spanish side, this means going through the ‘Consejo de Ministros’ (Spanish Cabinet). Whereas, on the UK side, it will be approved by relevant Ministers.

Then it will be published in the BOE (state bulletin) and should come into force the same day. You will then have six months to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one. That is, without having to take a test. Moreover, during that period, you will be able to drive using your valid UK licence.

Will the agreement only apply to those who were here before the end of 2020 and registered their intent to exchange?

No. The agreement will apply to anyone holding a UK licence, whether they were here before the end of 2020, since then, or whether they move here in the future.

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Will there be enough appointments within that six months?

The Spanish Government will administer the process and ensure the provision of appointments. This is something we have raised throughout negotiations. And, consequently Spain is conscious of the potential number of UK nationals who may need to exchange during the six-month window.

However, it is encouraged for you to make an appointment as soon as you can and not leave it until the last minute. Furthermore, you do not have to exchange in the town/region where you are resident if there is greater availability elsewhere.

Do I have to complete the exchange process within six months of the agreement coming into effect?

No, but you will only be able to drive on your UK licence during this six-month window. After that period has ended, you can still complete the exchange. However, you will not be able to drive on your UK licence while waiting to do so.

My UK licence has expired. Will I still be able to get a Spanish licence without taking a test?

The fact that some people’s licences have expired, or are about to, has been taken into account by the negotiating team. Therefore, expired licences shall be accepted provided they were valid at the time the licence holder entered Spain.

I renewed my UK licence with the DVLA when resident in Spain. Can I still exchange it without taking a test?

All valid UK licences issued prior to this Agreement entering into force can be exchanged. However, you should not renew your UK licence with the DVLA if you are no longer resident in the UK.

Once the Agreement is in place, you must not try to renew a UK licence with the UK authorities. That is if you are resident in Spain. If you do so, you will not be able to exchange it for a Spanish one.

Previous advice

In previous updates from the Embassy, the advice was for those who must drive, they should take steps to sit the Spanish driving test. That appears to be missing from this update. Instead, the advice (based on the above) is to make an appointment to exchange your license as soon as possible after the agreement is reached.

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