The Wheels Come Off For Expats With A UK Driving Licence

The wheels come off for expats with a UK driving licence living in ‘residency limbo’

SINCE Britain left the EU, a whole barrage of bureaucratic nightmares have been thrown at UK expats in Spain, between applying for residency for those currently living here and visa applications for Brits looking to make the move. The latest debacle which is really quite worrying for expats is the fact that, following one extension already, expats with a driving licence from the UK won’t be allowed to drive here in Spain after June unless they can exchange it for a Spanish licence. Simple enough right? Afraid not.

Panicked expats have been phoning embassies, consulting lawyers and pleading with the DGT in order to speed the complicated process up, often without any success. The issue is this: All UK licence holders who are resident in Spain must change to a Spanish licence, but they also must have registered their intent to swap over with the DGT before December 31 last year. The DGT won’t exchange the licences until Spanish residency has been approved, which is taking an inordinate amount of time due to a huge backlog. And the trouble doesn’t end there. Unless some sort of agreement is reached between the Spanish and UK governments, anyone who failed to register their intent in December, or isn’t able to conduct the exchange before the end of June, will have to sit a Spanish driving test. One last fly in the ointment: there is currently a waiting list of up to eight months in many regions for a driving test, meaning countless expats could be without wheels in the coming months.

Frustrated and extremely concerned expats have been taking to social media to share their experiences, and once user wrote that she’s been refused the licence exchange despite doing everything correctly.

“We have been waiting for residency since Sept 20,” she wrote. “Registered licence engaged before deadline. Made appointment and went to traffic to be told DVLA have stopped cooperating and our licences have not been verified. All seems a complete hash, both residency and exchange of licence.”

Another member of the Citizens Advice Bureau Facebook page sympathised:

“The driving licence thing is a fiasco. Don’t understand why they won’t exchange licences for those who can prove they were here before December 31 (awaiting residency). I know you could register your intent to exchange but there are lots of people who did that and it still didn’t work out. Good luck with your residencia, that’s a heck of a long time you’ve been waiting.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau Spain posted an extract on their website of a response to a holiday homeowner from the Spanish Embassy in London, which seems to suggest that there may be light at the end of the tunnel:

“It is further noted that a bilateral agreement on mutual recognition and exchange of drivers’ licences between both countries is currently being pursued. If this agreement is finally signed, then its provisions should be observed.”

In the meantime, one Facebook user jokingly wrote about getting more creative with transport if her situation isn’t resolved by June and she can no longer use her car.

“I am thinking about a pony and trap!” she wrote.

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Written by

Sarah Keane

Former teacher and health services manager with a Degree in English, Sarah moved to Spain from Southern Ireland with her husband, who runs his own car rental business, in 2019. She is now enjoying a completely different pace and quality of life on the Costa Blanca South, with wonderful Spanish and expat friends in Cabo Roig. Sarah began working with Euro Weekly News in 2020 and loves nothing more than bringing all the latest national and international news to her local community.


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