Recognition of foreign driver’s licenses in Spain

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Updated at 08-03-2022

In this article we will show you how the process of recognition of driving licenses issued in countries of the European Union and outside the EU works in Spain and which are the general requirementsw for all the applicants.

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Foreign driving licenses in Spain are recognized by the authorities under certain agreements signed by the Kingdom of Spain. This includes the EU driving license and some US licenses which, as you may know, are issued by the states, not by the federal government.

In this case, you are allowed to drive around Spain using your license without getting another one in Spain for six months or up to two years for EU citizens. The maximum age to obtain a license for the first time in Spain is 65. However, this does not apply to foreigners who are older than 65 who can exchange a valid driving license from their home country for a Spanish one.

It is important to note, however, that the rules mentioned above are not always known or recognized by some local authorities. There have been cases in which EU citizens have been fined for not having a Spanish license.

That is why many people consider that the best option is to get a valid Spanish license instead of continuing to use the one they got from their country of origin. The Department of Traffic (Dirección General de Tráfico, DGT) website says that foreign licenses, including EU citizens and residents have permission to drive within Spain for six months after the holder begins residing in Spain if the country has that agreement with Spain.

Drivers from other countries within the EU have to register at the traffic office within six months of moving to Spain. After that period, you must apply for a Spanish driving license and prove you are legally living in Spain.

Who else has to get a valid driving license in Spain?

People who are legally living in Spain and come from other countries that do not have any agreement with Spain, must take a Spanish theoretical and driving exam to get a license. The theoretical test can be taken in English. Some driving schools offer translations of the theoretical material and practice exams, something that would be very beneficial for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish as their native language.

Drivers from non-EU countries must get a Spanish driver’s license after six months from the time they have their legal residence in Spain. In case of any questions, go to the nearest consulate of your country in Spain, or consult the embassy directly.

The application requirements for a Spanish driving license are the following:

  • The valid license from your country of origin plus a photocopy.
  • A translation of your license done by certificate translator. This can be done at any Spanish consulate.
  • A certificate of equivalency (certificado de equivalencia) issued by the Real Automóvil Club de España (RAC).

This only applies to EU license holders who are exchanging their license for a Spanish one, or certain other countries with driver’s license exchange agreements. Anyone else, including drivers from the United States, Canada and Australia, will have to enroll at a driving school or autoescuela for driving lessons and study for the official theoretical exam. You’ll need a special application form to request the exam, where you must indicate that you want to take it in English. When all is said and done, you’ll need to pass the exam with at least a 90% score, have a certificate from your driving instructor for the practical portion, and have a medical exam. This is the same procedure that Spaniards go through to get their license for the first time.

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