Since 2013, all European Union countries have issued a single driving licence that allows the bearer to drive in any European Union States, without the need to apply locally to obtain a new licence if they have changed their country of residence.
However, as of January 2015, non-Spanish EU citizens resident in Spain ought to obtain a Spanish driving licence if their current licence corresponds to any of the following descriptions:
- a licence that is valid for 15 years or more, and qualified to drive vehicles classified as Group 1 (AM, A1, A2, A, B and BE).
- a licence that is valid for 5 years or more, and qualified to drive vehicles classified as Group 2 (BTP, C1 and BE).
- a licence that is currently expired or about to expire.
Legislation & Penalties
The requirement arises as a result of the need to comply with EU Community Directive 2006/126/CE and it’s transposition to the General Regulation of Drivers (RD 818/2009 of the 8th of May), to correct differences between the EU States with regard to the renovation period applied to driving licences.
It is important to highlight that Tráfico, the Spanish Government Department responsible for licencing matters, may impose fines of up to 200 € on drivers who are driving in Spain without having renewed their driving licence, as it is considered to be a serious offence within the definition of Article 65.4.ll of the Road Safety legislation. Road Traffic penalties may be of a minor nature (fines up to 100 €), serious (up to 200 €) and very serious (up to 500 €), all of which may be appealed.
These penalties may be paid applying the appropriate discount of 50% as stipulated in the current legislation, or appealed, following the process established by law.
It should be borne in mind that if the first option is chosen, ie. pay the fine voluntarily to benefit from the discount, the only appeal then permissible by law is the formal Administrative Contentious Appeal (Recurso Contencioso Administrativo) with the consequent costs of a lawyer and a Procurador (an officer of the court required by law to represent appellants and defendants in court proceedings).
On the other hand, if the second option is chosen, i.e to appeal against the fine, the time-frame within which an appeal must be lodged is 20 days from the day after notification of the fine was received, or if it was not possible to notify, then on the day after publication of the notification in the official government noticeboard of Traffic Sanctions (Tablón Edictal de Sanciones de Tráfico).
If the person who has received notification of a fine does not formally respond to the penalty that they have been notified of, nor pay the fine within the 20 days stipulated, this shall be considered to be a decisive act within the penalty procedure, and as such, the penalty shall be enforced automatically, on the day after the 30 day period following the notification.
Failure to Pay Fines
If payment is not made voluntarily, Tráfico may enforce the fine by obtaining details of any bank accounts via the Tax Authority Hacienda and placing an embargo on said accounts to ensure payment of the penalty.
Bearing in mind the summary nature of the fines, which can be levied by the police when a car is stopped for any reason, it is strongly advised that if you have a driver’s licence as described at the beginning of this article, and you are resident in Spain, then you should have that licence exchanged for a Spanish licence and carry your residence card at all times when driving.