‘Catch 22’ British expats face Spanish driving licence fiasco amid residency application

Spain: Expat outlines issue with driving license deadline

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Bremain in Spain founder Sue Wilson has described the problems facing British national as a “Catch-22” situation as residents approach the deadline for applying for a Spanish driving licence. Expats looking to register for Spanish residency have been waiting months for appointments amid a surge in demand. However, without confirmed status, Britons living in Spain have found switching their British driving licence over to Spanish after Brexit next to impossible, despite it being a requirement under Spanish law.

The campaigner told Express.co.uk: “There is no deadline in Spain in terms of application dates for applying for residency.

“People will mention the end of June as it is for the EU settled status but that is not true about residencia.

But Ms Wilson warns: “That is true for the Spanish driving licence.

“And this is a bit of a catch-22 situation because people have been trying for months to get appointments to become residents or to get in that queue, and they are very difficult to come by.”

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“Partly because of Covid and but also because of the significantly increased demand.

“So while people are waiting to get appointments they can not switch their UK driving license to a Spanish one.

“Now that is a requirement under Spanish law that has always been the case even when we were in the EU.

“So there are plenty of people here who are residents who have done that in the past.”

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Ms Wilson added: “But the problem is you cannot get a Spanish driving licence until you have your residencia.

“So those people who are waiting in the queue to get an appointment to sort out their residency cannot apply for a Spanish driving licence.

“For that, there is a deadline of the end of June.

“So while it may not be necessary to get your residency by the end of June if you don’t that makes getting a Spanish driving licence further down the road more complicated.”


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The activist who campaigns for the rights of British migrants living in Spain also warned the once the deadline has passed, expats will no longer be able to switch over the driving licence without first having to take a driving test.

“Obviously that is a difficulty that people are worried about facing,” stressed Ms Wilson.

“There are consequences for driving under a British license when you get past the end of June if you don’t have one.”

The UK government is currently discussing with the Spanish government over a future driving licence exchange system without the need for a practical test. 

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