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Spanish driving and license and car plates

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To get your driving license in Spain you must be 18 years old and more importantly, a resident. Additionally, you must submit the following requirements before the Provincial Traffic Headquarters:

  • DNI or National Identity Document (or NIE, Foreigner Identification Number)
  • Passport-sized photograph (32 x 26 in colour)
  • Printed application for the proficiency tests of the DGT
  • A written statement stating that you have no judicial restrictions of any nature to drive.
  • A written statement stating that you are not the holder of another driving license of the same class obtained in another country of the European Union.

The process takes approximately 6 to 7 months and the average cost is about 720 Euros, an amount that can vary depending on the region in the country where you apply and the skills you demonstrate.

Foreigners who wish to obtain their type B driving license in Spain must also justify their residence status as “normal or due to studies” (at least six months).

Observation: If the party interested in obtaining the driving license suffers from an incapacitating illness or disability, he/she can process a special driving license with some restrictions.

Once the person meets all the requirements already mentioned, he/she must go to the Provincial Traffic Headquarters, where the applicant will be declared competent after some tests, theoretical and practical.

It is advisable to hire the services of a driving school since you will need to pass a theoretical test (the test of the DGT to obtain a type B-vehicle permit, consisting of 30 test-type multiple choice questions, out of which you can only miss 3 questions) and a practical test that includes learning the basics and developing the skills required after some driving lessons on the street, which will be easier in the company of the driving instructor.

Once the tests are approved (theoretical and practical), and after approximately one week, you will receive a provisional card valid for three months (DIN-A4).

This provisional card plus a letter L (which must be placed on the left side of the rear window of the car) is provided by the driving school (and must be kept handy when driving to avoid getting a fine). Soon after that, the regular license will arrive by mail to the applicant’s home.

Who needs to change EU plates to Spanish plates?


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The regulations of the European Union establish that whatever the country of this conglomerate where the person lives, your vehicle must be registered where it has its permanent residence.


  • EU citizens who move to Spain must register the vehicles they own from the moment they become residents or owners of a company.
  • If a citizen moves to Spain, he/she has a period of “six months to register again a vehicle already registered in another EU country.”

The registration period (change of Spanish plates) for a car used by a resident in Spain is “30 days and 60 for the change of residence of a EU alien (EU plates) with a vehicle from its original country that will now be in Spain” (Law 38/92 of Special Taxes (LIE, for its initials in Spanish), article 65.1.d and first additional provision). Thus, in case of a traffic report the same will only have grounds based on Article 1 of the General Vehicle Regulations “for lacking the administrative authorization to circulate” or on Article 42 of the same regulation, which states that the owner is fined “for not applying for a temporary registration of the vehicle” prior to obtaining the final registration. The vehicle is immobilized and handed over to customs.

To formalize the paperwork and obtain the Spanish plates after the registration, the applicant must go to the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (General Directorate of Traffic) of the city where he/she currently lives with the following requirements:


  • Vehicle technical inspection card (ITV, for its initials in Spanish). It is worth mentioning that in general vehicles “bought in any country of the European Union do not experience problems to pass the ITV in Spain,” but that is not the case if the vehicle has been purchased in the US in which case certain adaptations are usually required.
  • Printed registration application (obtained with Traffic authorities)
  • Approval or European certificate of conformity
  • Proof of payment of the registration tax
  • Proof of payment of the Property Transfer Tax or as it applies, the VAT, the Purchase Invoice (and its translation), and, of course, your personal documentation.
  • EU regulations state that it is prohibited to register a vehicle in the country where you have a second residence or holiday home. So, “EU citizens who have a second home in Spain (where they spend less than 6 months a year), do not have to register their vehicles in this country.”
  • Students, owners of second homes, pensioners, cross-border workers, self-employed cross-border workers (company vehicles) are considered exempt.
  • If the citizen buys a vehicle abroad “the license plates issued in another EU country can be used in Spain to drive the vehicle to your place of residence.”

Driving with the Spanish license in Europe

Since the Single European License (2013) began to operate, it is legal to drive with the current Spanish license in the countries belonging to the European Union and the European Economic Area. In addition, as of that year (2013), all driving licenses issued in the European Union were provided with a similar format: They are plastic, with a photo and increased safety. However, if you have an old version of the license you can use it until 2033 (when all citizens must have the new format). If you have a provisional driving license, check with the authorities of the European country where you are travelling, since the format is not recognized in many territories. 

To drive with the Spanish driving license abroad

Evaluate these two options if this is your case:

  • Confirm if Spain has signed a bilateral treaty with the country where you are planning to travel (use Spanish embassies or consulates to obtain this information).
  • Apply for an international driving license.

You can contact our solicitors in Málaga if you need additional legal advice regarding to get your driving license in Spain, to change EU plates for Spanish plates or to drive with Spanish driving license abroad.

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