Thursday, June 3, 2010

Getting a drivers license for Spain for Americans

Like many people who have moved here, I’ve been happily driving on my American license for the last two years.

I finally decided to do something about my situation after I realized that if I ever got into an accident, I could be in serious trouble with the law. For normal traffic stops, the police usually ignores you if you can convince them you are just visiting.

My first finding was that although you can drive with a US license for six months, you cannot convert it to a Spanish one.

Luckily I happen to be a citizen of a nearby European country that does allow for conversions and my sister happens to live there. So I registered for residence using her address and immediately applied for my converted license.

Today the letter arrived from my sister with a brand new EU license.

Normally non-EU converted licenses carry a code 70 on the bottom indicating the original country before the conversion. A license with a code 70 USA is NOT valid in Spain and the Spanish will generally refuse to convert it to a Spanish license. Luckily for me, they forgot to put this code on the license, so now I am home free.

Next step is that I have to register my license with Traffico and then I have to get the medical exam. There’s some debate about whether foreign residents need to do the medical exam, but in the case of an accident, the lawyer from the other party could argue that you are not legally permitted to drive in Spain and thus automatically at fault.

After this, I will attempt to get myself added to the insurance policy. We’ll see whether I find someone that recognizes my pre-EU driving record.

And then I’ll be legal! Yippee!


Charles Butler said...

I think you will find that you've discovered the fountain of youth. The insurance company will declare you 18 years old.

santcugat said...

Wonderful. I suppose it's an improvement over technically not being allowed to drive at all.

If I leave myself off the policy, according to the contract the policy is still valid, but would the amounts are reduced proportionally by the amount that we should have paid extra.

Perhaps it's enchufe time at my favorite caja again... it looks like they sell insurance.

Charles Butler said...

If I recall, the problem is that North American drivers licences don't carry a first-issued date. So they claim to have no way of knowing how long you've been at it. They knocked 32 years off my age, by the way.

santcugat said...

I have a bunch of old drivers licences from way back (I had them punch holes in them instead of confiscating them)... would that make a difference?