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!