I have a fairly specific question regarding my international driving permit that I picked up at AAA.

My family and I recently moved to Spain for my job. Shortly after arriving we received our Spanish residency permits. I have been told that my international driving permit is only valid for six months after I have received my residency. However, the driving permit states that it is valid for one year after the date of issue.

Because I don't yet speak Spanish well enough to contact the DGT, I'm not able to figure this out.

Question: Is the international driving permit length of one year negated after receiving my residency permit in Spain?

Note: I am from the United States (which does not have a reciprocity agreement with Spain).

  • 1
    It's entirely possible that the international driving permit itself remains valid for one year (e.g. to drive in some other countries) but that Spain requires you to obtain a local license within six months of becoming a resident. Similarly, your US license is presumably still valid in the US, even after your IDP expires or becomes invalid to drive in Spain.
    – Gala
    Dec 18, 2014 at 19:48
  • @Gala, this seems more answer worthy than comment worthy. You point is well stated - different rules govern residents and regular visitors/travelers. Truthfully, I hope you're wrong, but I have the suspicion that you're correct.
    – James Hill
    Dec 19, 2014 at 10:58
  • Unfortunately I was not able to find solid info on this six-month rule. Maybe someone who knows Spain better than I do will post a definitive answer, otherwise I will probably write one based on my comment in a few days.
    – Gala
    Dec 20, 2014 at 0:19
  • 1
    The IDL is nothing more than a translation of your driving license, so the real question is how long can you drive with your US driving license.
    – Dirty-flow
    Dec 21, 2014 at 7:35

1 Answer 1


The US embassy site ( http://madrid.usembassy.gov/citizen-services/faq-spain.html ) states that since the US does not have an agreement with Spain, you have to take the driving test (theoretical and practical, or maybe just one, I have no idea as I don't live in Spain, but a compulsory medical test also for those who just exchange the license is mentioned) and go through the usual bureaucratic process to get a Spanish driving license.

Also the DGT website (warning: I speak Italian and not Spanish, but I checked my understanding of the Spanish text with google translator and it matches), under the section dedicated to permit exchange: https://sede.dgt.gob.es/es/tramites-y-multas/permiso-de-conduccion/canje-de-permisos/ has a section dedicated to each situation that allows you to exchange your license, with PDFs available also in English. The situations listed are:

  1. Exchange for permits acquired in EU/EEA

  2. Exchange for permits acquired in non-comunitarian countries (Andorra, Korea, Japan, Switzerland and Monaco)

  3. Exchange of permits obtained in countries with agreements

and then other stuff that is not relevant for you unless you're a diplomat or can prove you're a professional driver.

The US do not appear anywhere, and all the texts under those sections mention an "agreement" (basically licenses need to have been obtained after the agreements). If the US were anywhere to be found, it would appear in 2. along with those countries, which by the way aren't mentioned in the list of countries with agreements (but I guess there is an agreement since it's just them and not others, plus the PDF with the instructions mentions the agreement), so the website is pretty weird.

The IDP is valid for 1 year, but that doesn't stop Spain from requiring that you obtain/convert the permit within 6 months. The IDP is just a translation of your US license. It's not like your US license goes bad if you live in Spain either. All countries do this AFAIK.

Upon further resesarch in Spanish on the internet, I found other people complaining about the US or other countries not being mentioned at all, and people asking about this. Usually it ends with someone saying your need to take at least an exam...

I guess you should start to learn Spanish ASAP and ask the institutions directly and then proceed, and/or find a driving school specialized on expats that can help you pass the exam without actually learning a decent level of spanish (but I bet they'll make you pay a lot more for it than standard schools).

  • Thanks for your detailed response. My research has netted the same results. There seems to be a gray area, or at the very least, a poorly documented set of rules.
    – James Hill
    Dec 23, 2014 at 7:48

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