An EU directive, 2012/126/EU, which comes into force on 19 January means that there will be changes to driving licence rules for some expatriate residents in Spain. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32006L0126:EN:HTML
The EU law is intended to “harmonise” licensing throughout Europe so that drivers from countries with permanently valid licences (e.g. France), or licences of very long validity (e.g. the UK), will have to comply with the same rules as residents of the countries in which they live, and which issue licences for set periods of time. These drivers will now have to take a medical test every ten years if under 65, or every 5 years if over 65. The rules will apply to all British drivers in Spain once they have been resident here for two years, and Trafico will impose a €200 fine on anyone who has failed to do so.
The medical tests are taken in specific centres known as centros de reconocimiento, ( link to list below 1 ) and comprise a manual dexterity test (a hand-eye coordination test rather like a computer game) and an eye test. Providing the test is passed, Tráfico will register the licence holder in the Spanish drivers’ census: from that moment, drivers will have to renew their licences as the Spanish currently do; they will also be subject to Spain’s penalty points system.
It appears that British drivers will be able to keep their British licences, since the change relates specifically to medicals and the penalty system. Because drivers will be registered without a new computer-generated Spanish driving licence being issued, those attending the medical will therefore need to take a photograph for Trafico’s records.
Clearly, however, drivers have the option of not just taking the medical, but of changing their licence once and for all to a Spanish licence: the only reason many have not done so is because of the medical anyway, and it is important to note that failing to tell the DVLA that one is resident in Spain is an offence in the UK. Many (if now not all) of the centros de reconocimiento undertake all the paperwork necessary to make the change to a Spanish licence in addition to performing the medical.http://www.dgt.es/portal/es/oficina_virtual/dir_telefonos/centros_rec_conductores.do?tit=%BFD%F3nde+se+puede+solicitar%3F&provincia=SANTA+CRUZ+DE+TENERIFE&poblacion=TENERIFE
So presumably now, if you get stopped by the police, and you have an unencrypted British licence AND are a resident (i.e. here for more than 183 days a year) and you have no medical certificate, you will be handed a fine for 200€. Nice one! source: Janet Anscombe