In view of the crackdown on foreigners driving in Spain with foreign plates on their vehicles, many foreigners are becoming interested in exactly what the requirements are in these cases and the procedure which needs to be followed.
It has become a fairly common practice in Spain for foreigners to move to Spain with their vehicle without carrying out the necessary registration in Spain and continuing to circulate with foreign plates. This, however, is illegal under Spanish law after a certain period has lapsed, and can result in steep fines for the driver caught doing so.
How long can I drive with foreign plates before I am required to register the vehicle in Spain?
Non-residents may drive their foreign-registered vehicles (cars, motorbikes and caravans) in Spain for up 6 months before they are required to acquire Spanish plates. This means that, even if you are still resident abroad, but you spend more than 6 months in Spain with your vehicle, it will need to be registered in Spain.
In the case of Spanish residents, however, the moment you acquire legal residency you are required to register your vehicle in Spain, even if the vehicle has not remained in Spain the full 6 months.
There are certain exceptions to these rules in the case of the following:
- Students carrying out studies in Spain
- Cross-border commuters
However, certain requirements must be met to qualify as one of these exceptions.
Transfering an EU registered vehicle to Spain
The procedures relating to importing and registering a foreign vehicle are complex. It is possible to complete the process yourself or to use a company which specialises in providing this service.
In order to register a car in Spain, a vehicle must undergo a technical inspection similar to the UK’s MOT test (“ITV”), for which the owner will need to obtain a Certificate of Conformity for the vehicle from the manufacturer.
In addition, Registration Tax must be paid on vehicles transferred from an EU country, unless the vehicle comes under one of the categories for exemption of this tax. The calculation of this tax depends on the make, model, age and CO² emissions of the vehicle.
Could I be exempt from paying Registration Tax?
There are several different circumstances under which a vehicle can be exempt from Registration Tax (e.g. vehicles for people of reduced mobility, etc.). The most interesting exemption, however, is that of transfer of the habitual residence of the owner to Spain. The conditions in this case are:
- The registration must be carried out within 60 days (from the date of residence or incorporation into the local census)
- The vehicle must have been owned by the title holder for more than 6 months
- The vehicle must have more than 6.000 km
The documentation that needs to be provided for this process and the dealings with the Spanish Traffic Authority and your local Town Hall can make it difficult for foreigners trying to carry out this transaction without any assistance. This is why we recommend you seek the professional services of specialists with experience in carrying out these transactions on a regular basis, to ensure the process is carried out swiftly and in a cost-effective manner.
Gabriella Mary Trussler Rowland
4408 Ilustre Colegio de Abogados de Almería