If you are used to walk around the urbanizations in the Spanish coast, you realize that there are plenty of cars with foreign number plates parked for months or even years at the entrance of the house of their owners. All these vehicles are in an irregular situation, which may cause a complaint and have as a result a significant administrative fine for smuggling.
The change of residence has very important consequences in daily life. One of them is the legal situation in which our car will be: a car registered in a foreign country can only circulate legally in Spain during several months. Beyond that deadline, we are required to register it in Spain, following the procedures provided for each case.
Due to the current economic situation the Spanish administration exhausts all possible ways to raise revenue. Nowadays we are detecting an unusual activity of the police inspection, chasing offenses with which the state previously was more tolerant. That’s why resident foreigners, who have maintained in Spain for years without any problems their old cars registered in their home country without worrying about legalizing them, are now very often facing heavy fines and administrative complaints because of this offense.
The vehicle legalization due to a change of residence is a very complicated process, in which different administrations are involved without any coordination between them. If our home country is not a member of the European Economic Community, as in the case of Switzerland or Russia, we must formalize import customs formalities before the car can be tested by the official stations of roadworthiness. In addition, if the vehicle was not marketed in the European Economic Community, we will not have the necessary certificate of conformity, and we will have to instruct an authorized inspector to report on its technical specifications. This requires high costs which, added to the administration fees and the necessary management costs, can make the legalization economically unviable, depending on the situation and the age of the vehicle. However, we can not forget that to unsubscribe a vehicle or to test its roadworthiness can only be made in the country of registration. That means that we should return to the country of origin with the vehicle, if we decide not to legalize it into Spain. In any case, if we are denounced, the fines or the risk to be prosecuted for smuggling can have a much higher cost.
Carlos Prieto Cid, Lawyer