Exchange of driving license

Overview

In Switzerland, it is possible to drive with a non-Swiss driver's license for one year.

Within the first year of residence you must apply for the Swiss driver's license. You should apply for this when you are in your permanent accommodation here in Switzerland (not hotel, etc.) and ideally well before the year is up.

If you are in possession of a valid driver's license or a valid international driver's license, it is usually not a problem to get a Swiss license. You get the license in the category that is mentioned on your valid license.

 
 
Checklist
 
  • Complete form "exchange of driver‘s license"
  • Get eye test done at certified Swiss optician
  • Take some driving lessons and sign up for a driving test if you are not exempt from this rule
  • Gather all necessary documents and take them to the road traffic department in order to get your license exchanged

Need to know

From the date of your registration, you have 365 days to exchange your foreign driver's license into a Swiss driver's license

Driver's licenses which do not conform to the standard Latin alphabet must be officially translated into either German, French, Italian or English

A test drive is required when the existing license is issued by a country which is not a member of the EU or EFTA. Exceptions to this rule are Australia, USA, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore. People with a license from these countries are not subject to a test drive

An eye test from a certified Swiss optician is needed in order to exchange your license. Foreign eye tests are not valid

How to proceed

*Special note on US/Canada driver's license at the bottom of this section

  • Download the "exchange of driver's license" form which can be found on the road traffic authority website from your canton of residence
     
  • Fill out the form
     
  • Go to a certified Swiss optician to do the eye test. This test usually costs around CHF 10-20. With most opticians, no appointment is needed. Make sure you bring your "exchange of driver's license" form with you as the optician will have to fill out one section of the form
     
  • Once you have completed the form and the eye test, gather these documents along with your original driver's license, a coloured passport sized photo and your work/residence permit and bring them in person to the road traffic authority in your canton of residence
     
  • The road traffic authority will verify your identity, collect your documents and will send you the Swiss driver's license by mail within 2-3 weeks. During this period, you are allowed to drive with a copy of your foreign license
     
  • Important: If your driver's license is subject to a test drive, it is very important that you take a couple of driving lessons prior to actually taking the driving test. In order to find a driving instructor close to your home, please check the Hello Switzerland online/app directory

 

US/Canadian driver's license

If you have a US or Canadian driver's license, it is likely that your license either doesn't show the issue date or the date may be very recent e.g., less than one year.

As this is not ideal, it needs to be addressed before you do the license exchange. In order to get the Swiss driver's license, you need to prove that you have had a driver's license for longer than one year before entering Switzerland.

Ideally, you should provide evidence that you have had a driver's license for many more years (if that is the case). If you can only prove one to two years, the insurance company might consider you as a newly qualified driver, which may lead to a higher insurance premium.

In order to find the records which prove that you have had your license for many years, you can either contact the driving school where you passed your test or other institutions such as your local DMV office, your car insurance provider, etc.

The US Embassy or Consulate in Switzerland can also help you.

Where to find help

Check www.helloswitzerland.ch/cars to download the "driver's license exchange" form for your canton of residence.

Where do you have to go? What forms are required? Do I really need to take a driving test?

 

Let the experts handle it for you

Markus Häfeli founded Autociel in 2002.

Markus and his team of auto experts is here to advise you on all matters related to renting, leasing, purchasing or selling cars.

 

How much does it cost

Costs vary from canton to canton. The exchange of driver's license will cost approximately CHF 100.

If you are subject to a test drive, the cost for the test drive will be around CHF 150.

Driving lessons with a driving instructor cost around CHF 90 / lesson.

 
 

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