SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

EXPLAINED: How to change over to a Swiss driver’s licence

Moving to Switzerland or already here and want to change your driving licence? Here are the rules.

EXPLAINED: How to change over to a Swiss driver's licence
A car before the Hotel-Restaurant Belvédère in Wallis, Switzerland. Photo by Dave Ruck on Unsplash

As with most countries, Switzerland has reciprocal arrangements with other nations regarding drivers’ licences. 

This means that you can quickly and easily swap over your licence once you arrive, rather than going through the process of getting a Swiss one from scratch. 

To do so, you’ll need to comply with certain rules and swap it over in a limited time frame. 

One year to make the change

Once you arrive in Switzerland, you’ll have one year in which you can drive on your old licence before you need to swap it over. 

This is good news for tourists or anyone who plans to stay less than a year, as they will be allowed to drive on their home country licence in this time. 

READ: A petrolhead’s guide to driving Swiss mountain roads 

Anyone driving longer than a year on a licence from another country will be deemed to be driving without a valid licence and will therefore be subject to certain penalties. 

In some cases, it may require you to complete a new driving test in your canton of residence. 

Your date of arrival is recorded in your Swiss residence permit – so waste no time in trying to make the change. 

Note: While some of our readers have told us that they have had no trouble changing over their licence several years after arriving, the official rule states that the change must be made after a year – so as with everything else in Switzerland, it’s likely to depend on how rule abiding the administrators are in your cantonal municipality. 

What happens when I change my licence to Swiss? 

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to keep your old licence.

If possible you should make a copy, although keep in mind that Swiss authorities will send your licence back to the country of its issue. 

READ: Why now is a good time to buy a car in Switzerland

What information do I need to change my licence?

Besides your existing licence, you will also need a number of other documents to make the change. 

First, you’ll need your cantonal application form, which you can find here.  

You’ll also need a copy of your residence permit, along with your residence certificate (if appropriate). 

Bring with you a colour passport photo which compiles with the relevant requirements, along with a certificate from an ophthalmologist. These certificates cost approximately CHF20. 

While the above applies in the event of a standard licence, a medical certificate will be required for anyone applying for a licence in driving licence classes C1, C, D, D1 or BPT and for class 3. 

Finally, you’ll need to pay a fee. This varies from canton to canton but is likely to be between CHF80 and CHF140. 

Which countries apply?

All arrivals from European and EFTA countries can change their licence simply by complying with the above steps and will not have to take an additional practical or theoretical test. 

The same applies to arrivals from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Korea (Republic), Morocco, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Tunisia and the United States. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

DRIVING

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

There are quite a few things to learn and remember when taking an exam for a driver’s licence, and it's even more daunting in a foreign language. These are the rules in Switzerland.

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

Whether you’re learning to drive in Switzerland or already have a licence from your home country but have to exchange it for a Swiss one (as you must do after 12 months of residency), you will have to take a test — certainly in the former case and likely in the latter one.

The rule is that if your licence was issued by a EU or EFTA country (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), you’ll be able to get a Swiss licence without having to take a driving test.

READ MORE: How to change over to a Swiss driver’s licence

This also generally applies to countries with which Switzerland has concluded an agreement to mutually recognise each others’ licences: Andorra, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Morocco,  Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, and the United States.

Nationals of all other countries — that is, whose foreign driver’s licences can’t be automatically exchanged for a Swiss one — will have to take a test.

What you should know:

The Swiss driving test includes a written exam and a practical road test. There is no such thing as a national test, with each canton administering tests and issuing licences (which, of course, are then valid across the country).

Applications for the theory and the practical exams are made at your local Road Traffic Office (Strassenverkehrsamt in German, Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation in French, and Servizio della circolazione e della navigazione in Italian). 

Addresses and contact information for each cantonal office can be found here.

Can you take the test in English?

In most cantons, theory exams are given in one of the national languages (German, French and Italian). Only a few — Bern, Glarus, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Neuchâtel, Schwyz, Vaud and Zurich — offer the theory test in English.

If you don’t live in one of these nine cantons and you are not fluent enough in German/French/Italian to take the test, a translator may be present, but only one who is certified by your local Road Traffic Office. Contact the department to ask where and how to find a suitable interpreter.

As for the practical driving test, you can request an English-speaking examiner, but there is no guarantee that you’ll get one.

EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

At the very least, you should learn basic driving terms — such as right and left turns, lane change, parking instructions, etc. — in the local language.

These will be taught to you if you take your driving lessons in German, French, or Italian (rather than English), which may prove more difficult to begin with, but will prove useful when the time comes to pass your exams.

SHOW COMMENTS