Exchanging your foreign driver’s licence for a Dutch version

Exchanging a foreign driver’s licence in Switzerland

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You can drive in Switzerland using a foreign driver's licence for one year, after which certain nationalities will need to get a Swiss driver's licence.

Whether your moving to Switzerland or just visiting, the good news is that Switzerland recognises foreign driver’s licences and allows most people to drive for up to one year using their existing licence. However, if you plan on living in Switzerland for more than one year, most nationalities will need to exchange their foreign driver's licence for a Swiss driver's licence.

Who can drive in Switzerland?

For the first year, anyone can drive a car in Switzerland using their foreign drivering licence if they are 18 years old. Younger drivers who may hold a driver's licence in another country will not be able to drive.

If your driver’s licence is in a language not recognised by the Swiss authorities (English, French, German or Italian) you will need to carry either an International Driver’s licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP), which includes a translation of your driving licence. In addition, certain criteria must be met:

  • the licence must have been issued by a competent authority abroad;
  • it must be valid and have been acquired lawfully;
  • the owner must be old enough to hold a Swiss licence in the same category (eg. 18 for cars)


If you will be living in Switzerland for more than a year, everyone will need to convert their foreign driving licences to a Swiss licence before the end of the first 12 months. Some nationalities will be able to convert their licence without taking any test at all, others will need to take the practical driving test, and some will need to take both a theory test and a practical driving test, depending on your nationality and country's agreements with Switzerland.

Bear in mind that applications can take some time to process so don’t leave it to the last moment. If you don’t get a Swiss driver's licence within a year your foreign driver's licence will become invalid and you will be unable to drive in Switzerland.

The only exceptions to this rule are diplomats and those working with certain international organisations and CERN: they don’t need to exchange their foreign licences.

EU/EEA citizens driving in Switzerland

Switzerland allows those from the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein) to exchange their foreign driver’s licence for a Swiss equivalent without having to take a test, as long as it is exchanged within 12 months of taking up residence in Switzerland. As applications can take some time to process, don’t leave it to the last moment; see below on the exchange procces.

If you don’t exchange your foreign driver’s licence within a year, you will be unable to drive in Switzerland and may be required to take the theory and practical tests. If you miss the deadline, check which rules will apply.

Non-European citizens driving in Switzerland

If you’re from one of the following countries you can exchange your foreign driver’s licence by taking only the practical driving test (not the theory test):  

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Korea
  • Croatia
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • North Korea
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Saint-Martin
  • Morocco
  • Taiwan
  • Tunisia
  • USA 
  • Singapore.

However if you fail the test, the full theory and practical driving examinations must then be taken.

Everyone else must pass both the theory test and the practical driving examination. There is a deadline to doing this and individuals must take the Swiss test within three months.

If your driver’s licence is recent

Notwithstanding the exemptions to parts of the examination criteria, if you have held your driver’s licence for less than three years you will be termed a new driver, meaning that you will have to take a minimum of 16 hours of tuition, together with the theory and practical tests.

Exchanging your licence in Switzerland

Each canton has its own traffic office for dealing with driving licences, vehicle tax and inspections and other driving matters. When exchanging your driver's licence the following paperwork need to be submitted:

  • application form
  • original foreign driver’s licence (with translation, if applicable)
  • certificate from a registered optician
  • two colour passport-sized photos
  • proof of residency and/or visa
  • identification.


There is a mandatory eye test to take and this must be done before you apply – the results of the test are confirmed on the application form by the optometrist. You can then submit your application via your local road traffic office.

The fee for exchanging your licence varies depending on the canton.

The driving test in Switzerland

There are two parts to the test – theory test and driving test – but not everyone will need to take the theory part (see above).

You apply for both the theory and practical parts of the driving test at your local road traffic office (Strassenverkehrsamt/Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation or OCAN). You can find a list of these here.

Before you can take the theory exam you’ll need to take a 10-hour first aid course recognised by the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO).

Once you’ve done this, you can take the theory exam. You can buy study guides and practice questions in shops and online, for example here at Fahrscultheorie. In some cantons it may be possible to take the theory exam in English but they are usually in one of the national languages; you can have a certified translator present.

If you pass the theory test you will be issued with a provisional licence/learner’s permit and can start the eight-hour compulsory road awareness course. Only when you have completed this, can you apply for the practical driving test. There are fees for all of these courses and tests.

Once you have passed the test you’ll get a Swiss driving licence by post and may have to either hand in your old licence (and it may return to the authority in your home country) or mark it ‘not valid in Switzerland’. The Swiss driving licence does not expire. Click here for a translation of the Swiss driving licence.

Road rules, speed limits and drink driving in Switzerland

  • Drive on the right hand side of the road.
  • Carry your driving licence and motor insurance certificate with you when driving in Switzerland.
  • Keep a warning triangle in the car.
  • The speed limit is 50km/h in urban areas, 80km/h on open roads and 120km/h on motorways – if caught speeding there can be on-the-spot fines.
  • Drink-driving limit is 50mg per 100 ml of blood (less than the UK limit of 80mg/100 ml).
  • It’s illegal to use radar detection equipment and you must deactivate this function on a satnav.
  • You should use dipped headlights or daytime running lights during the day at all times – or risk a fine.
  • Hitchhiking is not allowed on motorways or major roads


Read more about driving regulations, importing a car, car registration, road taxes and parking in our guide to driving in Switzerland.

Road and traffic information in Switzerland

Federal Roads Office (FEDRO): up-to-date information on roads and traffic in Switzerland

More information

 

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Updated 2015.

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10 Comments To This Article

  • George posted:

    on 23rd August 2016, 20:13:10 - Reply

    Because your country is corrupt and a license can be bought there instead of having to take any tests. That's why there's all the hassle.
  • Kazakh posted:

    on 17th July 2016, 17:20:22 - Reply

    My country is not on the list, so it implies that I have to take: 1) first aid course 10 hrs; 2) theory test; 3) driving test; 4) certified optician test. Jeez, this is like getting first time driving licence! I've been accident-free driving for 20 yrs, why all this hassle?
  • asshlaymolina posted:

    on 28th December 2015, 13:08:24 - Reply

    If you will be living in Switzerland for more than a year, everyone will need to convert their foreign driving licences to a Swiss licence before the end of the first 12 months.
  • SG posted:

    on 28th August 2015, 00:37:26 - Reply

    This information is not correct, at least not for all cantons. In canton Zurich, citizen from USA, New Zealand, Australia and many others are also exempt from the Kontrollfahrt. See website of Strassenverkehrsamt Zuerich, http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/sicherheitsdirektion/stva/de/StVAaw/AWumschreib.html
  • adrian posted:

    on 28th February 2014, 14:53:16 - Reply

    i have a driver licence in Dubai and Philippinnes and i ve been staying in Switzerland for almost 4 years now. Now i want to chage my driver licence to switzerland licence, is this still possible?
    many thanks,
    Adrian
  • Obs posted:

    on 20th July 2013, 15:22:28 - Reply

    For some countries, the 12-month limit is soft -- the license isn't valid after 12 months, but you can exchange it later without taking any driving tests. I.e. if you miss the deadline, check with the verkehrsamt before you start booking lessons..

    Evgeny, it would help if you mentioned who you're referring to and what's wrong. Your current comment isn't very helpful.
  • Evgeny Polomoshnov posted:

    on 18th May 2013, 09:11:13 - Reply

    your information about the exchange of the driving licence is incorrect!
  • Petros Avlitis posted:

    on 18th October 2012, 10:17:05 - Reply

    Something is wrong with the form here:
    1. The fee is 140 and 20 CHF
    2 . The bill is 140 CHF

    Than you
  • Petros Avlitis posted:

    on 18th October 2012, 10:14:51 - Reply

    It is still valid, with a few changes:
    1. The fee is 140 20 CHF now (10/2012)
    2. The form submission can be done at your local Police station, driving licence department. You have to have your residence permit with you and 1 recent photo. You have 2 months to pay the bill (40CHF)
    3. They keep the old licence. You get a temporary one. With it and your Residence Permit you can drive anywhere in Switzerland ONLY for two months.
    3. They keep the old Driver's Licence
    4. The form can be found, downloaded and printed online. Check your City's site.
    5. The whole procedure (form finding, filling printing, eye test, submiting, getitng new licence) took me 3 days.
    6. Everything is copied from your old licence.
    7. I take the tram anywhere too!
  • Thanks posted:

    on 29th August 2012, 18:18:09 - Reply

    I hope this procedure is still valid...