Posted by: expaticainhelvetica | June 23, 2010

Hold the Wheel and Drive

Watch out, Switzerland.  The powers that be allowed me to painlessly switch my US license to a Swiss driver’s license.


Transferring my license was so simple and it didn’t cost nearly as much as I expected.  The best part?  No new driving test, just fill out some forms, get an eye test, and voila!  Swiss license pour moi.

How does one make this magical change?  See below:

– If you’re living in CH, you can use your foreign license for one year. This is good for procrastinators like me.  Within a year of living here, you are required to exchange your license for a national driving license.   Rumor has it that if you don’t transfer your license within the first year, you’ll have to start from scratch and pass a Swiss driving test.  So, do it within a year.  If not, you’re back to driver’s ed a la 10th grade.

– To transfer your license, you need the following:

  • License exchange request form – you can find it here in German
  • Original license
  • Eye test certificate – Krass Optik in Sihlcity Nord, Enge/Zurich, does tests for 10 CHF, no appointment required  I have a friend who said they did her exam for free.  So, maybe it depends who you get to do the test. When I was there, I didn’t have the energy to argue this.  Either way, it’s still cheaper than most other places which charge between 20 – 50 CHF.
  • Passport photo – I read some where you need two, but they only took one when I went.
  • Swiss Visa or Auslanderausweiss to prove you really are living here – I find this funny, because Switzerland is really a Big Brother kinda place.  The fact they WOULDN’T KNOW that you’re here legally or on a certain visa seems very odd to me.

Once you have all of this, just take a trip to your local gemeindehaus , give them all of the above with 20 CHF. and within a week, you have a new Swiss license.  Easy, ‘eh?

Of course, there are exceptions to this seemingly simple process.  This being Switzerland, if you have an African (except South Africa), Asian (except Japan), Central and South American, Portuguese or Turkish license, you must pass a practical exam. If you fail the exam, you’ll have to take the full exam, written included.  Personally, this rings of subtle racism, but maybe I’m just reading too much into things.



  1. Lucky you…the process was so difficult in England, I drove illegally without a license for 3 years. Angela had to actually take driving lessons and pass a rigorous 2-step test to get her license!

  2. I was also very surprised at the efficient handling of my license request. I don’t want to be a party pooper though, but you will be getting a bill in the amount of some CHF 80 for the processing of your application. That’s still way better than paying several hundred Francs for attending some silly classes 😉

  3. @Dimitri – yes, 80 CHF bill arrived shortly after I posted this. Better than the expectation, but still a bit of a bummer that there was a secret charge at the end. M’eh, I’d expect no less ;-).

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