How to convert a foreign driver’s license

Arriving in in a new country is always a challenge, and means that a million things need to be checked, changed, sorted and organised. Within this seemingly never-ending list is the need to convert a foreign driver’s license into the local one, in our case a Swiss one.

Googling brings a lot of answers to this, in German or French but since you just arrived, those links are not particularly helpful.

Here is a summary of the different steps you need to take, depending on the issuing country of your current, foreign license.

  1. If the country is an EU or EFTA country or Andorra, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic of Korea, Croatia, Morocco, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, USA, you can simply convert your foreign license into a Swiss one and you are exempt from a “Kontrollfahrt”, a control ride with a driving assessor to ensure you know and are following the Swiss standards of driving/
    • Fill out the application form (available online from your canton’s road traffic department or in print at your local community)
    • Include a coloured passport size photo and a vision test.
    • Take both personally to the road traffic department or the residents’ registration office (Einwohnerkontrolle).
    • Don’t forget to also bring your Swiss ID and/or your “Ausländerausweis” – the original, no copies.
    • If you have a credit card format “Ausländerausweis”, you also need to bring a confirmation of residence (Wohnsitzbestätigung) showing the entry date into Switzerland.
    • Once you’ve handed in all the documents, your new Swiss license will be sent to you by mail. Driving licenses from EU/EFTA states are returned to the country of issue. Other licenses might get a stamp not valid in Switzerland.

Following a decision by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, if you have a license issued in one of the countries mentioned and you forgot or didn’t see the need to convert your license, you can now still do so even after 5 years in Switzerland IF you can prove that you have sufficient driving experience.

Here’s a link to the document of canton Zurich but this new regulation is valid in all of Switzerland.

  1. If you own a license from another country than those mentioned above, the beginning is the same as under point 1. But then, a different path starts:
    • You must now complete the control ride within three months.
    • This control ride may not be repeated. I therefore highly recommend you to up-date your driving skills and take a few driving lessons with a Swiss driving instructor so that you know and understand the Swiss expectations and regulations. Should you not attend the control ride unexcused, you automatically fail the control ride.
    • Once you pass the control ride, you will receive your license by mail.
    • Your foreign license is handed back to you with a remark imprinted “not valid in Switzerland”.
    • If you fail the control ride, there are some tough consequences:
      • Your foreign driving license is revoked.
      • You may no longer drive in Switzerland.
      • If you want to obtain a Swiss Driver’s License, you have to follow the regular application process (see below).


Written by Luitgard Holzeg, Healthy and Safe Away from Home





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