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Switzerland – Driving Licenses

If you are planning on driving in Switzerland, it is important to understand the rules and regulations around driving licenses for foreign nationals. In this article, we will answer some common questions about driving licenses in Switzerland.

General Rules for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals can use their own driving license for up to 12 months in Switzerland. After this period, they must exchange their foreign driving license for a Swiss driving license. If the foreign license is not in a language that can be understood in Switzerland, an official translation must be obtained.

It is important to note that some countries have agreements with Switzerland that allow for a direct exchange of their driving license, while others require a driving test to be taken.

License Exchange Agreements

Switzerland has driving license exchange agreements with many countries, including all EU/EFTA member states. This means that citizens of these countries can exchange their driving license for a Swiss driving license without having to take a driving test.

Citizens of countries that do not have a driving license exchange agreement with Switzerland will need to take a driving test to obtain a Swiss driving license.

Exchanging, Obtaining, and Renewing a Driving License

To exchange your driving license in Switzerland, you will need to visit your local road traffic office (Strassenverkehrsamt) and provide the following documents:


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  • Your original driving license
  • An official translation of the license if it is not in a language that can be understood in Switzerland
  • A recent passport photograph
  • Proof of residency in Switzerland (e.g. residence permit or rental agreement)
  • Proof of passing a basic first aid course, if this is not already included in your foreign license

To obtain a new Swiss driving license, you will need to take a driving test. The test includes a theory exam and a practical driving test.

To renew your Swiss driving license, you will need to visit your local road traffic office and provide the following documents:

  • Your current Swiss driving license
  • A recent passport photograph

You will also need to take a visual and medical exam every 15 years to renew your driving license.

You can find more information about exchanging, obtaining, and renewing a driving license on the website of the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO): https://www.astra.admin.ch/astra/en/home/themes/driving-licence.html

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recognized in Switzerland and can be used in combination with a foreign driving license for up to 12 months. After this period, the foreign driving license must be exchanged for a Swiss driving license.

Penalty System for Motoring Offences

The penalty system for motoring offences in Switzerland is strict and fines can be high. For minor offences, such as speeding or illegal parking, fines are typically issued on the spot. More serious offences, such as drunk driving or causing an accident, can result in fines, license suspension, or even imprisonment.

If you commit a motoring offence in Switzerland, the fine will be based on your income. This means that the fine can be much higher for wealthy individuals than for those with lower incomes.

In conclusion, foreign nationals can use their own driving license in Switzerland for up to 12 months, after which it must be exchanged for a Swiss driving license. The exchange process varies depending on the country of origin and may require a driving test. An IDP is recognized in Switzerland and can be used in combination with a foreign driving license. The penalty system for motoring offences in Switzerland is strict, with fines based on income and the potential for license suspension or imprisonment for serious offences.


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