An exemption from the obligation to exchange the foreign driving license for a Swiss driving license is applicable to members of permanent missions (PM) and international organisations (IO). This exemption is in principle limited to licenses for vehicle categories A (motorbikes) and B (motor cars and motor tricycles whose total weight does not exceed 3500 kg and whose seating capacity, in addition to the driver's seat, does not exceed eight persons).
Persons who are exempted
The following persons are exempt from the obligation to exchange their foreign driving license for a Swiss driving license:
- Heads of mission (PM) - Members of the senior management (IO) (holders of a "B" legitimation card)
- Diplomatic agents (PM) – High ranking officials (IO) (holders of a "C" legitimation card)
- Administrative and technical staff members (PM) - Officials in professional category (IO) (holders of a "D" legitimation card)
- Service staff members (PM) - Officials in general services (IO) (holders of an "E" legitimation card)
- Civil servants on short-term contracts (holders of a "G" legitimation card)
- Non-Swiss members of personnel of the ICRC (holders of an "I" legitimation card)
- Non-Swiss members of personnel of the IFRC (holders of an "L" legitimation card)
- Members of the scientific personnel of CERN (holders of a "P" legitimation card)
- Family members of the above-mentioned categories (holders of a legitimation card or a Ci permit)
Holders of driving licenses in a language other than the official Swiss languages (German, French, Italian) or English must have a valid international driving license, which can be issued, on request and against payment of a fee, by the competent cantonal authority of the place of residence (see contact details at the bottom of the page).
If the international driving license cannot be presented together with the original foreign driving license, the driver must be in possession of a translation of the foreign license, drawn up by an official service (e.g. the local authority responsible for issuing the national driving license, a notary or an approved professional translator).
Procedure for exchanging driving licenses
Persons wishing to obtain a Swiss driving license in exchange for their foreign driving license are subject, with some exceptions, to an examination which consists of a test run for which a fee is charged and, if successful, a fee for the issue of the Swiss driving license.
Persons who fail the test lose their right to exemption from the exchange of their driving license and are no longer allowed to drive a motor vehicle on Swiss territory with their foreign license. They cannot present a new foreign driving license either. They must therefore retake a theoretical and practical test in order to obtain a Swiss license.
Nationals of countries with which Switzerland has a mutual recognition agreement (e.g. European Union countries, the United States of America, Japan, etc., see the list here) can obtain a Swiss driving license without having to take a test. For further information on the steps required to obtain a Swiss driving license, please contact the competent cantonal authority in your place of residence (see contact details below).
Persons required to obtain a Swiss driving license
Persons not listed above are required to exchange their foreign driving license for a Swiss driving license if they have been resident in Switzerland for more than twelve months without having spent more than three consecutive months abroad.