Are you in the process of exchanging your EU driving license to a Swiss driving license? I recently did this with my Dutch license and exchanged it within the Ticino canton of Switzerland. It was an easy process, consisting of only 5 days from sent form to receiving the new card. In this post I highlight the things you need to know to do this, and what to expect with the opticians appointment as well as the price to pay.
Ticino Legal Requirements of Exchanging your Driving License
Did you know you have to switch your international driving license to a Swiss one within 1 year of living in Switzerland? This is required by law to not own an international driving license while living more than a year in Switzerland.
So if you live in Switzerland as an expat, you may drive with a foreign licence for 12 months. After that, you are required to have a Swiss licence by law. If you live in Switzerland for more than 12 months and exchange your driving license late, this is still possible after the 12-month grace period, but you may have to pay a fine.
If you have a licence from an EU or EEA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), you will be issued a Swiss licence without having to take a driving test – that’s easy for us in this scope! Your foreign licence will be then returned to the issuing authority when you send it with the application shared below.
For a licence from another country, you’ll need to take:
- a driving test
- an additional theory exam (for professional drivers)
to certify your fitness to drive.
After handing over your foreign licence and taking the necessary texts, you will be issued a Swiss driving licence on a three-year trial basis or a licence with no expiry date. The document is sent by post within a period of time that varies from canton to canton.
Since I am living in Switzerland for a period of 12 months with my boyfriend, we have both recently followed the local rules of Ticino. He did his before mine, but I have just completed mine too and wanted to share my experience here.
Keep in mind other cantons may have a different form to the one we share below, required information and process, so please check this with your official canton where you are living.
Since living in Ticino for more than a year, it was time that I had to update my valid Dutch driving license to a local Swiss driving license.
For the requirements, I needed to submit to the authorities the following:
- The completed form for the exchange (with opticians appointment)
- My current valid license (which was Dutch)
- Two passport style photographs
- A copy of my Switzerland residence permit (I have B permit)
More Expat Posts about our move and experiences in Switzerland:
Crossing the German to Swiss boarder: our self-organized move abroad
Our first 2 months in Ticino: From Airbnb to Home Sweet Home
Our First Year Living In Switzerland: The ups, downs and everything in between.
The Real Cost of Living in Lugano, Switzerland.
EU Driving License to Swiss Driving License: Exchanging it within 12 months!
The Completed License Exchange Form
For Ticino, the license exchange form can be found online. This form is provided online in PDF form and only available in Italian. So for this, I did use google translate to make sure I was completing the form correctly, since my Italian level language is not that fluent.
It is good to know there are two sections to the form: One side for you to complete and the other side for an opticians to complete.
Your side of the form is easy to complete, simply entering your personal information such as name, date of birth and current address. There are also a few medical questions you need to complete with a simple yes/no answer.
For the opticians side of the form, they will complete this during the examination.
Opticians Appointment Examination
I made an appointment at McOptic in Lugano Grancia for this. I made the appointment online on their site which was easy to do and could make an appointment the next morning. During the appointment, I made it clear that it was for the driving license exchange, as they then give you a different test to the usual eye test – which I was told was also much easier.
I asked why they provide an easier test when its for a license exchange, and I’m not sure if he was joking, but told me a lot of old people live in Switzerland, so their eyes are a bit worse than other country standards but still good enough to drive here. Not sure if he was joking, I’ll let you be the judge of that!
Anyway, the eye test was super easy, putting your head onto a machine’s edge and simply checking the black letters on the white background first, then checking some numbers and red/green circles.
The optician completed his side of the form and then I simply had to pay. Easy peasy!
Good to note that the form on the Ticino site showed this opticians check would be 22 CHF, but it was now actually 19 CHF – which I paid after the appointment.
Current Valid Driving License
I was in possession of a valid Dutch driving license, which I actually switched to when I was living there since I am originally from the UK. So I first had a UK license, exchanged to a Dutch one when I lived there and now exchanging to a Swiss driving license.
You have to include the original card with the application in the post.
Two Passport Style Photographs
For the 2 photographs (35 x 45 mm), these I simply took in a local photobooth at my supermarket. They are the machines where you can take photos also for your passport. The one near by Coop supermarket was usable in English, so I had no issues taking a straight, suitable photo. But those machines are pretty straight forward to use otherwise without the local language.
I cut them to the right size and included them in the application.
Swiss Residence Permit Copy
The last thing I needed to include in the application was a copy of my permit. I first had two L permits based on my fixed term job in Switzerland, but I now finally had B permit with a new permanent job, so this is what I included.
For this, I simply made photos of my permit, put them on a Microsoft word document and printed them out in black and white. There was no specifications that this had to be in colour, so i think you can just choose what to send as long as its a valid permit.
The Waiting Game
I had sent the completed form, 2 photos, my Dutch driving license and my residence permit copy on a Tuesday before work. By Saturday I got my new Swiss driving license back in the post to my home directly. So this was only waiting 5 days. I did/didn’t have to sign for it which interesting/easy and that all was completed.
Price Costs of Exchanging Your License
For my process in December 2023, the cost to exchange my Dutch driving license to a local Swiss license costed me 150 CHF in Ticino. This is based on just exchanging for the license to drive a car.
If you have other categories through this process, keep in mind this would be more around 200 CHF in Ticino. I have also heard that the cost of a new licence varies from canton to canton, so best to check this so you know what to expect.
Together with the opticians appointment of 19 CHF, the total cost was 169 CHF.
Overall I’m happy with the process and how long it took. It was all fairly simple and had no issues. I’ve never been stopped in Switzerland so far, but if I ever do, then I’ll have my shiny new Swiss driving license to show them!
For more official information, always check your official canton’s site as well as Ch.Ch for up to date information!