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Old 06.01.2015, 00:20
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Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Hi,

I'll be moving with my wife to Zurich in Feb/March this year - we're looking forward to it!

I've been reading the forums and it looks like we can simply convert our licenses to Swiss drivers licenses. I have a WA license and my wife has a CA license.

I saw that you need to have the original paperwork when the license was issued? is this still the case? what if we do not have this and won't be going back to the states for a while so no access to the DMV in WA or CA? We do, however, have the actual license with us.

Also, how does it work when driving back in the States? We go back 1-2x per year, both to WA and CA. Will the US licenses be confiscated once they are converted to swiss? or do we keep them? If the former, can you drive like normal back in the states? Presume renting a car will be difficult?

Thanks in advance
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Old 06.01.2015, 00:41
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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...I saw that you need to have the original paperwork when the license was issued? is this still the case? No. If the license was issued less than 3 years before moving here, you will need documentation to prove you've been driving longer. I used a printout of my driving record from my state. If the license is more than 3 years old you won't have any problems.

Also, how does it work when driving back in the States? You drive on your U.S. license, provided it has not expired. You will need to have insurance sorted, though.

Will the US licenses be confiscated once they are converted to swiss? or do we keep them? U.S. licenses aren't exactly "converted" to Swiss. They remain valid in the U.S. and you drive on a Swiss license here. You can drive as normal, except your license will have a sticker or stamp saying it is not valid in Switzerland. The license is not confiscated, but they do take it when you're "converting" and give you a photocopy in the interim.

Can you drive like normal back in the states? Sure, provided you follow the laws and have insurance for what you're driving.

Presume renting a car will be difficult? Not really. Insurance is the only thing to sort. If you no longer have a U.S. policy then you'll have to pay the rental companies' extortionate fees...and sometimes you are stuck with the prepaid gas option as well.

Thanks in advance
See answers above in blue.
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Old 06.01.2015, 07:35
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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Presume renting a car will be difficult?


We found it easier. The cost was less than half of what we would have paid if we were USA resident.
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Old 06.01.2015, 07:51
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Thank you 3wishes and bananahead - really helpful. My wife's CA license was issued in 2011 and my WA license was issued 2010 so no issues.

Is there anyway to do this online or do I need to go to the DMV equivalent?
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Old 06.01.2015, 08:53
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Just to say we had no problem in hiring a car using our Swiss licences when we last visited the States in 2007. I booked it online at the same time as I booked the flights, picked the car up and dropped it back again when we'd finished a month later as normal.
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Old 06.01.2015, 09:04
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Don't really know if this is a good idea or not, but if you're concerned with renting back in the States, you can always photo copy your US licences (both sides), before surrender, cut to size and plastify them.

At least that way, you could show that you were once a bona fide US licence holder ..... but realistically, it shouldn't make any difference.
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Old 06.01.2015, 10:12
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

There's no way to do it online. You have one year to get your Swiss license once you have arrived. Fair warning, the clerk at the Lausanne DMV spoke no English and we had to do it all in French. Don't forget to stop at an eye exam/eye glass store on the way to the DMV to get your eyes checked. You have to bring your test results with you to the DMV.
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Old 06.01.2015, 10:25
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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There's no way to do it online. You have one year to get your Swiss license once you have arrived. Fair warning, the clerk at the Lausanne DMV spoke no English and we had to do it all in French. Don't forget to stop at an eye exam/eye glass store on the way to the DMV to get your eyes checked. You have to bring your test results with you to the DMV.
In most cantons you can fill out the application form online, print it off and take it with you when you go to exchange the licence it saves time having to fill it in at the office and means you can translate the bits you don't understand. They also give you a checklist of all the documents you need to take with you and a list of the recognised opticians for the eye test. You also need photos.

The form for Vaud is here which us useless for the OP since he us in Zurich but may be useful for others.

http://www.vd.ch/fileadmin/user_uplo...conducteur.pdf

Here's the info for Zurich ( in German)

http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/siche...umschreib.html
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Old 06.01.2015, 10:34
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

AGREED on the cheaper rental car - the non US license has saved me a LOT of money renting with Budget - just makes sure you note that you live in Switzerland and enjoy the savings!!!

http://www.budget.com/budgetWeb/home/home.ex

As for my license, I kept it till it expired.... and never found a need for it again...

All the best!

-D

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We found it easier. The cost was less than half of what we would have paid if we were USA resident.
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Old 06.01.2015, 10:38
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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Hi,

Also, how does it work when driving back in the States? We go back 1-2x per year, both to WA and CA. Will the US licenses be confiscated once they are converted to swiss? or do we keep them? If the former, can you drive like normal back in the states? Presume renting a car will be difficult?

Thanks in advance
I also have a WA drivers lisence, I went online before leaving and claimed I had lost mine and they mailed me a new one in two weeks. I have been lazy on the conversion process (been here 6 months), but my plan is to keep the "replacement" lisence and use the "original" to convert.

Happy travels
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Old 06.01.2015, 14:49
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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In most cantons you can fill out the application form online, print it off and take it with you when you go to exchange the licence it saves time having to fill it in at the office and means you can translate the bits you don't understand. They also give you a checklist of all the documents you need to take with you and a list of the recognised opticians for the eye test. You also need photos.

The form for Vaud is here which us useless for the OP since he us in Zurich but may be useful for others.

http://www.vd.ch/fileadmin/user_uplo...conducteur.pdf

Here's the info for Zurich ( in German)

http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/siche...umschreib.html
Thank you for this - very helpful.

Regarding the eye test - does this have to be done at an opticians in Switzerland or can I take an eye test in the UK (we currently live in London). Or is the eye test done at the office where we exchange the license?

Thank you others for your responses as well. RFreeman I'll checkout WA DMV - I already renewed my license 5 years ago online so I think for the next renewal I'll have to take eye test and get a new picture.... I'll check it out as if I can get away with a new license now that would be brilliant.
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Old 06.01.2015, 14:57
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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Thank you for this - very helpful.

Regarding the eye test - does this have to be done at an opticians in Switzerland or can I take an eye test in the UK (we currently live in London). Or is the eye test done at the office where we exchange the license?

Thank you others for your responses as well. RFreeman I'll checkout WA DMV - I already renewed my license 5 years ago online so I think for the next renewal I'll have to take eye test and get a new picture.... I'll check it out as if I can get away with a new license now that would be brilliant.
The eye test has to be done in Switzerland. There is a place on the form that the optician fills in so it's best to print off the form and take it to the optician with you. The eye test is really simple and should only cost 15-20 chf.

As for you US licence, since it will be returned to you along with your a Swiss one and will still be valid in the US should you need to use it I don't really see the point in applying for a new one.
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Old 06.01.2015, 15:35
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Hi,

Most of your questions have already been answered. But here are a couple of additional points:

a. In Zurich, they insisted that I have proof of at least 5 years of driving history. I had to wait a few months (till my next trip back to the US) and get a letter from my DMV indicating when my license was originally issued.
b. Once in CH, You can send the forms by mail. I got my Swiss license in 4 days and the US license was sent back a few days later.

Thanks,
KO
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Old 06.01.2015, 18:00
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

One more thing that may or may not apply in your situation, OP. Your license is issued in the name on your passport (at least in Bern).

I moved here right after getting married, so my passport still had my maiden name. The Swiss license was issued with that, and then once my passport was changed I took it and the license back and got a new one with the married name.

You don't need to bother getting a duplicate license, or photocopying it.

As for renting in the States - yes, you can sometimes get better deals (including insurance in the cost) if you say you live in CH and show your Swiss license. Just do a search online and see what pops up. You might be surprised.
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Old 08.01.2015, 21:20
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Thanks all
I moved here last May and am just now getting around to the whole license thing. Will post my experience in the zurich area after I get my eye test.
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Old 08.01.2015, 22:28
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

I use my Swiss driver's license whenever I go back to the US because, for whatever reason, my Michigan/US license had to be marked invalid in order for me to convert it to a Swiss license. So it seems that I am no longer even able to have a US license as long as I have a Swiss one (I was here on a B permit at the time -- as a US citizen with a Swiss husband). This was in the kanton of Zurich. I do still have the actual Michigan driver's license card, but it was marked invalid by Swiss authorities.

That was in 2010. I was told that rules have changed since then and that a test is now required to obtain a Swiss license (you can no longer simply have it converted to a Swiss one). I'm not 100% sure about that, though.

Does anyone know?
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Old 08.01.2015, 22:41
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

Thank you all for the replies. Golface8 - would be great to hear your experiences.

Pancakes thx for your view - hopefully my US license won't be marked by Swiss authorities as invalid... I'd like a current US license because I don't want to have to re-take the drivers test when I eventually repatriate back to the US.

Let's get the facts from Goldface8 cheers
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Old 08.01.2015, 23:08
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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...hopefully my US license won't be marked by Swiss authorities as invalid...
Your U.S. license will be marked invalid - for Switzerland. It is still 100% valid for the U.S. so long as it is not expired. Depending on your canton you will either have a sticker or a stamp on the back of the license.

If you're really that worried, go ahead and get a duplicate license. Let your original (issued more than 3 years ago) get the stamp/sticker here in CH. Then use the duplicate in the States. But it's really not necessary.
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Old 08.01.2015, 23:20
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

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Your U.S. license will be marked invalid - for Switzerland. It is still 100% valid for the U.S. so long as it is not expired. Depending on your canton you will either have a sticker or a stamp on the back of the license.

If you're really that worried, go ahead and get a duplicate license. Let your original (issued more than 3 years ago) get the stamp/sticker here in CH. Then use the duplicate in the States. But it's really not necessary.
Thank you for that! I'm really not sure why I thought it was invalid in the US, and I apologize if my post caused any confusion. (I think my US license has expired by now, though, anyways -- not even sure where it is! ).
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Old 16.01.2015, 17:21
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Re: Converting US WA/CA License to Swiss in Zurich and Driving back in the US.

So here is my wife and my experiences in converting our US licenses (state of Missouri) to Swiss licenses in Zurich Kanton.

Completed the eye exams at our local optician (optiker) office. Cost was 15-20 sfr. My exam was actually completed in Zug Kanton so the Kanton doesn't matter. The tests took 10-15 minutes and were a basic read the chart and peripheral vison tests.

We then visit the strassenvehrkehrsamt with the following item:
-completed application (with eye test information)
-resident permit ID card
-existing US drivers license
-ID photo from one of the photo booths

It turns out my wife and my situations were different as we both had Missouri licenses but issued at different times as we were married in 2013 and she changed her name requiring a new license

- my missouri license had no issue date, only an expiration date (2017). Initially this was going to be a problem and would have required a letter from the state of Missouri showing the issue date. Fortunately the lady helping us asked her supervisor who found a letter from another Missouri driver in the past stating the issue date was six years before the expiration. With the letter they had my documents were complete.

-my wife's Missouri license was a new version and actually had an issue and expiration date. Unfortunately the issue date was July 2013 (name change in June due to marriage). Her date of entry to switzerland was in June 2014. When they processed her license application it provided her a learners license which requires 2 driving classes (about 900 sfr) in the next year. However, the lady helping us instructed that if my wife can show evidence of a license for just one additional month she will be issued a full license without the learners requirement. Thankfully my wife did have a license longer so once we receive proof of this using picture of old license or letter from state we can email it to the strassenvehrkehrsamt amt referencing her PIN number and her license will be updated.

We will both receive our licenses in the post in about a week. I'm sure they will be accompanied with the invoice as well.
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