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Old 21.04.2012, 10:20
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Driving License Fiasco

In general I admire the Swiss bureaucratic efficiency but nobody, as they say, is perfect. Hence my question: Has anybody on an L-Permit been able to convert a UK driving license to a Swiss one?

It's a rhetorical question but here's the reason why I ask:

I have had my license taken away and I have to retake my test on the grounds that I didn't have a valid license during the period in which I didn't have a car and never drove.

The last time I owned a car was in the UK back in the 1990s. I came to Switzerland about seven years ago on a temporary work contract, and was issued an L-permit. After that contract my next one was also in Switzerland and I was issued an extension to my L-Permit. This continued for over five years, after which I decided to settle in Switzerland.

A year or so ago I took a well paid job here, got my C-permit, and I've even bought a home here now. Feeling settled and with an income that permits it I decided I would splash out and buy myself a nice car.

The registering authorities now say that because I am in Switzerland for more than five years my license is no longer valid and they have taken it away, until I do a driving test.

My license is for a shifted-car but the car I own is automatic, so I can't use my own car for the test. I also can't hire a shifted one because I am not in possession of a license. So, I will have to pay a driving instructor to take me to the test (and drive me back home if I fail). I have to accept a possibility of failure in the test no matter how I drive, since the evidence of the poor driving standards displayed on the roads indicates that Swiss driving examiners are as equally arbitrary in their issuance of licenses as anybody else. Thirty-one years and five-hundred thousand kilometers of hands-on experience means nothing to them.

Would that an employer in any kind of semi-skilled job ignore such experience in favor of an entry-level test.

My question has some validity though. If I was not able to convert my license while on an L-permit then those five L-permit years should be taken into account. If that's the case I will appeal the decision.

As it stands at the moment, I can drive with L-plates at a reduced speed in the company of a license holder all the way to the German border, at which point I can take off the L-plates and legally accelerate away at the speed of my choice (usually in the 180-240 range when I'm in Germany).

My point is not about the requirement for driving standards, however. The point is on the one hand the law defined my status as "temporary" for five years, and the on the other hand it is defining my status during those same five years as "permanent". It can't have it both ways, so which is it?

Are L-permit holders really required to change their driving license to a Swiss one, even if they don't drive?
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Old 21.04.2012, 10:30
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/siche...umschreib.html

http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/siche...Aaberkenn.html

As I understand it, a foreigner staying in Switzerland for less than 12-months need not exchange their driving licence for a Swiss one.

However all foreigners staying in Switzerland for longer than 12-months need to apply to exchange their licence for a Swiss driving licence within the first year of their arrival in the country (except if they have an 18 month residency permit). EU nationals, US citizens and Japanese citizens may simply exchange their valid driving license for a Swiss one.

In some cases when the foreign driving licence may not be exchanged for a Swiss one, the person may be authorised to take a simplified practical test. If they fail the test then they will have to take the full theory and practical driving examinations. This may also apply to those persons that do not exchange their driving licence within the specified 12 months of their arrival in the country.

PS: I do not drive nor have a license in CH
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Last edited by jrspet; 21.04.2012 at 10:41.
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Old 21.04.2012, 10:51
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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[...]
In some cases when the foreign driving licence may not be exchanged for a Swiss one, the person may be authorised to take a simplified practical test. If they fail the test then they will have to take the full theory and practical driving examinations. This may also apply to those persons that do not exchange their driving licence within the specified 12 months of their arrival in the country.
That's from Zurich. In my canton the Strassenverkehrsamt say five years, "Sie Ihren wohnsitz seit mehr als 5 Jahren in der Schweiz". Also, the ZH exception for "18 month residency permit" implies that the exchange rule is aimed at permanent residents.

So it doesn't really answer the question if you are required to exchange your license while on an L-permit (in fact, it implies you do not need to). On the other hand, one's L-permit years are taken into account after you convert to permanent residency but one is not able to go back in time to correct any anomalies that arise from the contradiction.

Why would anybody on an L-permit who does not even drive in Switzerland want to change their license to a Swiss one in the full expectation that they will need to exchange it back again when they return home? What possible benefit would the Swiss gain from such a requirement?

Maybe I can word the question better: If you try to get a Swiss license (from ZH) while on a 12-month L, will they grant it or refuse? If it's the latter then obviously I can contest my canton's requirement on the grounds that it was impossible to comply (and my first five years were on ZH-issued permits so it is the ZH rules that would be applicable).
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Old 21.04.2012, 10:57
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

The rule is you need to change before the 12 months expires regardless of your permit status. As the law states if you wait until afterr the 12 months then you may need to do written and or practical test.

There are plenty of people who follow the rule and have no issues, so as you have chosen to wait this long then that was your choiice.

Last edited by Wallabies; 21.04.2012 at 11:36.
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Old 21.04.2012, 11:27
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

How about asking if you can take the Kontrolfhart and see what the examiner thinks of your skills as a compromise. We all know how the Swiss love compromise.

P.S. You actually are not allowed to drive in Germany at all as your license has been taken away by the Swiss.
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Old 21.04.2012, 11:30
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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Your comment on the driving standards is relatively harsh and ignorant since as you now already know there are plenty of people who may simply have converted their license and you are assuming the Swiss auithorities tested them.
Concluding that others are ignorant based upon your own false assumption says nothing about the persons you are insulting, but speaks volumes about your own abilities.
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Old 21.04.2012, 11:41
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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How about asking if you can take the Kontrolfhart and see what the examiner thinks of your skills as a compromise. We all know how the Swiss love compromise.
Why should I incur the time expense of doing something if I do not need to? It will cost me around 300 francs in lost wages plus the costs of acquiring a vehicle for the test. Why shouldn't I dispute something that is going to cost me money?

I am not one of those people who simply conform with anything somebody in a uniform or with a rubber-stamp tells me.
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Old 21.04.2012, 11:44
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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As the law states if you wait until afterr the 12 months then you may need to do written and or practical test.
Which law? The one above that only applies in Zurich? You can see that I am in Aargau so why do you think I need to follow Zurich rules? Do you also think you know better than the Strassenverkehrsamt who have told me in writing that it is five years?
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Old 21.04.2012, 12:00
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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That's from Zurich. In my canton the Strassenverkehrsamt say five years, "Sie Ihren wohnsitz seit mehr als 5 Jahren in der Schweiz". Also, the ZH exception for "18 month residency permit" implies that the exchange rule is aimed at permanent residents.
The Rules of the Road are federal. So if you can find something in the law that dispenses you from changing your permit after one year residency... by all means challenge ahead.

This is what your canton says by the way:

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Innerhalb von einem Jahr (seit der Einreise in die Schweiz) muss der ausländische Führerausweis in einen schweizerischen Führerausweis umgeschrieben werden. Nach Ablauf dieser Frist darf der ausländische Führerausweis in der Schweiz nicht mehr verwendet werden.

No exception to be had just because you had a L permit.
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Old 21.04.2012, 12:05
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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The point is on the one hand the law defined my status as "temporary" for five years, and the on the other hand it is defining my status during those same five years as "permanent". It can't have it both ways, so which is it?

Are L-permit holders really required to change their driving license to a Swiss one, even if they don't drive?
The law doesn't care if you're here "temporarily" or not - if you're here for longer than a year, you must change your license. End of.
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Old 21.04.2012, 12:14
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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... by all means challenge ahead.
It will cost me the price of a postage stamp and will have a potential 200-1 return on investment for a two-franc risk.

Last edited by alt-f4; 21.04.2012 at 12:26. Reason: Poster who was being cited has since corrected their error.
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Old 21.04.2012, 12:22
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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The law doesn't care if you're here "temporarily" or not - if you're here for longer than a year, you must change your license. End of.
Unless you are on an 18 month permit, as cited above with links to the original source.

Further, "date of entry" also has a specific legally-defined meaning which does not necessarily imply the time you first came here. That's a fact, because I worked here from 2002-2004 on a temp and de-registered. My current "date of entry" is defined as when I arrived n 2005.

But according to your understanding my canton has got it wrong and should be using the 2002 date and not 2005. End of.
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Old 21.04.2012, 12:25
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

Are you saying that your UK driver's licence has expired and you never exchanged it for a swiss one ?

My husband enquired at the Strassenverkehrsamt and they told him that as long as my Australian driver's licence is current, and I am not driving, no problem. But as we have been in Switzerland more than 12 months, I must change over my licence in order to drive. He did his after 16 months and had no problem (Aussie one was still valid for the purpose, but of course he could not be caught driving with it)...

I am going to test this soon as my Aussie one is due for renewal, and I am allowed to renew it once whilst outside the country. I will renew my Aussie and then attempt to switch it to a swiss one...

I'll let you know how it goes, but I am wondering why the 'swiss' confiscated your UK driver's licence ? My husband handed his with the application for the changeover, but they returned it plus the swiss one. The Aussie one now has a nice sticker that says 'not valid in Switzerland' but he can still legally use it in other countries that recognise an Aussie driver's licence, unless of course it expires....

But in your case, it sounds like if you have not changed your licence over within five years they consider your UK one 'expired' - can you renew your UK one ? Our Aussie ones are valid 5 years maximum...

On the other hand, some would say 'get over it' and go and pay for lessons and pass the test in Switzerland. I got my licence at age 24 under a very tight Australian system (they've actually loosened it up again) and I can tell you that I totally value the 10 or so paid hours of driving lessons - I did have to shop around for a good instructor, but in the end I found my lessons excellent and learnt a lot more technical stuff than I expected...and passed my test first go...

In fact, I will not freak out too much if they require me to do lessons and the test in Switzerland. You know...they do drive on the other side of the road here, and I find it pretty scary to get into a car with someone who is used to the right side, and is now driving on the left...
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Old 21.04.2012, 13:09
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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Are you saying that your UK driver's licence has expired and you never exchanged it for a swiss one ?
My license has another twenty years to go before it expires.

But I think several of the respondees above have misinterpreted the question. Everything pointed out so far indicates that you do not have to change your license if you are on a temporary permit - which makes sense if you think about it.

After all, if somebody is here for a one-year job and fully intends to leave after it is finished they are clearly not required to change their license. Up to 18 months in some cases. But, what if that person after spending a year here only then decides to stay? The law, or at least the layman's interpretations of it given above, would then seem to require people on L-permits to either predict what decisions both they and the migrationsamt are going to make in the future, or to exchange their licenses on or before their last day in Switzerland (which makes no sense at all and simply creates unnecessary expenses for the Swiss authorities).

Or for a more extreme version: I am here on a one-year contract with an L-permit that matches the contract dates. After a year my contract is extended and I am issued a new L-permit to cover the new contract. I drive into work and get fined for driving without a license because it was invalidated immediately upon issue of the second permit?

My take on it is that there is no requirement to change the driving license until you became a resident with a long-term permit, and I only became a resident last year so I am well within the legal time-frame. The important point is thus not my driving license but the exact legal definition of "residence".

Lay people often get this wrong, but it's sometimes useful to seek their opinions in order that one may strengthen one's own arguments, and on the off chance that somebody, such as yourself, might share their own personal experience. Thanks for that, btw.

I think I have got solid grounds for refusing the test, and I do so not because of the test itself, but on a point of principle.

Last edited by alt-f4; 21.04.2012 at 14:20.
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Old 21.04.2012, 13:22
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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I only became a resident last year
How did you ever get a C permit then, as that requires at least five years residency?

Tom
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Old 21.04.2012, 13:36
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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How did you ever get a C permit then, as that requires at lest five years residency?

Tom
Actually it doesn't. The word "residency" probably doesn't appear anywhere in the Swiss Code of Obligations because they tend to have their own laws written in their own languages.

They will have various legal definitions along the lines of:

- permanent resident
- temporary resident
- tax resident

Those are just three I know about for sure, certainly there are other definitions covering such things as cross-border, refugees, domicle, or even returning-Swiss.

I am addressing questions of contradictions that may arise when those at the margins move from one status to another. This is in a little more depth than simplistic interpretations that one might hear down the pub.

NB: I specifically defined "long-term" to provide the context, but you had to edit that out of the quotation in order to make your response "work".
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Old 21.04.2012, 14:25
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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I have had my license taken away
Why did they take your licence away ? Did you get caught driving on it, or did they take it away when you went in to change it over ?
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Old 21.04.2012, 14:33
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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Unless you are on an 18 month permit, as cited above with links to the original source.

Further, "date of entry" also has a specific legally-defined meaning which does not necessarily imply the time you first came here. That's a fact, because I worked here from 2002-2004 on a temp and de-registered. My current "date of entry" is defined as when I arrived n 2005.

But according to your understanding my canton has got it wrong and should be using the 2002 date and not 2005. End of.
I think you don't grasp this properly. For your 2002-2004 period - if you wanted to drive - you would've had to change your permit in 2003. If you then left - that obviously resets your counter to zero. You arrived in 2005, and stayed without interruption - in this current case, if you want to drive now you should've changed in 2006.
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Old 21.04.2012, 14:33
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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I think I have got solid grounds for refusing the test, and I do so not because of the test itself, but on a point of principle.
My experience is that principles always come with a price tag...your's will probably be having to take public transport.

What I don't understand is why you come on here and ask a question and then have a go at anyone that doesn't tell you what you want to hear....
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Old 21.04.2012, 14:34
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Re: Driving License Fiasco

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The registering authorities now say that because I am in Switzerland for more than five years my license is no longer valid and they have taken it away, until I do a driving test.
So we can discuss it on here until the cows come home, but at the end of the day (rightly or wrongly) you now need to take a test if you want a driving licence...

Does seem a bit harsh as you haven't been driving so haven't needed to change it previously, and I know people who have changed their licence after 12 months with no problem other than a tut and a 'you've been naughty' stare from the person at the licence office...
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