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-   -   [Drivers licence] Conversion and questions (https://www.englishforum.ch/transportation-driving/5770-drivers-licence-conversion-questions.html)

gooner 21.02.2006 10:14

[Drivers licence] Conversion and questions
Mod note: Please read the WHOLE thread before asking questions. Better yet, see the newest thread here and read that before you post questions.

I have a South African driver's licence. Since I am not planning to leave Swisserland and I would like to convert my licence to a Swiss licence. I understand that I have to make this conversion within a year. I have just found a nugget of information, in very small print (and it's not the 1920 x 1200 resolution on my monitor) that states I have to have registered at my cantonal road traffic office within 14 days of moving to Switzerland. Can anyone confirm this?

I have a permanent contract of employment but an 'L' permit, which I have to renew in November when I hope to get a 'B' permit (I could get an 18 month contract on my apartment, a permanent contract of employment, but an 'L' permit ???).

I have sent an email for information to the Strassenverkehrsamt, but would like to know if anyone has any other info that could be handy.


mark 21.02.2006 12:32

Re: Driver's Licence conversion

Here's the info you need - except that it is all in German :rolleyes:

Bottom line: As a South African you'll need to do a test drive, which must be done within 3 months of your application to change over. Your SA license will be valid for 12 months from the date of your entry in CH, but not after this date.

You'll find the application form for the changeover at the above link. A small tip - you'll be required to have your eyes tested. Fair enough you say... Except that it won't be done at the strassenverkehrsamt! They will make you go off to an optomitrist who will give you the most complex eye test you've ever seen. AFter this, since your licence is valid for the rest of your life you'll never be required to do a test again. So when you are 80 years old and as blind as a bat the strassenverkehrsamt won't want to know... So a good idea is to print the form yourself and get it stamped for the eye test (valid for 2 years) before you hand in your application - it will save you two visits!

As for this reporting yourself to the strassenverkehramt within 7 days - I don't think this is correct. Swiss licenses don't have your address recorded on them, making them kind of useless as an ID document in many situations. If you owned a car you'd have to inform them about it so they could charge you to alter all their silly bits of paper, but I presume you don't own a car.

My advice - wait until your year is almost up, then do this. You might want to enquire as to how long one must normally wait for the test drive.

Hope that helps.

litespeed 21.02.2006 12:36

I'll answer this one.
Within the first 12 months of residence you can drive on your SA licence. You do not need to register with the your cantonal SVA.

However, as soon as you are here for more than 12 months your SA licence becomes invalid here. Within the 24 months of being here you must apply for a Swiss Licence, unless you wish to go through the whole driving test procedure again. The countries required to do a test drive change all the time, I am not sure what the current status is for SA. You should ring and ask.

You can normally download a PDF application from your local SVA website. You will need:
  • Passport picture (x2 I think, not sure but at least 1)
  • Eye test completed and stamped on the form by the Optometrist
  • Your ORIGINAL SA licence
  • Copy of Passport/Resident Permit
You will need to know when/where your licence was issued for each licence class you applied for. Make sure the form is complete otherwise they might sit on it for 1 month like they did with mine, until they have that information.

Some cantons require you to submit the form at a Police station, others direct to the SVA.

litespeed 21.02.2006 12:44

Re: Driver's Licence conversion

Originally Posted by mark

As for this reporting yourself to the strassenverkehramt within 7 days - I don't think this is correct. Swiss licenses don't have your address recorded on them, making them kind of useless as an ID document in many situations.

Actually, the old paper ones do have addresses on them, but these are kanton specific. They are being phased out.

gooner 21.02.2006 13:32

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I got this information...

Thank you for your request. If you would like to convert your drivers licence into a swiss one, you will have to complete the attached form completely including an eye-test by an optician, a colour foto, your permit L or B and your original South African drivers licence. Please come personal to our Cantonal Road Traffic Department in Zürich Albisgüetli. Afterwards you will have to make a control drive with one of our experts. If you pass, you will receive the swiss one. If you fail, you will have to complete the normal procedure including theoretic tests.

mark 21.02.2006 13:36

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Well I am surprised - they answered your question in English instead of informing you that German is the only language they will use! Ok, top marks to them, but we still supplied the same information faster :D

So I guess the bottom line is don't fail that "control drive" - it will end up costing you a fortune!

litespeed 21.02.2006 15:24

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
My advice is find a driving school with and english speaking teacher and do a test "test". He/She will be able to point out the most important things to pay attention to in order to avoid failure. Failure is an expensive option,

litespeed 21.02.2006 15:28

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I would advise attending a driving school (preferably one with an English speaking instructor) and doing a test "test". He/She should be able to help you avoid failure, as failure is an expensive option.

Starting from scratch here will cost you hundreds if not thousands of fränkliiis, hours and humiliation, including First aid course.

Lob 21.02.2006 16:27

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
for the amusement factor, take B/W pictures. It's quite funny ;) :o

The most important things to avoid in that neck of the woods: trams, peds and respecting the 30kph zones ;)

gooner 22.02.2006 08:54

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Since I've got a year to drive before I convert my licence... I'll take a few lessons, get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, get used to left-hand drive cars, and then do their test.

If I convert my licence to a UK licence, do you think I'll have to follow the same procedure? Maybe it's because both countries drive on the correct side of the road?

Thanks for all the input.

mark 22.02.2006 09:38

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I converted to a UK licence about 11 years ago. I'm sure things have changed, but back then it was just a matter of posting the existing one in, and they posted the new one and the old one back to me. No checks were done at all.

I'm not sure if your question about getting a UK licence was just a hypothetical question because you would still have to get a CH licence after 1 year anyway.

Just a few pointers for driving in CH:

1. If you have a "bakkie" you can't put 50 labourers / gardeners on the back of it and drive around
2. Overtaking on the inside is not only illegal and dangerous, but it will get you flashed by the car behind
3. You can't drive at 100kph through residential areas just because you feel like it.
4. Your car has to be roadworthy

I spent 6 months in Cape Town last year, so I know what I'm talking about.. :eek: You'll probably find the SVA a very efficient and non-bureaucratic place in comparison :)

By the way - the fact that you have to do a "control drive" is only because your licence was issued in a third-world country. It used to be that the list of "in" and "out" countries at the SVA was a bit different, but these days it looks a bit like first world countries are in, and others are out. If you were converting a UK licence to CH it would be done without a test.

Mind you, USA is listed as an "in" country and I know many Americans who can't drive manual transmissions (which they curiously call "stick") and whose test consisted of driving around in a car park...(or sometimes, not at all!) So go figure. Also - I'm sure the list of which countries are in or out varies between cantons, as well the requirements!

If you can drive you probably don't want to spend too much money on lessons, but then again if you don't even own a car it might be your only practice. In which case.. check out www.mobility.ch


gooner 22.02.2006 09:50

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Although I am originally South African, hence the licence... I moved to the UK some 12 years ago but never bothered to make any licence change then. I am considering changing to the UK licence first and then after a year to the CH licence.

Ah, I miss the wild-west driving antics of the third world. No cramming 30 people onto my bakkie, no removing the steering wheel and replacing it with a shifting spanner to make room for one more person in the front, no bull-bars for ramming Sunday drivers, no disregarding red lights, no 'the only rule on the road is that there are no rules', no road-rage.

Such a tame place this CH is.

mark 22.02.2006 09:57

Re: Driver's Licence conversion

Originally Posted by gooner
Ah, I miss the wild-west driving antics of the third world. No cramming 30 people onto my bakkie, no removing the steering wheel and replacing it with a shifting spanner to make room for one more person in the front, no bull-bars for ramming Sunday drivers, no disregarding red lights, no 'the only rule on the road is that there are no rules', no road-rage.

So you know what I'm talking about... Well if that's your kind of thing you'll be happy to know that nothing has changed. I even saw a bakkie driving home one night (people on the back of course), except there was no rear tyre - simply driving on the rim like it was completely normal. It was pretty loud I can tell you! I even managed to shock the locals with that story so it must have been bad.

About the UK option - if you are still pretending to be resident this might work, however it would involve a hassle for you since you'd now have to go there and go for an interview at a post office or some other BS, but you'd have to check it out. It might be that the control drive option works out easier?

litespeed 22.02.2006 12:13

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I think the UK option would be a snakes and ladders game. The wrong move could have you back at square one. The worst thing you could do is end up not being in physical possession of a current licence (because the UK confiscated it or it gets lost along the way).

Carrie 26.02.2006 16:41

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I hope what I'm about to write has shock value...

I passed the California Driving Test when I was 18 (with the minimum passing grade) and I've been a mild road hazard ever since. Californians aren't known for being the best of American drivers, by the way.

I came to Switzerland at 23 and used my International Driving License until I was married and had the B-permit. I had got the International Driving License for a small fee in the States before coming over, as I was a member of AAA club in California. No further driving knowledge or testing was necessary. :eek: huh?

With my B-permit and International Driving License in hand, I went down to the Office de Circulation in Fribourg, where they simply gave me the Swiss one for the normal fee. :eek: huh? How lucky was that? :p

Maybe you'll get lucky, too, gooner!

All bad-driving jokes aside, at least I can drive a stick, which is more than the newly-appointed James Bond can say!

Syshack 06.03.2006 14:45

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Hello all,

A good starting point to find a driver instructor speaking English is the following website:

As a general rule, every cantonal Strassenverkehrsamt STVA (Road Traffic Department) has the same requirements to obtain the driver license, but the Kantönligeist ("Cantonal spirit") might lead to some minor differences in their interpretation. ;)
Basically you need to do your driver license in the Canton you are living in. If you have a good reason why you would want to do the driver test in a different Canton (e.g. when working there), you can apply to do so with a special form (usually available as PDF on the website of your STVA).
You can find a list of all STVA and their weblinks here:

If it happens that you must do the whole procedure on obtaining the Swiss driver license, you will need to start with a Swiss First Aid course. From time to time, there are courses available in English here:
(Disclaimer: This is my own company. There might be are other schools available who also offer such courses.)

If you want to test your knowledge about road signs and situations, you may want to have a look here (traffic game available also in English):



gooner 06.03.2006 14:52

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Thank you very much for the info, I appreciate it.


An Luan 19.06.2006 07:39

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
Thanks Mark for referring me to this site.

I am not sure if I am feeling a lil relieved or more worried after reading all these postings. Anyway, a couple of questions:
1. any recommendation for the english driving instructor? how much would it be?
2. will i be using my own car for the driving test or be provided by the examiner (I HAD a US driver's license, and I had to use my own car. Here, I have an auto, and i read postings bout manual?? I do drive a manual in Malaysia, except that it was on the right hand side, same as UK)
3. where will the examiner generally take me to to examine my skill?
4. are the examiners usually fierce/strict/petty? i know that swiss can be very petty about every lil thing..a bit worrying

well, i have decided that if i do fail, i'll make my husband pass and I won't be bothered to take the entire course. I'll just rely on trams, just like any other people out there.

Lob 19.06.2006 09:13

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
have you tried converting your expired US licence to Swiss? I think this is an exchange, even if the validity has expired.

You can take theory in English (or one of many other languages). I'd say that if you get a tutor, you'll likely use his car for the test. In the other thread I did post a link to allow you to search for English-speaking lessons.

The examiner will likely NOT speak English (not want to, that is). I've done 2 bike tests in Zurich and those that I know in the business have said that Zurich is easier than some other Kantons.

Lessons are worth it just to assist you in understanding the rules and regs about tramlanes....! And if you live near the STVA at Albisguetli, you have a great advantage of knowing the streets that they often use!

An Luan 19.06.2006 16:54

Re: Driver's Licence conversion
I have asked out converting US driver's license, however was told it's not possible since it's expired before I got here.

Will it be just a driving test or with theory as well? I do intend to get a tutor to have a better feel of how the test will go.

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