Obtaining a Swiss Driving Licence
Find out how to obtain a Swiss driving licence: what to do and who to contact...
The steps to obtaining a Swiss licence are:
- Complete ten hours of first aid instruction (Nothelferkurs/premier secours)
- Successfully complete the driving theory test
- A provisional licence/learner's permit is issued
- Complete eight hours of road awareness theory courses (Verkehrskunde/sensibilisation)
- Successfully complete the practical examination
- Obtain a Swiss driving licence (for new drivers, two further training courses will be necessary over the next 3 years)
ch.ch has a page dedicated to obtaining a driving licence
The driving theory test
The Swiss driving test includes a written exam and a practical test. Applications for the theory and the practical test are made at the local Road Traffic Office (Strassenverkehrsamt/Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation - OCAN). There are no compulsory lessons for these examinations, however ten hours of first aid classes (Nothelferkurs/premier secours) and eight hours of road-traffic awareness (Verkehrskunde/sensibilisation) with a certified organisation are mandatory.
The theory book and road traffic book are available in English and some driving schools provide theory papers in other languages. Study books for the theory test can be obtained from most driving schools and from bookshops. The theory test can only be taken in one of the three national languages: French, German or Italian. In some cantons, for example Zürich and Bern, it is possible to take the theory test in English or in one of the three national languages: French, German or Italian. For foreigners that do not speak one of these languages, a translator may be present. However, the translator must be certified by the Road Traffic Office or the OCAN.
Provisional driving licences
A learner's permit/provisional driving licence (Lehrfahrausweis/permis d'élève conducteur) is issued once the applicant has successfully passed the theory test. In order to qualify to take the theory test, students must prove that they have carried out the compulsory ten hours of first aid instruction. Training for the first aid course can only be carried out by a company that is certified by the Swiss Federal Roads Office (Bundesamt für Strassen/Office Fédéral des Routes)
Application for a learner's permit is made at the applicant's local Road Traffic Office (Strassenverkehrsamt/Service des Automobiles et de la Navigation).
The followings documents are required:
- Proof of identity
- Two colour passport photographs
- A recent (less than 2 years old) certificate from an optician or a doctor certified by the Road Traffic Office or the OCAN
The application form for a learner's permit
- Zurich canton application link (in German)
- Luzern canton information on applying for a licence (in German)
- Zug canton application form (in German)
- Basel canton application form (in German)
- Bern canton details on how to apply for a learners permit (in French and German)
- Geneva canton information (in French, German and Italian)
- Vaud canton application process (in French)
Road awareness theory courses
Once the applicant has received their learner's permit they can begin the compulsory eight hours of theory covering road traffic awareness, known as Kurs ueber Verkehrskunde/Sensibilisation aux problèmes du trafic routier. This is an introduction to the most common accident causes and situations. In the cantons of German-speaking Switzerland, the learner's permit will be stamped by the driving school once the eight hours of Kurs ueber Verkehrskunde have been completed. In the Geneva canton, the learner driver will also receive a certificate (attestation) along with the learner's permit that will be stamped by the driving school once the eight hours of sensibilisation have been completed. In the other cantons of French-speaking Switzerland, the driving school will stamp the learner's permit.
When driving, learner drivers must be accompanied by someone aged 23 or over who has had a driving licence for at least three years, and must have an L sticker on the back of the car. This can be bought from most supermarkets and petrol stations and can be in plastic, a sticker or a magnet. The learner's permit is valid for two years.
The theory test can be taken in English In the cantons of Bern, Glarus, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Neuchâtel, Schwyz, Vaud and Zurich.
The practical driving test
The practical examination is open to those 18-years old and older who hold a valid learner's permit. From January 1 2021 anyone under the age of 20 must have at least 12 months of driving experience with a learner's permit before taking the test.
The applicant is tested on their ability to drive in traffic, park and manoeuvre the vehicle.
The following documents must be presented at the test:
- Proof of identity (passport, residence permit or identity card)
- Learner's permit
- Registration documents of the vehicle
Note: Photocopies are not accepted.
Anyone who fails their practical driving test twice cannot take the driving test again until a driving instructor provides an attestation that the person has completed their driving training.
A person who fails their driving test more than three times will be referred to a psychologist who will determine if they are mentally fit to drive and whether they may have another attempt.
Additional testing required
Once the practical driving test has been passed, the driver will receive a probationary driving licence valid for three years. During this period the driver must attend two one-day training courses (WAB1 and WAB2) at an authorised private test centre. The first one-day course should be taken within six months of obtaining the temporary driving licence, and the second within the three years and after the first test has been taken.
Once the person has completed the additional driving courses they will receive their full driving licence which is valid for life. The final driving licence will only be delivered at the end of the three year period. Drivers over the age of 70 must have a medical test every two years to ensure they are capable of driving safely.
For more on the probationary driving licence
- Federal Roads Office
- Addresses of local motor vehicle departments
- Swiss Authorities information on the cost of learning to drive and how to get a licence