17 December 2007


Today they answered the telephone at the Strassenverkehsamt in Zürich.

Typically, nobody working in the department which issues driver's licenses to foreigners spoke English. And my case ended up being a bit complicated for me to understand in German.

So I asked a Swiss person I know to please make the call for me. He kindly translated for me and this is what I found out...

My driving privileges have been revoked!

Yes, you read that correctly.


Switzerland has confiscated my US driver's license and refuses to issue me a Swiss driver's license!

Why would they do this?

See, two years ago I got married, moved 10 miles across a state line from Missouri to Kansas, changed my name and got a new driver's license in the State of Kansas.

Which means that my Kansas State driver's license is valid from January 2006 onwards.

Switzerland looked at that and decided I am an "inexperienced driver."

In Switzerland, if an individual moves from another country with less than 3 years of experience driving, the government will not issue them a Swiss license. (Due to a new law implemented in 2005.) Instead, I am required to pay around 1000 CHF for driving lessons and pass the Swiss driving test. Then I would be required to drive around with an "L" sticker in the back window, declaring me a new driver, and drive 10 kilometers slower on the highway than the posted speed limit. For three years!

My only hope is to get a letter from the State of Minnesota (my home state) verifying that I passed my original driving test in May 1986.

The parents have been called. They are going down to the Minnesota License Bureau as soon as it opens.

Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, until I get this mess straightened out, it is not legal for me to drive in Switzerland. And because they have confiscated my US driver's license, it is also not legal for me to drive ANYWHERE ELSE!

I am having a really, really bad Switzerland week.

UPDATE: 5:00 pm
Dad just called. The State of Minnesota has the record of my original driving test (written test and road test), taken 21 years ago. The office in my hometown is working on getting a copy sent from St. Paul.

On a related topic: we discovered that Swiss insurance companies base your car insurance rates upon your years of driving experience. New drivers get charged a much higher rate. It is possible we are being charged more than we ought to be based upon the fact that my license was issued 2 years ago and GLH's license was issued 3 1/2 years ago. Since we both have more than 20 years of driving experience, perhaps our rates should be a lot less? We need to call our insurance company!


Greg said...


You may be able to get Minnesota to re-issue your license, if it wasn't going to expire before now. I did this with my WA license years ago when I I moved back from CA. When I handed over my CA license, they said "You're still in the system, and your license is still good, so here you go". So, you might still qualify to having a Minnesota license.

If that doesn't work, you might be able to get Minnesota to issue you a letter extending your driving privileges. I forgot to re-new my WA license last year, and they did this until I returned to WA.

Marcy said...

So when we were dealing with all this paperwork I requested my driving record from the Texas DMV, where my license was originally issued, and they sent a letter with a date for when I applied for and got my permit. This seemed to be good enough for the Swiss authorities. That was in my maiden name, and it seemed to work... my California DL is in my married name. However due to a glitch with my passport my residency permit is actually in my maiden name so maybe that's why they didn't care? I don't know.

That makes no sense that they'd confiscate your american license... how frustrating! I'm so sorry. =( Hopefully some document with your original date works.

swissmiss said...

I had no idea! My DC driver's license was about 10 years old when I moved to Switzerland so I didn't know about this. How beyond annoying! And yes, call your insurance company!

The Big Finn said...

Also check the other data they have listed for your policy to make sure it is correct. My insurance company had our car listed as being driven four times more than it was, not parked in a locked garage (it was), and several other things that resulted in our annual premium being 300 CHF cheaper per year after I pointed out the errors. Apparently, we had been over-paying for about five years.

Samantha said...

No way! I had to deal with this whole hassle last year in France, and talked to two different DMV's and they both told me that MN only keeps driving records for 7 years, so there was no way they could tell me when exactly I'd obtained my license. So I ended up forging my own letter (I renewed my license in 2005, so they only thought it was a year old) and it reduced my insurance by a ton.

But that was only for insurance papers - since MN doesn't have an exchange set up with France, I actually had to go to driving school & retake everything. I'm supposed to drive slower than everyone & put that stupid sticker on my car (for three years as well), but considering all the miles I drive, there's no way in hell am I doing that! I just keep crossing my fingers that if I get pulled over, I'll be able to talk the cop out of giving me a ticket, and if I can't, oh well, that's the risk I'm taking!

Global Librarian said...

Minnesota keeps the records for at least 21 years, because they were able to find mine!

You got shafted, Samantha!