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Exchanging my Ohio drivers license for a Swiss drivers license

I got my Swiss drivers license in the mail today.

Day 19 of 365

One problem.

It is good only until June of next year. I am required to take 16 hours of instruction before I can get a permanent Swiss license with no expiration.  (edit:  read here to see how I fixed this issue and now have a Swiss drivers license with no expiration date)


Because my Ohio drivers license was issued in 2006 and by Swiss law this makes me a new driver even if I have been driving for 20 years. I had to get a new Ohio license because my old one expired while I was living in France.

It really wouldn’t have mattered because in Ohio when you renew your license the renewal date is listed as the issue date. In Ohio, a drivers license must be renewed every four years. The date you first obtained a license is not listed anywhere on the card. Therefore, I would still be considered a new driver for the Swiss.

Bright side.

When I called to ask why I didn’t get a permanent license I was told what I detailed above. However, if I can prove with official State of Ohio documents that I am not in fact a new driver, I can have a Swiss license without expiration. I will not be required to take the 16 hours of drivers training which is at least 600 Swiss francs. Not to mention, I would be required to pay a higher car insurance as a new driver as well.

I called the State of Ohio BMV and found out what to do to get my entire driving record from day one sent to me here in Switzerland. I was told it wasn’t an issue at all and I should get it about two weeks after they receive my request. So, I pray this all works out and I can get my Swiss drivers license like everyone else!

I have been reading online and every other American in Switzerland has switched over from an American drivers license to a Swiss licence without a problem.

We’ll see.

To be honest, I am not feeling too confident about it all. I know it is because I am feeling sorry for myself and once that passes it’ll be better. I will send out the request as soon as I can figure out how to print the damn thing off my computer! You see. Our printer is out of ink.

Nothing is ever, ever, ever easy for me! But, don’t mind me. I am going to go sulk in a bowl of ice cream.

Before I grab my spoon, I would like to warn all of you out there to get your drivers record from day one of issuance BEFORE you move to another country!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Evolving March 3, 2008, 4:28 pm

    Wow this is something I would never have even thought of!! (Oh hi, by the way I’m delurking!) I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now – since I started learning French (concurrent with a new French boyfriend). I’m glad to know that Americans can really exist abroad because I’m trying to devise a way to do so. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing! Reading this blog helps!

    Cheers darling!

  • Cathy Y. March 3, 2008, 4:34 pm

    Pumpkin, sorry to hear about all the hassle and trouble. I know what you mean about things not being easy – some people seem to have complicated lives (I am also one of them). Here’s to hoping it all works out smoothly for you from here on!


  • Pumpkin March 3, 2008, 5:59 pm

    Nice to ‘see’ you! ;)
    Honestly, there are ups and downs but it is possilbe and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy my life as an expat and love living in Switzerland. I should do a post with advice on what to do before you move. :)

    Cathy, I know you are one of the ones like me! It sucks! I would share my ice cream (or I scream) if you were here!

    I feel better because Vilay double checked with the gentleman I talked to earlier and it will be fine once I get my full driving history from Ohio. It will cost another 45 Swiss francs to process another drivers license request but I am happy to pay it!

  • Alison March 3, 2008, 6:05 pm

    I hope it works out for you. When I got my French license, PA didn’t have an exchange with France, so I had to go through the code de la route plus 10 hours of driving practice (I negotiated down from 20, since I’d been driving for more than 10 years already).

    Then I had fun getting my Kentucky license once I was back here. Not only did I have to prove citizenship, but I also had to take the written test since I no longer had a valid US license! Urgh!

  • Pumpkin March 3, 2008, 7:22 pm

    Alison, You know about the problems I had in France as well. So, I am really not going to let myself think I will be able to have it until it is in my hands and done. I really hope I can get it done because our family needs that money for other things like food and clothes! :)

    The Swiss are not negotiators so I will not be getting out of the 16 hours if this doesn’t work out.

    I read about your dealings with the Kentucky BMV. I don’t think it was fair that you had to do all of that when someone who lives in Kentucky can go to France and just show their license and be done with it.

  • Penny March 5, 2008, 1:14 pm

    I’m just going through this now – trying to get a copy of my license history from Australia so I can get an open license here. I hope you can sort it out soon


  • Pumpkin March 5, 2008, 4:06 pm

    Penny, I wish you luck too. It is such a big pain to have to get all these papers. I understand why, but it is still a pain. :)

  • Kitty March 5, 2008, 5:36 pm

    Sorry you’re running into trouble. I’ve got a similar problem — my Texas driver’s license was only issued 1 1/2 years before I moved to to Geneva. The Swiss won’t give me a license, period.

    As soon as I get a job, I’m just going to buy a bike!

  • Pumpkin March 5, 2008, 7:45 pm

    Kitty, I won’t be driving for a long, long time even with my license. ;)
    We don’t have a car. But, if I had done nothing I would have had to start from scratch as a brand new driver and that would have been really expensive.

    I would have thought that you would be entitled to the same thing as me. I have to take 16 hours of classes and then after that I can apply for a permenate license. Of course, I am going to prove I have driven for 20 years and save the 600 francs if possible. Check into it because on the englishforum.ch a man told me that his American wife with a Texas license was able to switch to the Swiss license without a problem. I have no idea when hers was issued. But, no matter you should just have to do the 16 hours…in my opinion. It doesn’t hurt to call and ask because that is still cheaper than starting from scratch. Unless…you are going back to the States. Because, the Swiss will take your Texas license.

  • expatraveler March 9, 2008, 5:11 am

    It works a bit different here in BC and you can only get your record from your insurance who only keep records back for less than 7 years. So let’s see, I’ve driven for double and how do I prove I have if I can’t get records of it? On top of that, my insurance agent can’t even find my records? what??? Yeah – I find that really bad on their part… But getting a license is just as simple as getting yours in Switzerland, pop in, take a pic and get your new license in the mail, paying a nice hefty fee of course.

  • Keith March 23, 2008, 8:00 am


    I am also trying to get my full record from the Ohio BMV for a Japanese license, but they claim they can only do it for a three year period. Could you please tell me how you got the full record, this is driving me crazy ;) Thank you,

  • Pumpkin March 23, 2008, 2:53 pm


    Go here and print out this form…

    I filled out Part A. Above the Part A you will see this

    “I am requesting the following personal information contained in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles records”

    Above this I wrote, “Please send entire driving history” as I was told to do over the phone. Do not check any of the boxes.

    The phone number for Ohio BMV is 614-752-7600.

    They told me that they could go back 10 years at 5 cents a page. They would send a bill with the printed driving history. This isn’t the same as a ‘normal’ driving record request which is for only 3 years.

    I, also, sent an email and the person that replied back to me said they will type a letter on Ohio BMV with the State of Ohio seal. I needed to send her by email my last driving license number or Social Security number.

    My mother received it yesterday. I had it sent to her home which is my last address on my Ohio licence. However, it is not a problem to have it sent to your address out of country. They told me that they do it all the time.

    The letter stated the issue date and expiration date of my last license which is no help to me. It did have a speeding ticket and accident listed from 2000 which is before the issue date of my current license.

    The only problem with this according to my husband is that it doesn’t say whether or not I was a licensed driver when I got the speeding ticket and had the accident. I told my husband that if I had been driving without a license I would have been cited as such. It would be listed along with the speeding ticket and accident.

    He told me to send another email asking for it to be stated that I was a licensed driver during this time and not take a chance. Since it is a holiday weekend I can’t call and ask the Swiss officials until Tuesday if it will work or not. I have sent another email asking that a new letter be sent to me stating that I was licensed during 2000 when I got the ticket and had the accident. I also requested that she put the date of issuance for my very first licence in Ohio or at least as far back as she can see which I was told over the phone was 10 years. I will have to wait to see what she sends or emails me back with.

    The request I sent by mail has not been sent to my mother’s house yet. Perhaps, she’ll get it this coming week and hopefully it will be a print out of at least 10 years driving history as I was told it would be.

    Out of the two sources I am dealing with, email and mail, I hope I have something that the Swiss will accept as proof that I have been driving for at least three years. :)

    I recommend that you call the Ohio BMV at 614-752-7600….you can call using SKYPE at skype.com. It will most likely be less expensive for you because you will have to sit on hold for a while before you get someone. I called directly because it is hard for me to hear over Skype.

    No matter what you will need to print out the form.

    You can email the Ohio BMV at this web address:

    General contact information is here:

    As I stated above, I did both sent an email and mailed a request using the form hoping that one will come through for me in the end.

    I know how stressful it is and wish you all the luck.

    I just hope that the Swiss will accept what my mother got yesterday and is sending me even if it doesn’t state that I was a licensed driver during the time of the citations. I think it is obvious that I was since I was not cited for driving without a license. Then, I don’t have to be stressed about it anylonger! :)

    I will email all of this information to you as well.

  • MCM February 10, 2009, 12:51 am

    Hi everyone,

    Came across this blog by accident, but it applies to me as well…

    I have moved to France and I am in the middle of exchanging my Ohio licence for a French one, I thought I had it all taken care of until receive a letter from the prefecture telling me I need to come up with a complete drivers record as they wanted to know the date a first reciecved me licence. Althought the process is fairly simple, there is always something that makes such a simple task a multi-month project… On the bright side they did atleast give me a temporary while I wait for my record to arrive.

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