From 15 April 2023, Switzerland will begin issuing a new higher security driving licence.
The new licence will contain a number of improvements. Like current Swiss identity cards it will be made of polycarbonate. In addition, it will include security features embossed on the surface and different colours and information displays depending on the viewing angle. There will also be a QR code lasered on the back of the card that will reveal the personal data shown on the front of the card when scanned.
Since January 2023, all driving licences have been produced in a central national printing centre. Prior to this, more than 50 cantonal printing stations produced licences. Centralised production allows the printing of more complex higher security licences.
What happens to the existing licences?
The previous credit card format licence, which has been in use for 20 years, continues to be valid without restriction.
From 15 April 2023, anyone who voluntarily wants a new licence can have their old one exchanged at the driver and vehicle licensing offices in their canton of residence. The fees for the new licence are regulated by the canton but will not be changed because of the new format.
From 2024, the blue driving licence will no longer be valid. The Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) and the cantonal driver and vehicle licensing offices will provide information about replacing licenses and deadlines in the coming weeks.
So is the news all good?
The national centralisation of licence production does create a problem. If your personal details change, you change your name or become Swiss for example, you have 14 days to surrender your existing licence. While you wait (up to 10 days) for your new one you can drive in Switzerland, but not abroad. This is a problem if you have an imminent driving trip abroad. In addition, driving in Switzerland on a licence that requires a legal update becomes illegal 14 days after notification.
The obvious solution to this problem would be to allow you to retain your existing licence until a new one is created and then exchange them. But this is no longer possible because you must hand the old one to the cantonal authorities before ordering a replacement that is sent directly to you by post from Zurich. To avoid drivers possessing both an old and new licence simultaneously the old licence must be surrendered up front. When licences were surrendered and created at the cantonal level a simultaneous old-for-new exchange was possible.
So the licences might be improved, but the process isn’t, for those with cross-border driving commutes at least.