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International Travel

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Country Information

Switzerland

Country Information

Switzerland
Swiss Confederation
Last Updated: June 19, 2017
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Embassy Messages

Bern

 

Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

At least 90 days beyond the day of departure from the Schengen area

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

Not required for stays of less than 90 days

VACCINATIONS:

No legal requirement

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF)

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF)

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Bern

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011 (2p.m. - 4 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USBotschaftBern/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBern

The American Citizens Services section of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services.  Additional information is available through the U.S. Citizen Services page on the Embassy’s website.  Please schedule an appointment through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizen Services.

Consulates

There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland.  They provide limited services to U.S. citizens.  Please visit our website for more information on available services.

U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Geneva America Center, Rue François-Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva
Mailing address: Postfach 5266, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (22) 840-5162
geneva-ca@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Dufourstrasse 101
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

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Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Switzerland for information on U.S. - Switzerland relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Visit the Embassy of Switzerland website for the most current visa information.

Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least 90 days beyond the period of stay in the Schengen area. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel to and in Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Switzerland.

Find information on dual nationalityprevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

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Safety and Security

Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue plotting possibley near-term attacks in Europe. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, but open borders with Western European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorists entering/exiting the country anonymously. Demonstrations occur in Switzerland. Some demonstrations have turned violent in the past, though specific threats of violence involving U.S. citizens in Switzerland are remote.

When traveling or living in Switzerland, you should:

  • Avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests.
  • Be aware of your local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.
  • Monitor media and local information sources as well as Bern’s safety and security webpage, and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
  • Address specific safety concerns to Swiss law enforcement authorities.

Crime: Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common.

  • Be especially vigilant in train and bus stations, airports, public parks, and when conferences, shows, or exhibitions occur in major cities.
  • Thieves can steal from locked sleeping compartments while passengers sleep.
  • Thieves may work in pairs. One member of the pair creates a disturbance at the train window while the other steals items while you are distracted.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy. 

Report crimes to the local police at 117, and contact the U.S. Embassy at +41 31 357 7 011, or after-hours at +41 31 357 77 77.  Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • Help you find appropriate medical care
  • Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • Provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support if you are destitute
  • Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • Replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.  Local organizations offer counseling and assistance for victims of crime.

For further information:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. 

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Switzerland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. This means:

  • Arrestees must be immediately heard before an independent magistrate (public prosecutor) to determine if they will be held for investigative detention.
  • Individuals “highly suspected” of a crime are generally placed under police detention until their case can be heard by the magistrate.

Mountain Search and Rescue Insurance: Alpine hazards such as avalanches and snowdrifts, landslides and flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes are common year-round.  You should:

  • stay on designated paths,
  • follow the advice given by local authorities and guides,
  • take note of weather forecasts and conditions,
  • be in a team of two when participating in mountain activities, and inform someone of your plans.

You should buy mountain search and rescue insurance for summer and winter. You can buy inexpensive search and rescue insurance at Swiss post offices. More information is available from the Swiss National Tourist Office and with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization

Swiss Banking: Numerous banks do not accept U.S. citizens as clients. The U.S. Embassy can provide more information on banking in Switzerland. ATMs are widely available and operate with U.S. debit cards.

Faith-Based Travelers: See these webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Switzerland.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: You will find some provision for persons with disabilities; however, there is not a country-wide standard. Local experts estimate that only 30 percent of public buildings are wheelchair-accessible.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

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Health

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that Medicare does not cover overseas care. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas accept cash payments only. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health to ensure the medication is legal in Switzerland. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Vaccinations: Be current on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

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Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: While in Switzerland, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Although many roads are mountainous and winding, Swiss road safety standards are high. Some mountain areas require snow chains in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and the Whit Sunday weekend (late spring) due to increased traffic.

Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker (“vignette”), which must be affixed to the car’s windshield. Purchase vignettes at most crossing points, gas stations, and at Swiss Post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette may receive hefty fines levied on the spot. Please consult with the Federal Office of Transport for the latest information.

Traffic Laws: In the event of a traffic accident, call the police immediately at 117. Call 118 for the fire department and 144 for medical/ambulance services. 144 functions as the Swiss equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the United States.

Public Transportation: Public transport in Switzerland is excellent, punctual, and safe. The Swiss tourist office and train stations are the best places to obtain information on special fares and excursions.

See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the national authority responsible for road safety.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority to be in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Bern

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011 (2p.m. - 4 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USBotschaftBern/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBern

The American Citizens Services section of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services.  Additional information is available through the U.S. Citizen Services page on the Embassy’s website.  Please schedule an appointment through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizen Services.

Consulates

There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland.  They provide limited services to U.S. citizens.  Please visit our website for more information on available services.

U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Geneva America Center, Rue François-Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva
Mailing address: Postfach 5266, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (22) 840-5162
geneva-ca@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Dufourstrasse 101
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

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General Information

 

Switzerland and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since July 1, 1988.

For information concerning travel to Switzerland, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Switzerland.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

 

 

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Switzerland.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority

Contact information:

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
CA/OCS/CI
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website
Email: AskCI@state.gov

The Swiss Central Authority (SCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Federal Office of Justice, Private Law Division.  The SCA has an administrative role in processing Hague applications.  The SCA searches for missing children with the assistance of Swiss police, together with the local population control registry office and the national immigration authority.  The search for a missing minor can be combined with a request for urgent child protection measures (e.g., the placement of a jeopardized minor in a public home for children).  After a child has been located, the SCA attempts to facilitate a voluntary return by proposing a mediation procedure.  If mediation fails, the SCA will try to assist the left-behind parent in securing an attorney, who will then file the return request with the appropriate cantonal court.  There is only one appeal to the Swiss Federal Court.  The SCA can be reached at:

Federal Office of Justice
Private Law Division
Bundesrain 20
3003 Bern
Switzerland
Telephone:  011-41-31-323-8864
Fax:  011-41-31-322-7864
Email address:  Kindesschutz@bj.admin.ch
Website

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Switzerland, the USCA encourages a parent or legal guardian to review the eligibility criteria and instructions for completing the Hague application form located at the Department of State website and contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the SCA.  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the SCA, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes. 

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or the Swiss central authorities.  The costs of court proceedings and legal representation for left-behind parents are the responsibility of the left-behind parent.  The costs of mediation or a conciliation procedure that takes place before court proceedings are initiated can be met by the SCA if neither parent has sufficient financial means.

Applicant parents are responsible for costs associated with exercising rights of access abroad.  Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Switzerland.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Switzerland.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to submit Hague Abduction Convention applications to a court in Switzerland. However, the SCA advises applicant parents to hire private attorneys to follow up on the case, to provide direct information to the court, and to generally advise the left-behind parent as to the best course of action for their individual circumstances. The SCA may provide assistance to parents in finding an attorney willing to represent them. A privately hired attorney should contact the SCA as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed with the SCA. 

The U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, posts a list of attorneys including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

The SCA strongly promotes confidential mediation in abduction cases and will attempt to initiate mediation in all Hague Abduction Convention cases.  Confidential mediation is conducted by one or two professional counselors and should be completed within a few weeks. If the parties live a considerable distance apart, discussions may take place on the phone, via video link or Skype. If necessary, the SCA may call upon additional professionals (e.g., language or cultural interpreters). The agreement reached is set out in writing and, depending on its content, can be approved by the court.

Under the Federal Act on International Child Abduction, in Switzerland the basic principle applies that an exhaustive attempt should be made at helping parents to reach an amicable agreement by themselves before court proceedings are initiated. The SCA may therefore organize an international family mediation procedure before court proceedings are initiated, provided no parent objects.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country.  It is important for parents to understand that, although a left behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.   For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney when planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

Switzerland is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all adoptions between Switzerland and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and the U.S. law implements the Convention.

Switzerland is not considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Few Swiss born children are eligible for adoption. Additionally, the demand for adopted children among Swiss citizens is typically high with a long waiting list of Swiss prospective adoptive parents. Most intercountry adoptions in Switzerland are by legal residents of Switzerland who adopt in third countries. The majority of adoptions pursued successfully by American citizens through the Swiss government involve U.S. nationals residing legally in Switzerland who choose to adopt from a third country.

While legally possible, intercountry adoption of a Swiss orphan by foreigners is unlikely. No Swiss orphans have received U.S. immigrant visas in the past five fiscal years. The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

NOTE: For Americans living in Switzerland who plan to adopt from third countries, it is advisable to adopt a child from a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Non-Hague Convention adoptions are not recognized by the Swiss Government. If the adoption does originate in a country which is not party to the Hague Convention, the child will arrive in Switzerland as a "Pflegekind" (foster child), not as an officially adopted family member. After one year, the official adoption procedure of the "Pflegekind" foster child can begin according to Swiss law. Prospective adoptive parents should contact legal counsel or the CCA to get proper information before they start an adoption procedure.

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Who Can Adopt

Adoption between the United States and Switzerland is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. In order for an American applicant to adopt a child from Switzerland, within the framework of the Hague Adoption Convention, a determination of eligibility must first be made by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on Who Can Adopt.

In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Switzerland also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Parents seeking to adopt are required to have their habitual residence in Switzerland. The Swiss government requires prospective adoptive parents to be fully integrated into the Swiss way of life, Swiss culture and social norms. Prospective parents will be asked to attend a pre-adoption interview with the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) where the adoption procedure and criteria will be discussed. The home study also will be organized by the CCA with the CCA's appointed social worker.
  • AGE AND MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both spouses must be at least 35 years of age or older. If a couple does not meet the age requirement, they have to have been married for at least 5 years. Single parent adoptions may only be granted to persons who are 35 years of age or older.
  • INCOME REQUIREMENTS: There are no set income requirements in Switzerland. Every case is decided upon individually. However, the couple or individual seeking to adopt must show that they have the financial means to support a child.
  • OTHER REQUIRMENTS: The medical status of the applicants is considered by the relevant Swiss adoption authorities. There is no set list of disqualifying medical conditions; cases are decided on an individual basis. Switzerland does not, for example, disqualify prospective adoptive parents who are HIV positive. Prospective adopters must undergo an obligatory medical examination. The results of the medical examination will be considered along with other factors in the pre-adoption home study report.
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Who Can Be Adopted

Because Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Switzerland must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be considered eligible for adoption. For example; the Convention requires that Switzerland attempt to place a child with a family in Switzerland before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Switzerland's requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for a prospective adopter to bring him or her back to the United States.

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How to Adopt

WARNING: Iceland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Iceland before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” Read on for more information.

SWITZERLAND'S ADOPTION AUTHORITY

The Government office responsible for adoptions in Switzerland is the Municipality (Gemeinde/Commune/Comuni) and/or the local Guardianship Board. The physical location of a prospective adopter directly affects which local governing authority will process their application. Each of the 26 Cantons in Switzerland now has a Central Authority. In order to determine which authority is most relevant, the prospective adopting parents or individual should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

THE PROCESS

As Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, Switzerland must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. The requirements outlined in the Treaty must be followed to successfully prosecute an adoption from within Switzerland.

NOTE: The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child
  4. Apply for the child to be found eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the child in Switzerland
  6. Bring your child Home
  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider: 

    The first step in adopting a child from Switzerland is to select an accredited adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Switzerland. Learn more.
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

    After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, a potential adopter must be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Eligibility Requirements.

    Once the U.S. government determines that a couple or individual is "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, the applicant or accredited adoption agency must forward your information to the adoption authority in Switzerland. Switzerland's adoption authority will review the application to determine if the prospective adopters are eligible to adopt under Swiss law.
  3. Be Matched with a Child:

    If determination of eligibility are issued by both governments to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Switzerland may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.

  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

    After the applicant accepts a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.

    After this, the adoption service provider or the applicant must submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify Switzerland's adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention Country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

    Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process. 

  5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Switzerland:

    Remember: Before the applicants adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Switzerland, they must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Switzerland.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Switzerland generally includes the following:

    • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY, AND ADOPTION APPLICATION:
      1. Prospective adoptive parents go to the Cantonal Authority to begin the adoption procedure, and;
      2. Attend a session on adoption protocol, organized by the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). The concept of the adoption procedure in general is to convey to the prospective adoptive parents the intricacy involved in an adoption procedure. Information is given on the various countries of origin of the child or children legal formalities (in Switzerland), costs involved, home study information, and a chance for the prospective adoptive parents to ask questions about the adoption procedure.
      3. Thereafter, if the adoptive parents still wish to adopt a child, they must submit a formal application to the Cantonal Central Authority. If the application is accepted by the CCA, the Cantonal Authority will issue a formal decision that the adoption procedure may go ahead.
    • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN SWITZERLAND:
      1. Home Study Report carried out by a social worker, in accordance with the CCA;
      2. Certificate that the applicants are qualified to adopt and that the child to be adopted is permitted to enter Switzerland (i.e., the adoption has to be authorized by the Canton).
      3. Salary statement, proving a regular income;
      4. Tax report;
      5. Criminal record;
      6. Marriage certificate (for a couple).

      If an American citizen living in Switzerland is attempting to adopt a child from a third country, the documentary requirements of the child's country of origin have to be taken into consideration, possibly including psychological analysis, a medical report that may need to include certain tests such as HIV, sterility tests, and any other medical tests required by the country of origin.

      NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. Read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.

    • ROLE OF THE COURT: The Court does not have any competence over adoption procedures. The only role a Court may play would occur if the prospective adoptive parents have been turned down by the Cantonal Central Authority and have not been granted the necessary permission to adopt a child. If the prospective parents do not accept the decision of the Cantonal Central Authority they have the right under Swiss law to appeal the decision in Court.
    • ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: All adoption agencies have to be fully accredited by the Federal Central Authority. The duties of the adoption agencies are strictly regulated by Swiss law. The adoption agencies are responsible for handling paperwork and assisting the prospective adoptive parents with the formalities of the adoption procedure.
    • TIME FRAME: Adoption procedures take a minimum of two months to complete. Prospective adoptive parents are expected to remain in Switzerland the entire time. In Switzerland, a social inquiry can take up to two years to complete, although two years is generally the maximum amount of time required.

      In the case of an intercountry adoption by Americans from a third country, the time frame depends very much upon the country of origin of the adoptive child.

    • ADOPTION FEES: Fees vary from Canton to Canton. One can expect to pay an average of 1,000-2,500 Swiss Francs (or approximately USD 830-2,060 according to the exchange rate). There are also private agency fees to be taken into consideration.
  6. Bring Your Child Home Once an adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, an applicant has to apply for three documents for the child before he or she can travel to the United States:

    • Birth Certificate
      If the adoption took place in the U.S. or in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the adoptive parents will receive a "Certificate of Conformity of Intercountry Adoption - According to Art. 23 of the Hague Convention of 29 July 1993. The Registry office (Zivilstandsamt/Service de l'etat civil/Servizio dello stato civile ) of the municipality where the parents and adoptive child are registered is the authority responsible for the issuance of the Swiss birth certificate.

      An adoption from a non-Hague country is more complicated. The adoptive parents will have a waiting period of one year as the child will have entered Switzerland as a foster child with a passport and the original papers from the country of origin. After one year the adoption procedure can be processed and finalized under Swiss law.

      It is advisable to communicate with the Swiss Registry office to seek advice.

    • Swiss Passport

      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Switzerland.

      The first step is to go to the population office in the municipality where one resides and is registered. In Switzerland everyone is registered at the population office in the municipality where they live. Swiss law stipulates that anyone who wishes to obtain an identity document must appear in person (including children and infants) at the commune of residence/population office in Switzerland. It would be advisable to contact this office first to ascertain which documents must be presented. The second step is for parents or the individual to go with the adoptive child to the Cantonal passport office. There is a passport office in each of the 26 Cantons of Switzerland. After January 1, 2003 only new passports will be issued. Each applicant will receive his or her own travel document. Children can no longer be included in the parents' passports. There is a link of all the coordinates of the passport offices which can be found on the following website: www.schweizerpass.admin.ch

      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-600 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination

CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

For adoptions finalized abroad : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

For adoptions to be finalized in the United States : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.

*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.

Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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Traveling Abroad

APPLYING FOR YOUR U.S. PASSPORT

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Switzerland. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print-all in one place.

OBTAINING YOUR VISA

In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.

To find information about obtaining a visa for Switzerland, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.

STAYING SAFE ON YOUR TRIP

Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.

The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.

STAYING IN TOUCH ON YOUR TRIP

When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Switzerland, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Registration is free and can be done online.

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After Adoption

What does Switzerland require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?

There are no post-adoption reporting requirements in Switzerland.

What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?

Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.

Here are some good places to start your support group search:

Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contacts.

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Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in Switzerland 
Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern
Internet: https://ch.usembassy.gov/embassy/bern/

The Swiss Adoption Authority
Contact the appropriate Cantonal Central Authority (CCA).
A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

Embassy of Switzerland
2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 745-7900
Fax: (202) 387-2564
Internet: www.Swissemb.org

Switzerland also has consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor  
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:1-888-407-4747
E-mail: AskCI@state.gov
Internet: http://adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 60 Months
A-2 None Multiple 60 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 24 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 120 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 120 Months
E-1 2 None Multiple 48 Months
E-2 2 None Multiple 48 Months
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 60 Months
G-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-3 None Multiple 60 Months
G-4 None Multiple 60 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 24 Months
H-1B None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 48 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 48 Months
L-2 None Multiple 48 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 36 Months
N-9 None Multiple 36 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 48 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 48 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 48 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 36 Months
R-2 None Multiple 36 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Please check back for update.

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth Certificates

Available. Birth certificates available to persons born in Switzerland are known and issued by local cantonal officials as listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Geburtsschein; Zivilstandsbeamter.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de naissance; Officier de l'Etat Civil.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di nascita; Ufficiale dello Stato Civile.

Records are complete since 1876. Prior to 1876, records were kept by church authorities and are available for all living persons.

Death Certificates

Available. See birth certificates. Death certificates are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Todesschein.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de deces.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di morte.

Note: The "Family Book or Family Certificate" (Familienbuechlein/Livret de famille/Libretto di famiglia or Familienschein/Acte de famille/Atto di famiglia) are also available, but only accepted as secondary evidence of birth, marriage and divorce, since formal certificates are readily obtainable.

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates

Available. Marriage certificates available to persons married in Switzerland are issued by the same officials as birth certificates, and known as listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Eheschein.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de mariage.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di matrimonio.

Marriage certificates are not issued to same sex couples.

Divorce Certificates

Available. Divorce certificates are available to persons divorced in Switzerland, and issued by the Courthouse where the divorce took place. Divorce certificates are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Scheidungsurteil.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de divorce.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di divorzio.
Adoption Certificates

Please check back for update.

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Identity Card

Please check back for update.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police and Prison Records

Available. There is, upon demand, an extract from the Swiss central police records, known as "Auszug aus dem Schweizerischen Zentralstrafregister/Extrait du casier judiciaire/Estratto del Casellario Giudiziario," which shows whether any person, of Swiss or other nationality, has been convicted of a crime in Switzerland. The document is issued by the Schweizerisches Zentralpolizeibuero/Bureau Central Suisse de police/Ufficio Centrale Svizzero di Polizia at 3003 Bern (Bundesrain 20). The fee for this service is 20 Swiss Francs for each copy.

Information is also available on the following website: www.ofj.admin.ch.

Court Records

Available. Issued upon request by the Clerk of the Court where the conviction occurred. Court records are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Gerichtsurteil.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Jugement du Tribunal.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Sentenza del Tribunale.
Military Records

SWISS MALE CITIZENS are required to obtain a military certificate from the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports, Armed Forces Joint Staff, Armed Forces Personnel (J1), Military Duties, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

Your Swiss military booklet must be enclosed with your request.

FÜR SCHWEIZERBÜRGER ist eine "Militäramtliche Bescheinigung", ausgestellt vom Eidgenössischen Departement für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport, Führungsstab der Armee, Personelles der Armee (J1), Wehrpflicht, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch), zu beschaffen.

Diesem Gesuch sollten Sie Ihr Dienstbüchlein beifügen.

LES CITOYENS SUISSES doivent obtenir une certification de leur service militaire. Cette certification peut être obtenu du Département fédéral de la défense, de la protection de la population et des sports, Etat-major de conduite de l’armée, Personnel de l’armée (J1), Obligations militaires, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (tél. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

Le livret de service doit être joint à la demande.

PER CITTADINI SVIZZERI: Il certificato di posizione militare deve essere richiesto al Dipartimento federale della difesa, della protezione della popolazione e dello sport, Stato maggiore di condotta dell’esercito, Personale dell’esercito (J1), Obblighi militari, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Berna (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

La domanda deve essere accompagnata del libretto di servizio.

Passports & Other Travel Documents

A blue Travel Document/Titre de voyage is issued to refugees in accordance with the International Treaty on Refugees of July 28, 1951. This document is normally valid for three years, and entitles the bearer to return to Switzerland.

A blue Passport for Foreigners/Passeport pour Etrangers is issued to undocumented aliens who have a residence permit for Switzerland. This document is normally issued for three years and guarantees the bearer readmittance to Switzerland as long as it is valid.

A gray Identity Certificate for aliens without documents /Certificat d'identité pour étrangers sans papiers is issued to undocumented aliens who are not refugees, and who do not have a residence permit for Switzerland. It is valid for one year and the bearer must obtain a visa for Switzerland in order to return.

All three travel documents contain the following: "This document is issued solely with a view to providing the holder with a travel document which can serve in lieu of a national passport. It is without prejudice to and in no way affects the holder's nationality."

Information on Swiss travel documents can be found here

Other Records

Not applicable.

Visa Issuing Posts

Bern, Switzerland (Embassy)

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
CH-3007 Bern, Switzerland

Tel: (41) (31) 357-7280
(41) (31) 357-7777 - 24-hour emergencies only

Fax: (41) (31) 357-7280

E-mail: BernNIV@state.gov; BernIV@state.gov

Visa Services

All categories for all of Switzerland. Note: The Geneva and Zurich Consular Agencies handle ONLY limited ACS matters; they do not handle visas.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 745-7900 (202) 387-2564

Atlanta, GA (404) 870-2000 (404) 870-2011

Boston, MA (617) 876-3076 (617) 876-3079

Los Angeles, CA (310) 575-1145 (310) 575-1982

New York, NY (212) 599-5700 (212) 599-4266

San Francisco, CA (415) 788-2272 (415) 788-1402

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

Embassy’s website
U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Telephone
+(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Emergency
+(41) (22) 840-5162
Fax
+(41) (31) 357-7280
Switzerland Country Map

Learn about your destination
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

Country Information

Switzerland
Swiss Confederation
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Embassy Messages

Bern

 

Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

At least 90 days beyond the day of departure from the Schengen area

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

Not required for stays of less than 90 days

VACCINATIONS:

No legal requirement

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF)

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF)

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Bern

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011 (2p.m. - 4 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USBotschaftBern/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBern

The American Citizens Services section of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services.  Additional information is available through the U.S. Citizen Services page on the Embassy’s website.  Please schedule an appointment through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizen Services.

Consulates

There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland.  They provide limited services to U.S. citizens.  Please visit our website for more information on available services.

U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Geneva America Center, Rue François-Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva
Mailing address: Postfach 5266, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (22) 840-5162
geneva-ca@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Dufourstrasse 101
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

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Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Switzerland for information on U.S. - Switzerland relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Visit the Embassy of Switzerland website for the most current visa information.

Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least 90 days beyond the period of stay in the Schengen area. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel to and in Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Switzerland.

Find information on dual nationalityprevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

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Safety and Security

Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue plotting possibley near-term attacks in Europe. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, but open borders with Western European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorists entering/exiting the country anonymously. Demonstrations occur in Switzerland. Some demonstrations have turned violent in the past, though specific threats of violence involving U.S. citizens in Switzerland are remote.

When traveling or living in Switzerland, you should:

  • Avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests.
  • Be aware of your local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.
  • Monitor media and local information sources as well as Bern’s safety and security webpage, and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
  • Address specific safety concerns to Swiss law enforcement authorities.

Crime: Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common.

  • Be especially vigilant in train and bus stations, airports, public parks, and when conferences, shows, or exhibitions occur in major cities.
  • Thieves can steal from locked sleeping compartments while passengers sleep.
  • Thieves may work in pairs. One member of the pair creates a disturbance at the train window while the other steals items while you are distracted.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy. 

Report crimes to the local police at 117, and contact the U.S. Embassy at +41 31 357 7 011, or after-hours at +41 31 357 77 77.  Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • Help you find appropriate medical care
  • Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • Provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support if you are destitute
  • Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • Replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.  Local organizations offer counseling and assistance for victims of crime.

For further information:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. 

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Switzerland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. This means:

  • Arrestees must be immediately heard before an independent magistrate (public prosecutor) to determine if they will be held for investigative detention.
  • Individuals “highly suspected” of a crime are generally placed under police detention until their case can be heard by the magistrate.

Mountain Search and Rescue Insurance: Alpine hazards such as avalanches and snowdrifts, landslides and flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes are common year-round.  You should:

  • stay on designated paths,
  • follow the advice given by local authorities and guides,
  • take note of weather forecasts and conditions,
  • be in a team of two when participating in mountain activities, and inform someone of your plans.

You should buy mountain search and rescue insurance for summer and winter. You can buy inexpensive search and rescue insurance at Swiss post offices. More information is available from the Swiss National Tourist Office and with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization

Swiss Banking: Numerous banks do not accept U.S. citizens as clients. The U.S. Embassy can provide more information on banking in Switzerland. ATMs are widely available and operate with U.S. debit cards.

Faith-Based Travelers: See these webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Switzerland.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: You will find some provision for persons with disabilities; however, there is not a country-wide standard. Local experts estimate that only 30 percent of public buildings are wheelchair-accessible.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

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Health

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that Medicare does not cover overseas care. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas accept cash payments only. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health to ensure the medication is legal in Switzerland. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Vaccinations: Be current on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

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Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: While in Switzerland, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Although many roads are mountainous and winding, Swiss road safety standards are high. Some mountain areas require snow chains in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and the Whit Sunday weekend (late spring) due to increased traffic.

Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker (“vignette”), which must be affixed to the car’s windshield. Purchase vignettes at most crossing points, gas stations, and at Swiss Post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette may receive hefty fines levied on the spot. Please consult with the Federal Office of Transport for the latest information.

Traffic Laws: In the event of a traffic accident, call the police immediately at 117. Call 118 for the fire department and 144 for medical/ambulance services. 144 functions as the Swiss equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the United States.

Public Transportation: Public transport in Switzerland is excellent, punctual, and safe. The Swiss tourist office and train stations are the best places to obtain information on special fares and excursions.

See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the national authority responsible for road safety.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority to be in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Bern

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011 (2p.m. - 4 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USBotschaftBern/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBern

The American Citizens Services section of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services.  Additional information is available through the U.S. Citizen Services page on the Embassy’s website.  Please schedule an appointment through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizen Services.

Consulates

There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland.  They provide limited services to U.S. citizens.  Please visit our website for more information on available services.

U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Geneva America Center, Rue François-Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva
Mailing address: Postfach 5266, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (22) 840-5162
geneva-ca@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Dufourstrasse 101
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

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General Information

 

Switzerland and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since July 1, 1988.

For information concerning travel to Switzerland, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Switzerland.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

 

 

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Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention.  In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Switzerland.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority

Contact information:

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
CA/OCS/CI
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website
Email: AskCI@state.gov

The Swiss Central Authority (SCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Federal Office of Justice, Private Law Division.  The SCA has an administrative role in processing Hague applications.  The SCA searches for missing children with the assistance of Swiss police, together with the local population control registry office and the national immigration authority.  The search for a missing minor can be combined with a request for urgent child protection measures (e.g., the placement of a jeopardized minor in a public home for children).  After a child has been located, the SCA attempts to facilitate a voluntary return by proposing a mediation procedure.  If mediation fails, the SCA will try to assist the left-behind parent in securing an attorney, who will then file the return request with the appropriate cantonal court.  There is only one appeal to the Swiss Federal Court.  The SCA can be reached at:

Federal Office of Justice
Private Law Division
Bundesrain 20
3003 Bern
Switzerland
Telephone:  011-41-31-323-8864
Fax:  011-41-31-322-7864
Email address:  Kindesschutz@bj.admin.ch
Website

To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Switzerland, the USCA encourages a parent or legal guardian to review the eligibility criteria and instructions for completing the Hague application form located at the Department of State website and contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the SCA.  The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the SCA, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes. 

There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or the Swiss central authorities.  The costs of court proceedings and legal representation for left-behind parents are the responsibility of the left-behind parent.  The costs of mediation or a conciliation procedure that takes place before court proceedings are initiated can be met by the SCA if neither parent has sufficient financial means.

Applicant parents are responsible for costs associated with exercising rights of access abroad.  Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.

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Return

A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Switzerland.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Visitation/Access

A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Switzerland.  The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country.  The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.

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Retaining an Attorney

Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to submit Hague Abduction Convention applications to a court in Switzerland. However, the SCA advises applicant parents to hire private attorneys to follow up on the case, to provide direct information to the court, and to generally advise the left-behind parent as to the best course of action for their individual circumstances. The SCA may provide assistance to parents in finding an attorney willing to represent them. A privately hired attorney should contact the SCA as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed with the SCA. 

The U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, posts a list of attorneys including those who specialize in family law.

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

The SCA strongly promotes confidential mediation in abduction cases and will attempt to initiate mediation in all Hague Abduction Convention cases.  Confidential mediation is conducted by one or two professional counselors and should be completed within a few weeks. If the parties live a considerable distance apart, discussions may take place on the phone, via video link or Skype. If necessary, the SCA may call upon additional professionals (e.g., language or cultural interpreters). The agreement reached is set out in writing and, depending on its content, can be approved by the court.

Under the Federal Act on International Child Abduction, in Switzerland the basic principle applies that an exhaustive attempt should be made at helping parents to reach an amicable agreement by themselves before court proceedings are initiated. The SCA may therefore organize an international family mediation procedure before court proceedings are initiated, provided no parent objects.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country.  It is important for parents to understand that, although a left behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.   For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney when planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Yes
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

Switzerland is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all adoptions between Switzerland and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and the U.S. law implements the Convention.

Switzerland is not considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Few Swiss born children are eligible for adoption. Additionally, the demand for adopted children among Swiss citizens is typically high with a long waiting list of Swiss prospective adoptive parents. Most intercountry adoptions in Switzerland are by legal residents of Switzerland who adopt in third countries. The majority of adoptions pursued successfully by American citizens through the Swiss government involve U.S. nationals residing legally in Switzerland who choose to adopt from a third country.

While legally possible, intercountry adoption of a Swiss orphan by foreigners is unlikely. No Swiss orphans have received U.S. immigrant visas in the past five fiscal years. The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

NOTE: For Americans living in Switzerland who plan to adopt from third countries, it is advisable to adopt a child from a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Non-Hague Convention adoptions are not recognized by the Swiss Government. If the adoption does originate in a country which is not party to the Hague Convention, the child will arrive in Switzerland as a "Pflegekind" (foster child), not as an officially adopted family member. After one year, the official adoption procedure of the "Pflegekind" foster child can begin according to Swiss law. Prospective adoptive parents should contact legal counsel or the CCA to get proper information before they start an adoption procedure.

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Who Can Adopt

Adoption between the United States and Switzerland is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. In order for an American applicant to adopt a child from Switzerland, within the framework of the Hague Adoption Convention, a determination of eligibility must first be made by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on Who Can Adopt.

In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Switzerland also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Parents seeking to adopt are required to have their habitual residence in Switzerland. The Swiss government requires prospective adoptive parents to be fully integrated into the Swiss way of life, Swiss culture and social norms. Prospective parents will be asked to attend a pre-adoption interview with the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) where the adoption procedure and criteria will be discussed. The home study also will be organized by the CCA with the CCA's appointed social worker.
  • AGE AND MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both spouses must be at least 35 years of age or older. If a couple does not meet the age requirement, they have to have been married for at least 5 years. Single parent adoptions may only be granted to persons who are 35 years of age or older.
  • INCOME REQUIREMENTS: There are no set income requirements in Switzerland. Every case is decided upon individually. However, the couple or individual seeking to adopt must show that they have the financial means to support a child.
  • OTHER REQUIRMENTS: The medical status of the applicants is considered by the relevant Swiss adoption authorities. There is no set list of disqualifying medical conditions; cases are decided on an individual basis. Switzerland does not, for example, disqualify prospective adoptive parents who are HIV positive. Prospective adopters must undergo an obligatory medical examination. The results of the medical examination will be considered along with other factors in the pre-adoption home study report.
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Who Can Be Adopted

Because Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Switzerland must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be considered eligible for adoption. For example; the Convention requires that Switzerland attempt to place a child with a family in Switzerland before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Switzerland's requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for a prospective adopter to bring him or her back to the United States.

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How to Adopt

WARNING: Iceland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Iceland before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” Read on for more information.

SWITZERLAND'S ADOPTION AUTHORITY

The Government office responsible for adoptions in Switzerland is the Municipality (Gemeinde/Commune/Comuni) and/or the local Guardianship Board. The physical location of a prospective adopter directly affects which local governing authority will process their application. Each of the 26 Cantons in Switzerland now has a Central Authority. In order to determine which authority is most relevant, the prospective adopting parents or individual should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

THE PROCESS

As Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, Switzerland must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. The requirements outlined in the Treaty must be followed to successfully prosecute an adoption from within Switzerland.

NOTE: The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child
  4. Apply for the child to be found eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the child in Switzerland
  6. Bring your child Home
  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider: 

    The first step in adopting a child from Switzerland is to select an accredited adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Switzerland. Learn more.
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

    After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, a potential adopter must be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Eligibility Requirements.

    Once the U.S. government determines that a couple or individual is "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, the applicant or accredited adoption agency must forward your information to the adoption authority in Switzerland. Switzerland's adoption authority will review the application to determine if the prospective adopters are eligible to adopt under Swiss law.
  3. Be Matched with a Child:

    If determination of eligibility are issued by both governments to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Switzerland may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.

  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

    After the applicant accepts a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.

    After this, the adoption service provider or the applicant must submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify Switzerland's adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention Country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

    Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process. 

  5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Switzerland:

    Remember: Before the applicants adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Switzerland, they must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Switzerland.

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Switzerland generally includes the following:

    • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY, AND ADOPTION APPLICATION:
      1. Prospective adoptive parents go to the Cantonal Authority to begin the adoption procedure, and;
      2. Attend a session on adoption protocol, organized by the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). The concept of the adoption procedure in general is to convey to the prospective adoptive parents the intricacy involved in an adoption procedure. Information is given on the various countries of origin of the child or children legal formalities (in Switzerland), costs involved, home study information, and a chance for the prospective adoptive parents to ask questions about the adoption procedure.
      3. Thereafter, if the adoptive parents still wish to adopt a child, they must submit a formal application to the Cantonal Central Authority. If the application is accepted by the CCA, the Cantonal Authority will issue a formal decision that the adoption procedure may go ahead.
    • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN SWITZERLAND:
      1. Home Study Report carried out by a social worker, in accordance with the CCA;
      2. Certificate that the applicants are qualified to adopt and that the child to be adopted is permitted to enter Switzerland (i.e., the adoption has to be authorized by the Canton).
      3. Salary statement, proving a regular income;
      4. Tax report;
      5. Criminal record;
      6. Marriage certificate (for a couple).

      If an American citizen living in Switzerland is attempting to adopt a child from a third country, the documentary requirements of the child's country of origin have to be taken into consideration, possibly including psychological analysis, a medical report that may need to include certain tests such as HIV, sterility tests, and any other medical tests required by the country of origin.

      NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. Read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.

    • ROLE OF THE COURT: The Court does not have any competence over adoption procedures. The only role a Court may play would occur if the prospective adoptive parents have been turned down by the Cantonal Central Authority and have not been granted the necessary permission to adopt a child. If the prospective parents do not accept the decision of the Cantonal Central Authority they have the right under Swiss law to appeal the decision in Court.
    • ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: All adoption agencies have to be fully accredited by the Federal Central Authority. The duties of the adoption agencies are strictly regulated by Swiss law. The adoption agencies are responsible for handling paperwork and assisting the prospective adoptive parents with the formalities of the adoption procedure.
    • TIME FRAME: Adoption procedures take a minimum of two months to complete. Prospective adoptive parents are expected to remain in Switzerland the entire time. In Switzerland, a social inquiry can take up to two years to complete, although two years is generally the maximum amount of time required.

      In the case of an intercountry adoption by Americans from a third country, the time frame depends very much upon the country of origin of the adoptive child.

    • ADOPTION FEES: Fees vary from Canton to Canton. One can expect to pay an average of 1,000-2,500 Swiss Francs (or approximately USD 830-2,060 according to the exchange rate). There are also private agency fees to be taken into consideration.
  6. Bring Your Child Home Once an adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, an applicant has to apply for three documents for the child before he or she can travel to the United States:

    • Birth Certificate
      If the adoption took place in the U.S. or in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the adoptive parents will receive a "Certificate of Conformity of Intercountry Adoption - According to Art. 23 of the Hague Convention of 29 July 1993. The Registry office (Zivilstandsamt/Service de l'etat civil/Servizio dello stato civile ) of the municipality where the parents and adoptive child are registered is the authority responsible for the issuance of the Swiss birth certificate.

      An adoption from a non-Hague country is more complicated. The adoptive parents will have a waiting period of one year as the child will have entered Switzerland as a foster child with a passport and the original papers from the country of origin. After one year the adoption procedure can be processed and finalized under Swiss law.

      It is advisable to communicate with the Swiss Registry office to seek advice.

    • Swiss Passport

      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Switzerland.

      The first step is to go to the population office in the municipality where one resides and is registered. In Switzerland everyone is registered at the population office in the municipality where they live. Swiss law stipulates that anyone who wishes to obtain an identity document must appear in person (including children and infants) at the commune of residence/population office in Switzerland. It would be advisable to contact this office first to ascertain which documents must be presented. The second step is for parents or the individual to go with the adoptive child to the Cantonal passport office. There is a passport office in each of the 26 Cantons of Switzerland. After January 1, 2003 only new passports will be issued. Each applicant will receive his or her own travel document. Children can no longer be included in the parents' passports. There is a link of all the coordinates of the passport offices which can be found on the following website: www.schweizerpass.admin.ch

      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-600 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination

CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

For adoptions finalized abroad : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

For adoptions to be finalized in the United States : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.

*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.

Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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Traveling Abroad

APPLYING FOR YOUR U.S. PASSPORT

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Switzerland. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print-all in one place.

OBTAINING YOUR VISA

In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.

To find information about obtaining a visa for Switzerland, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.

STAYING SAFE ON YOUR TRIP

Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.

The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.

STAYING IN TOUCH ON YOUR TRIP

When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Switzerland, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Registration is free and can be done online.

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After Adoption

What does Switzerland require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?

There are no post-adoption reporting requirements in Switzerland.

What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?

Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.

Here are some good places to start your support group search:

Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contacts.

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Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in Switzerland 
Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern
Internet: https://ch.usembassy.gov/embassy/bern/

The Swiss Adoption Authority
Contact the appropriate Cantonal Central Authority (CCA).
A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

Embassy of Switzerland
2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 745-7900
Fax: (202) 387-2564
Internet: www.Swissemb.org

Switzerland also has consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor  
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:1-888-407-4747
E-mail: AskCI@state.gov
Internet: http://adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 60 Months
A-2 None Multiple 60 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 24 Months
B-1 None Multiple 120 Months
B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1 None Multiple 120 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 120 Months
C-2 None Multiple 12 Months
C-3 None Multiple 60 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 120 Months
E-1 2 None Multiple 48 Months
E-2 2 None Multiple 48 Months
E-2C 12 None Multiple 24 Months
F-1 None Multiple 60 Months
F-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-1 None Multiple 60 Months
G-2 None Multiple 60 Months
G-3 None Multiple 60 Months
G-4 None Multiple 60 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 24 Months
H-1B None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 48 Months 3
I None Multiple 60 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 60 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 60 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 48 Months
L-2 None Multiple 48 Months
M-1 None Multiple 60 Months
M-2 None Multiple 60 Months
N-8 None Multiple 36 Months
N-9 None Multiple 36 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 48 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 48 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 48 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 48 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 36 Months
R-2 None Multiple 36 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Please check back for update.

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth Certificates

Available. Birth certificates available to persons born in Switzerland are known and issued by local cantonal officials as listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Geburtsschein; Zivilstandsbeamter.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de naissance; Officier de l'Etat Civil.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di nascita; Ufficiale dello Stato Civile.

Records are complete since 1876. Prior to 1876, records were kept by church authorities and are available for all living persons.

Death Certificates

Available. See birth certificates. Death certificates are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Todesschein.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de deces.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di morte.

Note: The "Family Book or Family Certificate" (Familienbuechlein/Livret de famille/Libretto di famiglia or Familienschein/Acte de famille/Atto di famiglia) are also available, but only accepted as secondary evidence of birth, marriage and divorce, since formal certificates are readily obtainable.

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates

Available. Marriage certificates available to persons married in Switzerland are issued by the same officials as birth certificates, and known as listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Eheschein.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de mariage.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di matrimonio.

Marriage certificates are not issued to same sex couples.

Divorce Certificates

Available. Divorce certificates are available to persons divorced in Switzerland, and issued by the Courthouse where the divorce took place. Divorce certificates are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Scheidungsurteil.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Acte de divorce.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Atto di divorzio.
Adoption Certificates

Please check back for update.

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Identity Card

Please check back for update.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police and Prison Records

Available. There is, upon demand, an extract from the Swiss central police records, known as "Auszug aus dem Schweizerischen Zentralstrafregister/Extrait du casier judiciaire/Estratto del Casellario Giudiziario," which shows whether any person, of Swiss or other nationality, has been convicted of a crime in Switzerland. The document is issued by the Schweizerisches Zentralpolizeibuero/Bureau Central Suisse de police/Ufficio Centrale Svizzero di Polizia at 3003 Bern (Bundesrain 20). The fee for this service is 20 Swiss Francs for each copy.

Information is also available on the following website: www.ofj.admin.ch.

Court Records

Available. Issued upon request by the Clerk of the Court where the conviction occurred. Court records are issued under the names listed below:

  1. German speaking Switzerland: Gerichtsurteil.
  2. French speaking Switzerland: Jugement du Tribunal.
  3. Italian speaking Switzerland: Sentenza del Tribunale.
Military Records

SWISS MALE CITIZENS are required to obtain a military certificate from the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports, Armed Forces Joint Staff, Armed Forces Personnel (J1), Military Duties, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

Your Swiss military booklet must be enclosed with your request.

FÜR SCHWEIZERBÜRGER ist eine "Militäramtliche Bescheinigung", ausgestellt vom Eidgenössischen Departement für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport, Führungsstab der Armee, Personelles der Armee (J1), Wehrpflicht, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch), zu beschaffen.

Diesem Gesuch sollten Sie Ihr Dienstbüchlein beifügen.

LES CITOYENS SUISSES doivent obtenir une certification de leur service militaire. Cette certification peut être obtenu du Département fédéral de la défense, de la protection de la population et des sports, Etat-major de conduite de l’armée, Personnel de l’armée (J1), Obligations militaires, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Bern (tél. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

Le livret de service doit être joint à la demande.

PER CITTADINI SVIZZERI: Il certificato di posizione militare deve essere richiesto al Dipartimento federale della difesa, della protezione della popolazione e dello sport, Stato maggiore di condotta dell’esercito, Personale dell’esercito (J1), Obblighi militari, Rodtmattstrasse 110, 3003 Berna (Tel. 058 464 32 34, e-Mail: Markus.Wenger@vtg.admin.ch).

La domanda deve essere accompagnata del libretto di servizio.

Passports & Other Travel Documents

A blue Travel Document/Titre de voyage is issued to refugees in accordance with the International Treaty on Refugees of July 28, 1951. This document is normally valid for three years, and entitles the bearer to return to Switzerland.

A blue Passport for Foreigners/Passeport pour Etrangers is issued to undocumented aliens who have a residence permit for Switzerland. This document is normally issued for three years and guarantees the bearer readmittance to Switzerland as long as it is valid.

A gray Identity Certificate for aliens without documents /Certificat d'identité pour étrangers sans papiers is issued to undocumented aliens who are not refugees, and who do not have a residence permit for Switzerland. It is valid for one year and the bearer must obtain a visa for Switzerland in order to return.

All three travel documents contain the following: "This document is issued solely with a view to providing the holder with a travel document which can serve in lieu of a national passport. It is without prejudice to and in no way affects the holder's nationality."

Information on Swiss travel documents can be found here

Other Records

Not applicable.

Visa Issuing Posts

Bern, Switzerland (Embassy)

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
CH-3007 Bern, Switzerland

Tel: (41) (31) 357-7280
(41) (31) 357-7777 - 24-hour emergencies only

Fax: (41) (31) 357-7280

E-mail: BernNIV@state.gov; BernIV@state.gov

Visa Services

All categories for all of Switzerland. Note: The Geneva and Zurich Consular Agencies handle ONLY limited ACS matters; they do not handle visas.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 745-7900 (202) 387-2564

Atlanta, GA (404) 870-2000 (404) 870-2011

Boston, MA (617) 876-3076 (617) 876-3079

Los Angeles, CA (310) 575-1145 (310) 575-1982

New York, NY (212) 599-5700 (212) 599-4266

San Francisco, CA (415) 788-2272 (415) 788-1402

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

Embassy’s website
U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Telephone
+(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Emergency
+(41) (22) 840-5162
Fax
+(41) (31) 357-7280
Switzerland Country Map

Learn about your destination
Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.