The Ceremonial and Visits Section of FDFA Protocol is responsible for the organisation of official ceremonies. In particular it sees to the organisation of visits to Switzerland by heads of state and the representatives of foreign governments.
Visits by the representatives of foreign states make it possible to ensure effective bilateral relations and further develop them. Switzerland distinguishes between six categories of visits ranging from the most formal, the state visit, to the least formal, the courtesy visit. The Ceremonial and Visits Section of FDFA Protocol is responsible for their organisation.
- State visit
The state visit is the most formal, being by a head of state at the invitation of the Federal Council. The seven Federal Councillors and the Chancellor of the Confederation receive the visitor at the Bundesplatz in Bern with military honours and the playing of the national anthems.
- Official visit by a head of state
Leads of state are also invited by the Federal Council, but represented by the President of the Confederation. The visit involves official discussions with a Federal Council delegation. The guest is received with military honours and playing of the national anthems, at the Lohn Manor in Kehrsatz.
- Official visit by a head of government
An official visit by a head of government is also at the invitation of the Federal Council. It consists of official discussions with a Federal Council delegation.
- Official visit by a member of a foreign government
This is a visit by a member of a foreign government at the invitation of his or her Swiss counterpart number. It is the most common type of visit, and involves official discussions only.
- Official working visit
The rules of protocol for an official working visit by a head of state or by a head or member of government are less strict than in the categories mentioned above.
- Courtesy visit
A head of state, head of government or member of a government may also pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Confederation or to another member of the Federal Council. The visit lasts only 20 to 30 minutes. Simplified rules of protocol apply.