Switzerland is part of the Schengen-Dublin agreements. It applies the Schengen regulations and its procedures for issuing visas in accordance with the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on Diplomatic Relations - applicable by analogy to permanent missions - and the agreements concluded with international organisations.
The Schengen regulations mention the following two distinct types of visas:
1. Short-stay visa (Schengen C visa) intended for stays not exceeding 90 days.
2. Long stay visa (national D visa), intended for stays of more than 90 days.
The issuance of a long-stay visa is subject to national conditions and procedures. This type of visa is issued for employment purposes and its holder receives a Carte de légitimation (residence permit for internationals) or a Swiss work permit.
Please note this fact sheet only covers certain aspects of the current visa directives available on the SEM website.
Do you need a visa and if so, where do you lodge your visa application?
- List of nationalities subject to visa requirements:
- Visa exemption :
Individuals who are exempted from visa requirements must travel with a note verbale from the sending State and/or a mission order stating the purpose of travel as well as the title and date of the meeting/event.
If a visa is required and Where to apply for a visa.
The main country of destination is responsible for issuing a Schengen visa and/or a national visa.
If the main destination is Switzerland, the visa application must be submitted to the Swiss Embassy/Consulate responsible for the applicant's legal place of residence (regardless of nationality).
How to apply for a visa:
It is highly recommended to check the appropriate Embassy/consulate’s website to obtain the list of required documents and current appointment possibilities.
These aspects vary according to local circumstances. In some cases Switzerland is represented by another Schengen State (Where to apply for a visa) where it is possible to submit certain types of visa applications (mainly short-stay Schengen C visas without gainful employment). Applicants are responsible for ensuring their application can be processed by the representing Schengen State.
1.1. Short-stay visa (Schengen C visa) - up to 90 days
These are C-type visas for short stays (up to 90 days within a period of 180 days) which can be issued for single or multiple entries.
- In the “International Geneva” context, these visas are usually issued with a single entry and limited to the duration of the event/meeting.
- Multiple-entry visas must be duly justified by the inviting party and mentioned in the visa support letter.
- It is the responsibility of the applicant to check the validity of his/her visa and length of stay in the Schengen area.
- The authorised length of stay differs and depends on the number of days already spent in the Schengen area during previous visits. Holders of a valid Schengen visa can use this program to calculate the remaining number of days allowed. The program is based on previous stays (control and planning).
- The Embassy/Consulate can also be contacted for further queries.
The list of documents required by the Embassy or Consulate varies and depends on the applicant’s country of residence. It is therefore important to check their website and, if necessary, contact them for detailed visa application requirements.
Documents required to apply for a Schengen C visa (short-stay official visit)
As a general rule, the following documents are required:
- A completed Schengen visa application form signed by the applicant;
- A valid travel document recognised by Switzerland (valid for at least three months after the planned date of departure and issued within the last ten years) and a copy thereof;
- If necessary, a valid residence permit or equivalent document (e.g. exit or return visa) which guarantees the applicant can exit and/or re-enter his/her country of residence;
- A recent passport photograph;
- A nominative invitation letter from an organisation with which Switzerland has a headquarters agreement, stating the applicant’s first and last name (as in passport) as well as the purpose and duration of stay. This letter must also specify whether the inviting party in Switzerland will cover the costs related to travel, accommodation and other expenses.
- Note verbale from the sending State (government officials only);
- Proof of travel health insurance valid in the signatory states of the Schengen Agreement and covering at least 30'000 euros (holders of ordinary passports only);
- The Swiss Embassy/Consulate may request additional documents such as hotel and flight reservations (round trip).
Exceptional and urgent circumstances:
Visas with Limited Territorial Validity (LTV)
Swiss Embassies/Consulates are allowed to issue visas with limited territorial validity (LTV) in accordance with Schengen regulations.
- However, this measure only applies to isolated and duly justified situations.
- A LTV visa allows entry and stay on Swiss territory only. It excludes the possibility of travelling to another Schengen state. This constrains the holder of a LTV visa to enter and leave Switzerland, without transiting through another Schengen member state.
Extension of a short-stay Schengen C visa
Other than in exceptional circumstances, a person cannot extend his/her visa in Switzerland. It is therefore his/her responsibility to ensure, before departure to Switzerland, that his/her visa covers the entire stay.
For whom is the short-stay Schengen C visa ?
Government representatives, international civil servants, trainees, consultants, experts, etc. who have a contract with an organisation with which Switzerland has signed an agreement (PDF, 13 Pages, 444.7 kB, English) or are nominated by their government to work at a diplomatic mission/representation for a period of up to 90 days are usually granted a short-stay Schengen C visa.
1.1. a) Official visits
Persons visiting Switzerland in an official capacity (government delegates and/or nominative guests of an organisation with which Switzerland has concluded a headquarters agreement) may refer to the Swiss Mission’s document "Entry visa for Switzerland (PDF, 2 Pages, 347.6 kB)".
A facilitated visa application procedure is available for persons subject to visa requirements and invited to international conferences and meetings.
However, organisations and diplomatic missions/representations, as well as the authorities of the sending State (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA), are expected to respect visa application deadlines and processing requirements. The date of the appointment request registered online (swiss-visa.ch) should not be confused with the date of submission of the visa application.
The registration and processing of a visa application can only begin once all required documents have been submitted.
An incomplete file may make it impossible to process the application within the requested deadline.
Administrative processing of visa applications: It is highly recommended to start the process well in advance:
- 20 days before the departure date at the latest
- 6 months before the departure date at the earliest
If not lodged within the above mentioned timeframe, the visa application may not be processed on time.
1.1. b) Private visits
Visa applications lodged by guests of those residing in Switzerland in the “International Geneva context”, are subject to ordinary law and, in principle, processed by the SEM and the Swiss Embassy/Consulate abroad.
How to proceed: The inviting party sends the letter of invitation to the Embassy or Consulate responsible for the applicant's place of residence. The following documents must be included in the visa application:
- letter of invitation from the holder of the FDFA legitimation card stating if the invitee is a family member (or other) and that the costs of the visit and the responsibility of his/her return are borne by the inviting party.
- Copy of both sides of the inviting party’s FDFA legitimation card
- Visa application form(s) completed by the applicant(s) (with a passport photo)
- Travel document and photocopy thereof
- Flight reservation / itinerary
- Proof of travel health insurance
Invitees of an FDFA legitimation card-holder are not required to submit a declaration of sponsorship form approved by local authorities in Switzerland.
1.1. c) Invitee of a non-governmental organisation (NGO)
The SEM and the Swiss Embassy or Consulate are responsible for processing visa applications of NGO invitees. For further information, please contact the Embassy or Consulate responsible for the applicant's place of residence.
The following information is available on the Swiss Mission’s website:
It is the delegate’s responsibility to contact the appropriate Embassy or Consulate two months before planned travel to Switzerland and to book an appointment to lodge his/her visa application. As it takes approximately 15 days to process an application, this appointment should be made at least 20 days before the planned travel date. The processing of a visa application can only begin once a complete file has been submitted.
1.1. d) UN laissez-passer (UNLP) - short-stay document
A valid UN laissez-passer (UNLP) is a document accepted for entry into Switzerland without a visa, for a stay of up to 90 days per 180-day period, regardless of the purpose of the stay. When travelling with his/her UNLP, the holder of a UNLP is not required to travel with his/her national passport to enter Switzerland.
If the UNLP-holder plans to transit through or travel to another Schengen country, he/she must contact the relevant authorities to check visa and travel document requirements.
For a stay of more than 90 days (e.g. employment), the UNLP-holder must check if he/she is subject to a visa according to his/her nationality. He/she will be required to present his/her passport upon entry to Switzerland. A national D (long-stay) visa may be affixed to the applicant's passport or UNLP.
UNLP-holders who are already covered by UN insurance are exempted from presenting proof of travel health insurance.