Acquisition of property in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud by a foreign State

Since 1 January 2008, the acquisition of property by institutional beneficiaries, in particular by States and international organisations, is governed by

  •  chapter 3 of the Host State Act (art. 16 and 17 LEH, RS 192.12) 
  •  and chapter 5 of the Host State Ordinance (art. 25 et 26 OLE, RS 192.121)

The acquisition of property by an institutional beneficiary is subject to a decision by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Directorate of International Law, which is responsible for checking, after consulting the canton concerned, whether the acquirer is in fact a foreign State and whether the acquisition has taken place for official purposes. The acquisition must also be appropriate to needs in the light of the property previously acquired by the institutional beneficiary and should have received the necessary authorisations from the bodies responsible, in particular building permits and authorisations concerning security.

The term acquisition of property refers to the acquisition of a right of possession of property, of plot, of dwelling or of usufruct of a property, as well as the acquisition of other rights which confer on their holder a position analogous to that of an owner, such as leasehold or long-term rental if the agreements involved exceed the customary duration in civil matters.

In this context, a change in the purpose of use is to be regarded as equivalent to an acquisition. Moreover, in the case of property allocated to official purposes, this means buildings or parts of buildings and the adjoining land which are used for the official purposes of the institutional beneficiary.

Content of the application

In accordance with article 25 OLEH, the application must include in particular:

a) names and address of the applicant, of his/her representatives and of the person disposing of the property as well as the address of the property;

b) the draft deed of acquisition, indicating the mode of acquisition (purchase, donation, long-term lease, etc);

c) the purpose of the acquisition (residence of the head of mission, chancellery of the representation, etc.);

d) description of the property concerned, including in particular the land register number, the total area of the plot and of the building;

e) list of properties already owned by the State in Switzerland, together with indication of the total area and the purpose for which the properties are used.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs may impose conditions for the acquisition of a property. It may in particular insist on reciprocity if the acquisition is made by a foreign State for the official needs of its diplomatic mission, its consular posts or its permanent missions to inter-governmental organisations in Switzerland (art. 25, para. 4, OLEH).

Duration of the procedure: as a general rule, a period of 2 to 3 months should be allowed for this procedure.

For the Canton Geneva:
Conseil d'Etat de la République et canton de Genève
Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville 2
1211 Genève 3

For the Canton Vaud:
Département de l'Economie
Secrétariat général
Rue de la Caroline 11
1014 Lausanne

Specialist Contact

Permanent Mission of Switzerland to UNOG
Real Estate and Framework Conditions Section 
Rue de Varembé 9-11
P.O. Box 194
CH-1211 Geneva 20
Tel. +41 (0)58 482 24 24
Fax +41 (0)58 482 24 37