Gate 34 at Zurich Airport, photographed from the cockpit of an aircraft.
In Switzerland, airports are usually the main port of entry and first contact with the authorities. © Unsplash

Before arriving in Switzerland

Before taking up a new post in Switzerland, several points need to be clarified to make sure the correct steps are taken. This is with a view to securing the best possible conditions for the new incumbent within the applicable deadlines:


  • For heads of diplomatic missions: Have I received the agrément? If so, has the date for submitting my credentials been set?
  • During my new position, what kind of passport will I have?
  • Do I need a visa to enter Switzerland?
  • Am I being posted to an existing post in the embassy or consulate or is this a new post?
  • Has the embassy notified FDFA Protocol of my impending arrival?
  • Will my family move with me?
  • Will my partner be gainfully employed and require a special permit?
  • Is my passport valid for at least six months after my arrival in Switzerland?
  • If I'm travelling with a pet, has it had the required vaccinations for entry into Switzerland? Is it subject to any quarantine measures or other restrictions?  

Agrément, exequatur and approval

Preparation work is required for the following categories of person:

Agrément for heads of diplomatic mission

The sending state should submit to FDFA Protocol an agrément request (note verbale, CV and copy of passport). The person's CV must contain the following information:

  • first name and surname identical to those on the passport 
  • date of birth
  • all nationalities
  • civil status
  • academic background (university, year)
  • current and previous positions including duration of each one

Once the agrément has been issued and the arrival date of the new head of mission set, the embassy is requested to contact FDFA Protocol about the schedule for the next presentation of credentials to the President of the Swiss Confederation in order to set a date.

Exequatur for heads of consular posts

Consular posts headed by a career consular officer and exequatur for career heads of consular posts

The regime for establishing consular relations and posts, consular functions and the appointment and admission of heads of consular posts is governed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963.

Conditions for opening and maintaining consular posts headed by a career consular officer

In principle the Swiss authorities apply a fairly restrictive policy in this area. It must be demonstrated that there is a genuine need for a duly accredited official representative. Statistical data on the current and anticipated size of the foreign community as well as the commercial, tourist, cultural and scientific relations between the sending state and the new consular district must be provided. Prospective further developments resulting from the presence of an official representative should also be clarified. The FDFA reserves the right to review at any time whether there is a genuine need to retain the post, even after it has been established.

Furthermore, the limited size of Swiss territory justifies that, in addition to a consular section near to an embassy in Bern, only requests to establish a maximum of one additional consular post per language region (German, French or Italian-speaking Switzerland) will, in principle, be considered. 

The seat of a consular post must be located in a cantonal capital (with the exception of Ticino where, on presentation of a reasoned request, the city of Lugano may also be accepted as the seat for a consular post). A cantonal administrative centre is determined by its city centre and the communes served by the urban public transport network of the cantonal capital, not including inter-city or regional transport systems.

Any subsequent change of address of the seat of a consular post is subject to the prior approval of FDFA Protocol.

Consular districts may not overlap one another and must coincide with cantonal borders. 

The official residence of a head of post must be in the city where the post has its seat or in an adjacent commune (for the cities of Geneva and Basel: in the city where the post has its seat or in an adjacent Swiss commune). 

A head of post’s class must correspond to the category of their consular representation, for example a consul general for a consulate general or a consul for a consulate.

The FDFA prefers the establishment of consular posts headed by career consular officers or honorary consular officers. Consequently, the authorities of sending states are requested to refrain from submitting requests to establish vice consulates or consular agencies to FDFA Protocol.

Procedure for opening or maintaining consular posts headed by a career consular officer

Requests to establish consular posts must be addressed to FDFA Protocol through diplomatic channels and contain the following information:

  • specific reasons for the request (refer to the section on conditions for opening)
  • name of the cantonal capital designated as the consular post’s seat
  • which cantons are to be incorporated into the proposed consular district 

Procedure for appointing career heads of consular posts

Once the FDFA has approved the opening of a consular post, FDFA Protocol will ask the embassy to send it, through diplomatic channels, the dossier on the prospective head of consular post, which must include the following documents:

  • a complete and up-to-date CV with photograph (surname/first name, place/date of birth, civil status, nationality/nationalities, education/studies, professional history, current position)
  • photocopy of passport (or passports if the person has dual or multiple nationality)
  • address of proposed seat of consular post

Procedure for admitting career heads of consular post

If the FDFA agrees to the appointment of the candidate proposed by the sending state, FDFA Protocol will request the embassy to send it the original letter of commission. This must contain the surname and first name of the appointed head of post (as written in their passport), class (consul general or consul), category (career), consular district (list of cantons concerned) and seat (cantonal capital) of the consular post. The letter is to be addressed to the Federal Council (not the President of the Swiss Confederation). FDFA Protocol will then submit a request for exequatur to the Federal Council on the basis of this letter of commission.


FDFA Protocol will send the exequatur to the embassy for transmission to the head of post.

Arriving in Switzerland

Embassies are advised to consult the SEM's overview of passport and visa requirements by nationality (List 1, column listing visa requirement by nationality for stays of over 90 days) to find out whether their head of consular post needs to apply for a visa from the competent Swiss embassy or whether they are exempt.

List 1: Overview of ID and visa provisions according to nationality

Registering with FDFA Protocol, issue of legitimation card and inclusion in Directory of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps

Once the consular head of post has arrived in Switzerland, the embassy in question must send FDFA Protocol a request to register the new head including a photocopy of their passport and a recent photograph; the same requirements apply to any authorised accompanying persons (Art. 20, para. 1, Host State Ordinance, HSO).

Art. 20, para. 1, Host State Ordinance, HSO

Approval of appointment of military or police attachés

Military attaché

Embassies should send requests for approval to FDFA Protocol (note verbale, CV, copy of passport and ministerial card if resident outside Switzerland (multi-accreditation)) including:

  • title (rank: colonel, general, etc.)
  • position (air and defence attaché, assistant military attaché, etc.)
  • photo of the person if possible

FDFA Protocol will then forward the CV and copy of the notification to the head of military protocol at the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) for approval. Once this approval has been received, as well as the approval of other units where necessary, FDFA Protocol will reply to the embassy on the issue of the military attaché's appointment, who will then be summoned for a courtesy call with the head of military protocol in order to take up office.

Police attaché (new post)

The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) is authorised to conclude agreements with foreign states on the posting of police attachés as set out in Article 8 paragraph 4 of the Ordinance on the Duties of the Federal Criminal Police in the Federal Office of Police.

Embassies should send requests for approval to FDFA Protocol by note verbale with a detailed job description, CV, copy of passport and ministerial card if resident outside Switzerland (multi-accreditation)) including:

  • title (rank: police officer)
  • position (e.g. area of expertise – organised crime)
  • photo of the person

FDFA Protocol will then forward the request and documents to the unit(s) in question for consultation and approval. Once approval has been given, FDFA Protocol will notify the embassy.

Ordinance on the Duties of the Federal Criminal Police in the Federal Office of Police

New posts

If the appointed person is taking up a newly created post rather than an existing post in an embassy or consulate, the foreign representation accredited to Switzerland is obliged to first apply to FDFA Protocol for authorisation to create this new post before the person arrives in Switzerland, providing supporting evidence for the new post and a detailed description of the tasks to be undertaken. 

The person will only be allowed to enter Switzerland after FDFA Protocol has issued its approval. 


Persons that have been appointed by their government to work in a foreign embassy or consulate accredited to Switzerland are obliged to find out from the Swiss representation with jurisdiction for their place of residence whether they need a visa to enter Switzerland.

If this is the case, they must submit an application for a type D visa, which is valid for three months and entitles them to an FDFA legitimation card that will be issued by FDFA Protocol once in Switzerland. 

After arriving in Switzerland


If the new appointee arrives in Switzerland before the date for the presentation of credentials has been set, the embassy in question is requested to contact FDFA Protocol for information on how to proceed. When writing the credentials, please note that they must only be addressed to the Swiss Federal Council – never to the President of the Swiss Confederation.

Registration form for FDFA Protocol and legitimation card application

As soon as the new appointee arrives in Switzerland, the registration form – completed online, dated, signed and stamped with the embassy seal – must be sent by note verbale to FDFA Protocol's Privileges and Immunities Section.

For each person listed on the form, please include:

  • a photo (good quality, passport size, less than three months old) and
  • a copy of the passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, with a Swiss visa and entry stamp if applicable.

Once FDFA Protocol receives the completed form and annexes, it will register everyone listed and order the FDFA legitimation cards to be sent to the embassy within ten working days. 

Last update 17.07.2023


Privileges and Immunities

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