Importation when initially moving to Switzerland of items of furniture, household goods and equipment for official and personal use

Last update: December 2011

Privileges of diplomatic missions in Bern

Extent of tax exemption

All items destined for official use in diplomatic missions in Bern, including the residence of the head of mission, which are limited in number and quantity to what is required exclusively for the use of the mission, may be imported free of import duties.

The ownership of items admitted tax-free may not be transferred for a period of three years from the date of their customs clearance without the prior payment of applicable import duties thereon. In circumstances where such transfer is justifiable, the Directorate General of Customs has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds

However, for information on the extent of the tax exemption relating to the importation of other motor vehicles and the procuring of tax-free fuel, please consult the Information Notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” section.

General Procedure

Consignments must be addressed to and destined for diplomatic missions or one of their special services (chancery, consular section, commercial services, cultural affairs section, etc.).

Consignments entering Switzerland by rail, road, air, post or by courier or exiting a Swiss open customs warehouse, a Swiss warehouse for bulk goods, or a Swiss duty-free warehouse

and

Simplified procedure for consignments of printed matter

Detailed information on the formalities relating to consignments of printed matter is set out in Articles 3 and 5 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of diplomatic agents of diplomatic representations in Bern

Extent of the tax exemption

Heads of diplomatic missions and family members who make up part of their household (holders of legitimation card B) have the right to import tax-free all items (with the exception of building materials) destined for their personal use.

Members of diplomatic staff of missions and family members who make up part of their household (holders of legitimation card C) have the right to import tax-free for their personal use the following items:

  • new or used furniture imported in connection with their initial move to Switzerland; this privilege may only be used on one occasion and only within the time limit of one year from the time the principal individual beneficiary commenced his/her posting.
  • all other items (with the exception of building materials but including domestic appliances and equipment) acquired separately and not in connection with the initial move to Switzerland.

The tax-free importation of furniture is subject to the condition that the eligible party exercise his/her official function in Switzerland.

The ownership of items admitted tax-free may not be transferred, either against payment or free, for a period of one year from the date of their customs clearance without the prior payment of the applicable import duties thereon. In circumstances where such transfer is justifiable, the Bern Customs Office has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products may not, under any circumstances, be passed on to third parties.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds.

However, for information on the extent of the tax-free exemption relating to other motor vehicles and the procuring of tax-free fuel, please consult the Information Notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” section.

Procedure for consignments

and

Procedure for tourist traffic

The formalities of the procedures relating to this subject are set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of the administrative and technical staff members of missions in Bern

Extent of the tax exemption

Foreign national administrative and technical staff members (holders of legitimation card D) who are transferred to Switzerland to perform their official function are entitled, when initially moving to Switzerland, to import tax-free, all new or used household furniture and goods, including foodstuffs, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products destined for their own personal use. This privilege may only be used on one occasion and only within the time limit of one year from the date they commenced his/her posting.

The admission of tax-free goods is limited to what falls within the normal requirements for the personal use of the staff member and the family members who make up part of his/her household.

The ownership of items admitted tax-free may not be transferred, either against payment or free, for a period of one year from the date of their customs clearance without the prior pay-ment of the applicable import duties payable thereon. In circumstances where such transfer is justifiable, the Bern Customs Office has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products may not, under any circumstances, be passed on to third parties.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds.

However, for information on the extent of the tax-free exemption relating to other motor vehi-cles, please consult the Information Notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” section.

Procedure for consignments

The formalities of the procedures relating to this subject are set out in Article 10 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of members of the service staff of diplomatic missions and private staff of heads of diplomatic missions

Members of the service staff and private staff of heads of mission (holders of legitimation card E) who are transferred to Switzerland to perform their official function, may import tax-free household effects and motor vehicles which they have used abroad for at least six months prior to the date they commenced their posting and which they will continue to use personally.

Importation and Procedure

Importation and procedures relating thereto are governed by Article 14 of the Customs Ordi-nance of 1 November 2006 (RS 631.01) the text of which is set out at the end of this Information Notice.

Further information may be obtained on the Swiss Customs internet site: “Information for private individuals” > “Moving house, getting married and inheritance”. 

 www.douane.ch

Privileges of consular posts in Switzerland headed by a career consular representative 

Extent of the exemption 


All items destined for official use in consular posts in Switzerland headed by a career consular representative, may be imported free of import duties.

The ownership of items admitted free of tax may not be transferred for a period of three years from the date of their customs clearance without the prior payment of applicable import duty thereon. In circumstances where such transfer is justifiable, the Directorate General of Customs has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds.

However, for information on the extent of the tax-free exemption relating to the importation of other motor vehicles and the procuring of tax-free fuel, please consult the Information Notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” section.

Official equipment, office furniture and stationery destined for consular posts headed by an honorary consular representative are admitted free of import duty on the condition that such items are sent to the consular post by or on behalf of the sending State. Items admitted tax-free may not be transferred to third parties without the prior payment of applicable import duty thereon.

General Procedure

Consignments must be addressed to and destined for a consular post.

Consignments entering Switzerland by rail, road, air, post or by courier or

exiting a Swiss open customs warehouse, Swiss warehouse for bulk goods, or a Swiss duty-free warehouse.

and

Simplified procedure for consignments of printed matter

The formalities of the procedures relating to this subject are set out in Articles 14 and 16 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of career consular officers

Extent of the tax exemption

Foreign national career consular officers and family members who make up part of their household (holders of legitimation card K with pink and black band) have the right to import tax-free for their personal use the following items:

  • new or used furniture imported in connection with their initial move to Switzerland; this privilege may only be used on one occasion and only within the time limit of one year from the date they commenced their posting.
  • all other items, (with the exception of building materials but including domestic appliances and equipment) acquired separately and independently of the initial installation.

The tax-free importation of furniture is subject to the condition that the principal individual beneficiary exercises his/her official function in Switzerland.

The ownership of items admitted tax-free may not be transferred, either against payment or free, for a period of one year from the date of their customs clearance without the prior payment of the applicable import duties thereon. In circumstances where such sale or gift is justifiable, the Bern Customs Office has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products may not be passed on to third parties.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds.

However, for information on the extent of the tax-free exemption relating to the importation of motor vehicles and the procuring of tax-free fuel, please consult the Information Notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” section.

Important

These regulations do not apply to honorary consular officers. Items destined for such persons are subject to the standard provisions of Swiss customs legislation.

Procedure for consignments

and

Procedure for tourist traffic

The formalities of the procedures relating to this subject are set out in Articles 18 and 19 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of career consular employees

Extent of the tax exemption

Foreign national consular employees (persons employed as consular administrative or tech-nical staff) who are transferred to Switzerland to perform their official function (holders of le-gitimation card K with blue and black band) are entitled, when initially moving to Switzerland, to import tax-free all new or used household furniture and goods, including foodstuffs, alco-holic beverages and tobacco products destined for their own personal use or consumption. This privilege may only be used on one occasion and only within the time limit of one year from the time they commenced their posting.

The admission of tax-free goods is limited to what falls within the normal requirements of the entitled party and the family members who make up part of his/her household.

The ownership of items admitted tax-free may not be transferred, either against payment or free, for a period of one year from the date of their customs clearance without the prior pay-ment of the applicable import duty payable thereon. In circumstances where such transfer is justifiable the Bern Customs Office has the discretion to grant reductions in the amounts payable. Alcoholic beverages and processed tobacco goods may not, under any circum-stances, be passed on to third parties.

The above criteria apply equally to motorcycles, lightweight motorcycles and mopeds.

However, for information on the extent of the tax-free exemption relating to other motor vehicles, please consult the information notices relating thereto in the “Customs Privileges” sec-tion.

Procedure for consignments

The formalities of the procedures relating to this subject (applicable by analogy) are set out in Article 18 of the Ordinance on the Customs Privileges of Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consular Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (SR 631.144.0).

Privileges of members of the service staff of consular posts headed by a career consular representative

Members of the service staff of consular posts (holders of legitimation card K with purple and black band) who are transferred to Switzerland to perform their official function, may import tax-free household effects and motor vehicles which they have used abroad for at least six months prior to the time they commenced their posting and which they will continue to use personally.

Importation and Procedure

Importation and procedures relating to this subject are regulated by Article 14 of the Customs Ordinance of 1 November 2006 (RS 631.01) the text of which is set out at the end of this Information Notice.

Further information is available on the Swiss Customs internet site under “Information for private individuals” > “Moving house, getting married and inheritance”:

 www.douane.ch

Unofficial Translation of Article 14 “Household Effects” of the Customs Ordinance of 1 November 2006 (RS 631.01) which is referred to in this Information Notice: 

  1. Household effects of immigrants are admitted duty-free.
  2. Household effects must be imported close to the time when transfer of domicile oc-curs. Notification of subsequent consignments must be made at the time of the first importation. If there is some obstacle to the importation of the household effects, the tax-exemption may subsequently be granted once such obstacle has ceased to exist.
  3. Household effects are defined as:

    a) goods used by the immigrant for his/her personal needs or for his/her profession, trade or business in foreign customs territory for at least six months and which he/she will personally continue to use in Switzerland;

    b) usual household provisions and tobacco products in normal quantities and:

    1. up to 200 litres of beverages with an alcoholic content of up to 25% proof, and

    2. up to 12 litres of beverages with an alcoholic content of over 25% proof.
  4. Household goods and personal effects, excluding means of transport, of persons resident in foreign customs territory who acquire or rent a property for their exclusive personal use in Switzerland, are considered household effects provided the conditions set out in paragraph 3 a) above are complied with and provided the importation occurs on a date close to the time of conclusion of the purchase contract or tenancy agreement.
  5. Immigrants are defined as persons who transfer their domicile from another customs territory to Switzerland. Persons who have resided for at least one year on another foreign customs territory without giving up their Swiss domicile are considered immigrants

Legal references (see links)

  • Ordinance relating to Customs Privileges for Diplomatic Missions in Bern and Consu-lar Posts in Switzerland of 23 August 1989 (RS 631.144.0) available in French, German and Italian.
  • Customs Ordinance of 1 November 2006 (RS 631.01) available in French, German and Italian, which should be consulted for all other provisions not covered by this Information Notice.

The following persons do not benefit from customs privileges:

  • private employees/domestic staff (holders of legitimation card F)
  • persons not entitled to privileges/immunities (holders of legitimation card H)
  • staff members with Swiss nationality
  • staff members with permanent residence in Switzerland (holders of a right to reside or settle - work permit B or C)

Specialist Contact

Federal Customs Administration FCA

Customs Inspectorate of Aarau, Bern Subdivision

Bogenschützenstrasse 9B, Postfach, 3001 Berne

Tél. +41 (0)58 462 68 69

e-mail: diplomaten.aarau-zi@ezv.admin.ch 

Counters open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 10:30 am