SwitzerlandOfficial Name: Swiss Confederation
Must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required for stays under 90 days
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
No min/10,000 Euros Max
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
No min/10,000 Euros Max
Embassies and Consulates
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011 (2p.m. - 4 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280
U.S. Consular Agent - Geneva
rue Versonnex 7
Telephone: +(41) (22) 840-5160 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (22) 840-5162
U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Fax: +(41) (43) 499-2961
Switzerland is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons officially known as the Swiss Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica (CH). The country is situated in Central Europe, where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau, and the Jura. The Swiss Confederation has a long history of armed neutrality and did not join the United Nations until 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to a large number of international organizations. On the European level, it is part of the Schengen Area although it is not a member of the European Union. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Switzerland for additional information on U.S.- Swiss relations
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area. We recommend that your passport have at least six months’ validity remaining whenever you travel to or through Europe. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries please see our Schengen Fact Sheet. Travelers planning to exceed the 90-day limit within 180 days in the Schengen area may obtain more information online at the Embassy of Switzerland or in person at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or a Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, or San Francisco
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or for foreign residents of Switzerland.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Switzerland remains largely free of terrorist incidents; however, like other countries in the Schengen area, Switzerland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country anonymously. You should remain vigilant with regard to your personal security. Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, violence by anti-globalization, anti-Semitic, and anti-establishment (anarchist) groups does occur from time to time. This violence is typically in the form of property damage and clashes between these groups and the police. The potential for specific threats of violence involving U.S. citizens in Switzerland is remote. Nevertheless, the consular agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.
Public demonstrations occasionally take place mostly in Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. These events are almost always known in advance to the police, who provide appropriate personnel to observe and maintain order. Such demonstrations rarely turn violent; nonetheless, you should avoid them if at all possible.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Twitter and visit the Embassy's website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and check our useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime; however, crimes of all types do occur. Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are the most common and frequently occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Be especially vigilant in the airports and railway stations in both Zurich and Geneva, as these locations experience multiple incidents of petty theft almost every day.
Additionally, be alert while on trains and always keep an eye on your baggage. Overhead baggage frequently gets stolen when it is unattended even for a few seconds, especially on overcrowded trains regardless of the length of the train ride. You should be particularly careful on overnight trains to and from neighboring countries. Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments. Thieves have been known to work in pairs to target train passengers; while one member of the pair creates a diversion at a train window or on a platform, the other steals items you have left briefly unattended.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care, if you are the victim of a violent crime such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we can contact family members or friends; and
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Switzerland, through its 26 cantons (states), has programs to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives. Medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal assistance are available throughout the country. This type of assistance must be applied for and the local police can assist if necessary. These programs also protect the rights of the victim during criminal proceedings. The victim may receive compensation for some damages if requested during the criminal procedure. Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Switzerland is 144 for medical/ambulance services; 117 for the police department; and 118 for the fire department.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Switzerland you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. You are expected to carry an I.D. and/or a passport while you are in Switzerland. Persons violating Swiss laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In Switzerland you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings.
Driving under the influence could lead to heavy fines and/or a ban from driving or in some cases, land you immediately in jail. Swiss law only allows up to 0.05% blood alcohol content (whereas the legal limit in the United States is 0.08%). Driving speeds in Switzerland are also much lower than in the rest of Europe and vary from area to area. Travelers are advised to carefully observe the posted speed limits.
Traffic fines are costly and vary according to where the infraction occurs and by how much one exceeds the speed limit. Fines assessed within the city limits are higher than those assessed on a highway or autobahn. Please refer to the Swiss Authorities page for current information on traffic regulation and fines in Switzerland.
Drug possession carries heavy fines and prison terms in Switzerland; these can vary depending on the amount and type of narcotics carried. Any attempt to cross an international border carrying drugs (for instance transiting Switzerland via Zurich airport) automatically constitutes trafficking charges. These charges can also carry heavy penalties. If you break local laws in Switzerland, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are also some things that might be legal in Switzerland, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in Switzerland, you may be breaking local law as well.
Arrest Notifications in Switzerland: Swiss authorities are not required to inform the U.S. Embassy about arrests of U.S. citizens; however, they are required by law to offer and provide the opportunity to the U.S. citizen to contact the U.S. Embassy. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained in Switzerland.
Switzerland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires arrestees be immediately heard before an independent magistrate to determine if they will be held for investigative detention. Individuals “highly suspected” of a crime are generally placed under police detention until such time that their case can be heard by the magistrate.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: We strongly urge you to buy mountain search and rescue insurance if you are going to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter). Alpine hazards, such as avalanches and snow drifts, landslides and flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes, exist throughout the year. You should stay on designated paths, follow the advice given by local authorities and guides, take note of weather forecasts and conditions, if possible, be in a team of two, and inform someone of your plans. You or your family is responsible for the costs of search and rescue operations. Swiss post offices offer inexpensive search and rescue insurance for purchase. You can get more information from the Swiss National Tourist Office, at most tourist information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization. Such insurance has proved useful; an uninsured rescue can easily cost $25,000.
Switzerland’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480 or email.
Swiss banking: U.S. citizens residing in Switzerland (i.e., those relocating for work or for family reunification) should be aware that numerous banking institutions do not accept U.S. citizens and their spouses as clients. The U.S. Embassy in Bern will provide links on its website in the near future directing U.S citizens to information about banks willing to accept U.S. citizen clients
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Switzerland. (LGBT individuals enjoy full rights in Switzerland. LGBT individuals are protected by anti-discrimination laws, and there are no legal or governmental impediments to the organization of LGBT events. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Switzerland you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
ACCESSIBILITY: Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from what you find in the United States. Most cantons have already implemented some provisions for persons with disabilities, but there is no country-wide standard. Experts estimate that only 30 percent of public buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Excellent medical care is widely available. You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Road conditions in Switzerland differ significantly from those in the United States.
Although many roads are mountainous and winding, Swiss road safety standards are high. Vehicle snow chains are required in some mountain areas during the winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and Whit Sunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires the purchase of a sticker (“vignette”), which must be affixed to the car’s windshield. Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossings points, gas stations and Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot.
Public transportation in Switzerland is excellent and punctual. The Swiss tourist office and train station are the best places to obtain information about special fares for tourists.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.