Switzerland to remain in the US Visa Waiver Programme: FDJP to formulate mandate

Bern, Press release, 01.02.2012

Bern - On Wednesday the Federal Council decided that Switzerland would remain in the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). However, the USA has attached conditions to participation in the VWP. It requires that two agreements in the security area should be finalised. The Federal Council has instructed the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) to formulate a negotiation mandate in this area. Parliament and the Cantons will be consulted before the final granting of the mandate. Data protection aspects will be duly taken into account in the negotiation of the agreements.

36 countries participate in the VWP programme, which Switzerland joined in 1986. The programme enables Swiss travellers to visit the United States for tourism or for business for up to 90 days without a visa. Every year about 340,000 people from Switzerland visit the USA. Participation in the VWP is dependent on compliance with security standards that are jointly defined by the participating countries and the USA. These standards include biometric passports and the willingness of participating countries to provide the US authorities with data about lost and stolen passports. 

In October 2009 the USA informed Switzerland that the US Congress had decided to adapt the legal basis for VWP cooperation with third countries. Partner countries will be required to increase police cooperation. This will entail the conclusion of agreements about the automatic exchange of DNA and fingerprint data to prevent and to combat serious crime (PCSC) and the exchange of data about known and suspected terrorists. According to US information, approximately 30 of the 36 VWP states have now concluded the relevant agreements in this area.

The Federal Council has now mandated the FDJP, in cooperation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) and the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DCPS), to draft a mandate for negotiations with the USA and to submit it to the Federal Council. The relevant committees of Parliament and the cantons will be consulted. When these agreements are being negotiated, Switzerland's interests in the area of data protection and reciprocal rights will be duly taken into account. 

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA, Federal Palace West 3003 Bern
phone.: +41 (0)31 322 31 53


The Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Federal Departement of Justice and Police