Consular posts headed by an honorary consular officer and exequatur procedure
The regime for establishing consular relations, consular functions and consular posts, and the nomination and admission of heads of consular posts is governed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963. Chapter III of the Convention deals specifically with the regime applying to honorary consular officers and consular posts headed by such officers.
Conditions for opening and maintaining consular posts headed by an honorary 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 forecast size of the diaspora, commercial, tourist, cultural and scientific relations between the sending State and the new consular district must be provided, as should that for prospective further development resulting from the presence of an official representative. The FDFA reserves the right to re-examine at any time the need to keep a post open, including after its opening.
The limited size of the Swiss territory compels the Swiss authorities to restrict the number of consular representations: in addition to a consular section linked to the Embassy in Bern (or Geneva), they will only consider, in principle, requests to establish a maximum of one additional consular post per language region (in German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland).
The seat of a consular post must be located in a cantonal capital or its immediate surroundings (with the exception of the Canton of Ticino where, upon duly-evidenced request, the city of Lugano may also be accepted as seat for a consular post). A cantonal administrative center is determined by its center and the municipalities served by the urban public transport network of the cantonal capital, not including inter-city or regional transport systems.
Any subsequent address change of the seat of a consular post is subject to prior approval by the FDFA Protocol, as does any change of consular district.
Consular districts may not overlap one another and must coincide with cantonal borders.
The head of the consular post must live in the consular district.
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 and maintaining consular posts headed by an honorary consular officer
Requests to establish a consular post must be addressed to the FDFA (Protocol) through diplomatic channels and must contain the following information:
- Specific reasons to justify the request (see conditions below)
- The name of the cantonal capital designated as the consular post’s seat
- The cantons to be incorporated into the proposed consular district
Procedure for appointing honorary heads of consular posts
Once the FDFA (Protocol) has granted technical approval for the establishment of a consular post, Protocol will invite the Embassy to send its nomination proposal, with the following documents:
- A complete and current curriculum vitae with photograph of the candidate (surname/first names, place/date of birth, civil status, place of origin for a Swiss citizen or nationality/ies if the candidate is a non-Swiss citizen, private and professional addresses, education/studies, professional history, current position)
- A photocopy of his/her passport (or passports if a multi-national)
- A photocopy of the candidate’s Permit B or C (residence/settlement) if he/she is a non-Swiss citizen
- Original extract of the candidate’s criminal record check (to be requested by the candidate)
- Place and address of proposed seat of consular post
According to Swiss practice, acceptable honorary consuls are individuals already residing in Switzerland, meaning either Swiss citizens or holders of a settlement Permit C. Exceptionally, the holder of a resident Permit B may be accepted, provided he/she holds the nationality of the sending State. These individuals usually have another professional occupation.
The nomination of Swiss citizens, members of a federal or cantonal executive, legislative or judicial authority, is subject to restrictions and the nomination of active members of the Swiss Armed Forces require prior approval through the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport.
Procedure for admitting honorary heads of consular post
Once the FDFA (Protocol) has agreed to the candidate nominated by the sending State, Protocol will invite the Embassy to submit the original letter of commission. This letter must contain the surname(s) and first name(s) of the appointed head of post (as written in his/her passport), the class (consul general or consul), as well as the category (honorary), consular district (list of cantons concerned) and seat (cantonal capital) of the consular post. The letter of commission must be addressed to the Federal Council (and not to the President of the Confederation). On the basis of this letter, Protocol will submit a request for exequatur to the Federal Council.
FDFA Protocol will send the exequatur to the embassy for transmission to the head of post.
Registering with FDFA Protocol, issue of legitimation card and inclusion in Directory of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Once exequatur has been received, the Embassy must submit a request for registration of the head of post to the FDFA Protocol, accompanied by two recent passport photographs.
Only the honorary consular officer who heads the consular post can be issued a legitimation card and appear on the "Consular Corps Member List".
Change of address of the seat of a consular post
Any change of address of the seat of a consular post is subject to prior approval of the FDFA (Protocol).
Promotion of a head of consular post
The promotion of an "honorary consul" to "honorary consul general" also engenders a change in class of the consular post (from "consulate" to "consulate general"). In the event of such a change, it is mandatory for the Embassy to send the FDFA Protocol a new letter of commission (see above) and for Protocol to request a new exequatur from the Federal Council.
End of posting of a head of a consular post (formalities and consequences)
Embassies must inform the FDFA (Protocol) without delay of the end of the posting of a head of a consular post, specifying the exact date on which functions will cease, return any legitimation card(s), and confirm that the "CC" sign has been removed from all vehicles.
The Embassy must ensure that all visible signs (coats of arms, flags, plaques, etc.) are removed from the building’s façade, entrance, and letterbox, and that all official seals, forms and official documents are returned to the Embassy.
The FDFA Protocol will then delete the consular post’s entry from the "Consular Corps Member List" and, if the circumstances allow, duly re-enter its consular district under that of the Embassy. In special cases, the FDFA (Protocol) will contact the Embassy.