Staying in Switzerland at the end of functions

Staying in Switzerland after withdrawal of the FDFA legitimation card of type «B», «C», «D, «E», «G», «I», «L», «P» or «R» of the staff members of permanent missions and international organisations as well for the family members.

The present notice does not deal with the situation of nationals of a member States of the European Union (EU) or of member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), to whom the provisions of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons concluded between the EU, the EU Member States and Switzerland apply.

According to current practice, the cantonal foreign police agrees to grant or, if appropriate, favourably to propose to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) the granting of residence permits (B permit) or permanent residence permits (C permit) to former holders of FDFA legitimation cards who are in the following situations:

1. Principal beneficiary (the person employed to perform official duties)

Retirement of the staff member of an international organisation (IO)

Retirement at the statutory age: a staff member who retires at the age fixed by the statutes of the IO concerned may receive a B permit as a person of private means or a foreigner not engaging in remunerated activity. With the approval of the SEM, he/she may immediately obtain a C permit if he/she has lived in Switzerland and worked for this organisation five years before the age of retirement, if he/she has given no cause for complaint and if he/she has sufficient funds to support himself/herself.

When the period of residence is less than five years, the cantonal foreigner’s office may allow him/her to reside in Switzerland as a person of private means. The approval of the SEM is always required. He/she may obtain a C permit when he/she has resided uninterruptedly for five years from the date of obtaining the FDFA legitimation card. However, this permit is not granted in the case of persons who were previously resident in border areas outside Switzerland.

Retirement following return from a mission abroad: a C permit may also be granted when a staff member returns from a mission abroad on behalf of the IO if the transfer took place five years before the age of retirement and if the staff member lived and worked for IO in Switzerland ten years before the transfer abroad. In the case of persons who worked in Switzerland at several different periods (totaling more than ten years), the SEM will examine each case on its merits and determine to what extent these stays can be counted towards the granting of residence.

Early retirement: staff members who take early retirement, for whatever reason, may obtain a B permit. With the approval of the SEM, a C permit may be issued immediately, if the staff members are aged 55 and have resided and worked in Switzerland for this IO for the previous ten years. Persons aged under 55 may be granted a B permit without the right to engage in remunerated activity if important circumstances justify it. In such cases, they will obtain the C permit five or ten years after receiving the B permit, depending on their nationality.

Retirement of the staff member of a permanent mission (PM)

Staff members of a PM who have reached retirement age may be permitted to reside in Switzerland as persons of private means if they are aged at least 55, have strong personal links to this country (in particular long stays in Switzerland, during holidays, education or remunerated activity, or strong ties to close relations in Switzerland), no longer engage in remunerated activity in Switzerland or abroad and are in possession of sufficient funds.

2. Spouse

As a rule, the spouse must leave Switzerland at the same time as the principal beneficiary. However, the competent authority may, in particular cases, permit the spouse to remain after the departure of the principal beneficiary in order to enable him/her to prepare his/her departure or to terminate his/her remunerated activity within a reasonable period. A spouse who wishes to remain in Switzerland as an individual will be subject in all respects to the law of the land regardless of whether or not they are engaged in remunerated activity.

Retirement of the principal beneficiary: if the principal beneficiary is authorised to remain in Switzerland as a pensioner, the spouse living with him/her has the right to live with him/her. Once the principal beneficiary receives a C permit, his/her spouse will receive the same authorisation after a regular and uninterrupted stay of five years in the same household as the spouse.

Death, divorce and definitive transfer of the main holder: the competent authority may authorise the spouse, depending on the case, to remain in Switzerland following divorce, death of the principal beneficiary or transfer abroad of the principal beneficiary. The authority will take into account the degree of integration, the spouse's professional situation and the length of residence in Switzerland. The approval of the SEM is required.

Temporary transfer of the principal beneficiary working for an IO: when the principal beneficiary is transferred abroad temporarily, the competent authority may permit the spouse to remain in the country if this is justified by particular circumstances. The spouse will then receive a temporary residence permit (B permit). In such cases, the IO will provide the competent authority with assurances that the concerned staff member will take up his/her post again in Switzerland at the end of his/her mission abroad and will also indicate the probable length of the absence abroad. This authorisation is subject to approval by the SEM.

3. Children

Independent authorisation from age 21: children permitted to reside in Switzerland before the age of 21 to live together with their family may request a B permit at the age of 21 or, if appropriate, a C permit independent of the status of the principal beneficiary. The approval of the SEM is required.

Early granting of independent authorisation: a B permit may be granted to a child aged less than 21 when he/she: 

  • settles down with a family of his/her own,
  • is financially independent by taking a job in Switzerland and consequently no longer lives in the same household as the principal beneficiary.

To take account of links with Switzerland, the degree of integration and particular circumstances, the cantonal authority may, with the approval of the SEM, grant an independent B permit to a child aged 18:  

  • in the event of divorce, the separation of the parents or of the death of the principal beneficiary,
  • at the time of the definitive transfer abroad of the principal beneficiary, provided that the child has stable employment or, if he/she is studying, that he/she has been living in Switzerland in the same household for several years.

Residence authorisation: a child may obtain a C permit after a total stay of twelve years from the time of obtaining the FDFA legitimation card if he/she has lived consecutively in Switzerland in the last five years but at the latest after a regular and uninterrupted stay of ten years (five years according to residence agreements or on the basis of reciprocity), counting from the date of the granting of an independent B permit.

Studies or stay in the border area: when the child has been resident in Switzerland but has studied in the border area outside Switzerland or when the child has resided in the border region but has had most of his schooling in Switzerland, he/she will be treated in the same way as a child who has resided and studied in Switzerland. The cantonal foreigner’s office may grant him/her a B permit or C permit if he/she fulfils the above conditions.

Specialist Contact

Permanent Mission of Switzerland to UNOG
Service of Registration of the International Community
Rue de Varembé 9-11
P.O. Box 194
CH-1211 Geneva 20
Tel. +41 (0)58 482 24 24
Fax +41 (0)58 482 24 37