I'm French. I have to go to Switzerland to take the train and my identity card is expired, is the certificate of renewal of CNI enough to prove my identity?

3 Answers 3


Per the requirements given here French citizens must hold one of the ID documents listed here: either an ID card, a temporary ID card or a Passport expired less than 5 years ago. If you do not hold any of these documents you risk being denied entry. As you probably know there is a degree of border control between France and Switzerland. Train passengers are very often checked, but those who enter on foot, by car or by local public transport such as local bus or tram are less likely to be checked.

  • It sounds like OP is entering Switzerland to board a train, not entering Switzerland by train.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:56
  • @phoog Good point. Border controls are less frequent on foot, by car and by public transport (eg the Geneva public transport network extends into France) in my experience but are still possible.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 13:50
  • I've never been checked on the train to/from Annemasse, nor seen much evidence of checking. Passengers from other trains to/from Geneva have to go through a customs checkpoint that is somewhat more closely monitored than those in an airport, but I don't get the sense that the officers would pay much attention to immigration law, nor, if they did, that they would have a problem with a French citizen whose ID is pending renewal.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 14:08
  • @phoog I've been checked several times coming by train from France via Annecy. They have a separate platform at Cornavin for trains to and from France and you get funnelled through a border control point which is often staffed. Possibly commuter trains as I imagine the train from Annemasse is would not be checked.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 14:16
  • 2
    Was that before or after the introduction of Léman Express service? Those trains do not stop at the separate platform (and Cornavin is not their first or last stop in Switzerland). As far as I know all service to and from Annecy is now through Annemasse on Léman Express trains. I've never seen the Cornavin customs offices unstaffed, but I've only been through there a few times.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 15:49

The EU free movement directive calls for beneficiaries who lack the required documents to be given an opportunity to prove by other means that they are covered by the directive. In other words, if you can prove that you're French, you should be allowed to enter.

This directive does not apply to Switzerland; instead, there is a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and tbe EU that provides for broadly similar rights. I don't know whether the same provision is in that agreement, but I suspect that it is, because the Swiss government has this to say on their frequently asked questions page:

3.1 May EU or EFTA citizens without a valid travel document or without a travel document made out in their name enter Switzerland?

In principle, anyone who wishes to enter Switzerland is required to hold a valid travel document in their name (a passport, emergency passport, temporary passport, ID card, or a special travel document issued to children). Depending on nationality, certain expired travel documents are accepted by Switzerland for crossing the Swiss border:

List: Overview of ID and visa provisions according to nationality.

EU or EFTA citizens wishing to enter Switzerland without a valid travel document will be admitted if they manage to prove or make credible their citizenship. The burden of proof lies with the person concerned and in case of children with their parents or accompanying adults. Proof of citizenship may be furnished by any appropriate means. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) suggests carrying the following documents:

  • a photocopy of a valid travel document;
  • an expired travel document;
  • an official document proving the identity and/or citizenship of the holder (e.g. driver’s licence);
  • for children: an extract from an official register (e.g. the register of births, marriages, and deaths) and/or the original of the child's birth certificate if no such official register exists or if no extract could be issued for lack of time.

In all cases it is strongly recommended to apply for a travel document as soon as possible.

Please note that certain airline companies may not transport passengers without valid travel documents. Please check with your airline what transport conditions apply.

I have crossed the border between France and Geneva several times in the last year, by train, bus, tram, and auto, and I've never been stopped or questioned by any government authorities except in the car. Those inquiries were all limited to customs concerns. There was never any question related to nationality or immigration/residence status (despite my asking in every case for the officer to conduct the interview in English).

Passengers for trains from Geneva to the west (and vice versa), that is, not via Annemasse, have to pass through a customs checkpoint in the Geneva train station. I've never been stopped by the officers there, but I expect that the inquiry would be limited to customs questions as with the road crossings I've experienced.

If I were you, I would not modify my plans on account of the expired ID card. Bring the renewal certificate and whatever other documents or copies might help to establish your identity and citizenship. You'll almost certainly not need them, but if you do, they'll almost certainly suffice.

  • 2
    (+1) Interestingly, the downstairs corridor between the platform used by trains for France at Cornavin and the rest of the station used to have four separate offices (customs and police from both countries) and in the 1980s, you would have to queue and possibly interact with all four separately. I don't remember whether the signage is still there but it's obviously quite different now.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 20:18
  • 1
    @Relaxed when I moved to Geneva last summer there were long queues extending out of that corridor. This is no longer the case; I suppose that was due to COVID-19 vaccination checks, but the first time I actually went through there was just a few months ago, after document checks were more or less a thing of the past. We filed past the officers, and as far as I remember (though I wasn't paying close attention) there was very little interaction.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 21:51

Note that France extended the validity of some French national ID cards from 10 to 15 years:

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https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Duree-de-validite-de-la-CNI (mirror) contains a list of countries that are supposed to accept or reject such expired French ID cards. Switzerland is in that list. It also contains some text explaining the five-year extension translated in the language of each country, which you want to keep a copy of when traveling. Lastly, it advises:

De façon à éviter tout désagrément pendant votre voyage, il vous est fortement recommandé de privilégier l’utilisation d’un passeport valide à une CNI portant une date de fin de validité dépassée, même si elle est considérée par les autorités françaises comme étant toujours en cours de validité.

Google Translate:

In order to avoid any inconvenience during your trip, you are strongly recommended to privilege the use of a valid passport to a CNI carrying an expired date of validity, even if it is considered by the French authorities as being always in validity.

  • "translated in the language of each country": I doubt there are any Swiss border officers who can't read it in French; certainly all of those on the French border will, and for most of them it will be their native language. (I know that you know this, but apparently the people at Google maps do not.) But would someone with a certificate of renewal also be in possession of the previous document? Isn't it likely that Hadock is applying at the end of the five year extension?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 17:51
  • @phoog CNI may be extended before the end of the five year extension. Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 17:59
  • Okay, but is it likely to be? Why do it early?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 18:03
  • 1
    @phoog when traveling to the countries that don't recognize the extension. Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 18:07
  • just for the record, in my case the 5 years extensions doesn't work because I was under 18 when my ID was created
    – Hadock
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 11:48

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