I understand that non-EU family members of EU citizens also enjoy freedom of movement when travelling with the EU citizen.

I also understand that Switzerland is part of Schengen, and thus there shouldn't be border controls.

On the other hand, while checking the actual rules for Switzerland, I noticed:


If required, they must also have a valid visa C (Schengen visa), unless they hold a residence permit issued by a Schengen country, or were issued a valid category D visa for a long-term stay by a Schengen country


If the third-country national is required to have a visa in order to enter Switzerland and has no residence permit, see Overview of ID and visa provisions according to nationality.

(direct link to the provisions in PDF)

Under 2.6.3 it says:

Passport for a foreign national issued by another state

In order to enter Switzerland, holders of such passports require a visa regardless of the nationality stated in the travel document.

The problem is that, by the time that we were thinking of visiting Switzerland, their entry visa would've expired. It's a C visa, and thus I expect it wouldn't be considered valid anymore.

I was thinking that by travelling together, and having our marriage certificate (or copy of it) with us, it would've been possible to travel and visit Switzerland, even if they haven't yet obtained their Italian residence card. Unfortunately, I cannot find anything that confirms that my impression was correct.

Can the trip go ahead, or is it better to postpone such plans?

1 Answer 1


Section 2.6.3 applies to "Passport for a foreign national issued by another state" (and all of 2.6 applies to "passports for foreign nationals," including those issued by Switzerland). This does not apply to your family member unless he or she is stateless or a refugee. In other words, "foreign" in "passport for a foreign national" means "foreign to the state issuing the passport," not "foreign to Switzerland."

If your family member's passport was issued by the country of citizenship, then the document is not applicable, because the need to have a visa applies only to certain nationalities, and this document is for provisions that apply regardless of nationality.

(See the first version of this answer in the edit history for a somewhat different version of the following that proved to be unsupported by subsequent research.)

This brings us back to the first link. To enter Switzerland by an external border, an EU citizen is supposed to be given the opportunity to "prove by other means" that free movement applies (see my answer to a recent similar question). But this provision isn't to be found in the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU, only in a set of frequently asked questions, where family members are not mentioned.

Since the requirement to have a visa only applies when crossing the border, and there's very little risk that immigration documents will be checked on entering Switzerland through an internal border, you'll probably be fine. If you really want to play by the rules, you can approach the nearest Swiss consular office and apply for a visa. They'll probably tell you you don't need one, but if they don't, you'll end up with the visa you need.

You mention a marriage certificate, but for the benefit of other readers it is still worthwhile to point out that for this purpose "qualifying family relationship" basically encompasses spouses and partners, minor children, dependent adult children, and dependent parents, grandparents, etc.

I should also add that my recent experience crossing the Swiss land border has been entirely limited to crossing between France and Geneva or extreme western Vaud. Immigration document checks may be more common on the Italian/Swiss border. Similarly, my recent experience arriving on internal flights has been limited to Geneva airport. I can't say anything about the chance of being checked in another airport.

  • 1
    I'll have to check again, but I think the bilateral agreement does provide for the right to enter for EU citizens, where any proof establishing citizenship should suffice, but the right of family members is only limited to "joining" an EU citizen in CH with sufficient financial means (e.g. an EU student in CH must prove financial resources for their family members' residence permit, they do not have an fundamental automatic right like in EU countries).
    – xngtng
    Aug 26, 2022 at 11:17
  • 1
    @xngtng the agreement says (my translation from French): "the contracting parties shall admit to their territory nationals of the other contracting parties, members of their families as defined in article 3, ... on the simple presentation of a valid identity card or passport." The elided text concerns workers; subsequent text concerns visas and when they're required. I see nothing about proof by other means, etc.
    – phoog
    Aug 26, 2022 at 11:36
  • 1
    (+1) Checks also used to be more common around Basel. I vaguely recall reading that the border force has long been short-staffed in Geneva.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 26, 2022 at 15:06
  • 1
    @berdario I'm surprised I didn't mention this earlier, but if your spouse is a national of an "Annex II" country whose citizens don't need a visa for short stays then no visa should be necessary when entering under the free movement directive. The existence of an Italian C visa suggests this is not the case, however. Did you try stressing to the consulate that this is not a tourist visa you're looking for but rather one related to the free movement agreement, which says "La parte contraente interessata concede a tali persone ogni agevolazione per ottenere i visti eventualmente necessari"?
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2022 at 10:44
  • 1
    @berdario part of the problem is that most of the requirements concerning "entry into Switzerland" seem to apply to crossing the external border but aren't explicitly limited to this. The same is true of the EU directive in some cases; for example, under the directive a visa is only necessary for entry, but does that apply to crossing internal borders? If so, how does an Irish/Ghanaian couple spend two months each in Spain, France and Germany given if Spain issues a visa valid for only 90 days?
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2022 at 11:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .