I am a German national and in order to renew my national ID I will not have it for a few days. I have a Swiss work permit E and a French Attestation de Fonctions and no passport.

I am residing in Switzerland and sometimes go shopping in France, on this occasion I never saw border checks. Now I'm wondering what would happen should I cross the border without only the documents stated above and the police stops me either going from Switzerland to France or vice versa. I know that border controls are extremely sporadic so I most likely wouldn't get checked even if they put them in place (checks are to prevent smuggling and I go by bike or walk).

  • OK, it's becoming clearer but unfortunately, I am not sure about the exact legal implications of all this. The Swiss permit might be enough to enter Switzerland, I don't know. The French attestation isn't a French residence/work permit (that would be enough for France) and I have not been able to find any details on what it might or might not allow. But with all this establishing your identity and the fact you work for a French diplomatic mission, I am guessing you should be able to talk your way out of any control on a "soft" border like that between France and Switzerland.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:43
  • 1
    The existing border checks between France and Switzerland are for customs only, because Switzerland is not in the EEA. If you aren't driving a lorry you aren't likely to be stopped. If you are driving a lorry, you're guaranteed to be stopped. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:51
  • Now clean up! Please edit all your comment answers into your question, so that all information is in one place. Then remove them, and mark all related comments asking for clarification as 'obsolete'.
    – user40521
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:31
  • 2
    If you were a large hadron you could cross the frontier 11,000 times per second and only another large hadron could stop you (which is unlikely, but if it did, you'd be saying goodbye). Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


Regarding what may happen, the worse conceivable outcome is being forced to turn back, especially on your way out. But I assume that even if there is a border check, it would most likely be possible to talk your way out of it.

I am not sure for Switzerland but a fine is not a risk in France, you are supposed to have an official form of ID to cross the border but it's not an offense not to have one within the country. So even if, formally, your attestation is not enough (and it might be for all I know), there is no legal basis to impose a fine or anything. The police could retain you for some time to ascertain your status but with so much evidence of who you are, the fact you are an EU citizen and actually work for a French diplomatic mission, it would just be a waste of time for them (you have a right to be there regardless of any documentary issue and there is no way on earth it would end up in a forcible removal).

Also, my personal experience with this border (which I have had many occasions to cross over the years) is that things are more-or-less back to normal there. A spot check is always possible but when police is present (which it isn't, most of the time), they usually just look at you and wave you through without asking any question. The only place where I have seen systematic document checks is when boarding French trains at Geneva train station.


According to this, you can enter Switzerland with your German ID or Passport even if they are expired. If you don't have the expired ones... Well - that's bad.

Alle Reisedokumente außer dem vorläufigen Personalausweis dürfen auch seit einem Jahr abgelaufen sein. Es kann jedoch vorkommen, dass die Rechtslage in Bezug auf die Nutzung abgelaufener Reisedokumente nicht überall bekannt ist. Daher wird empfohlen, gültige Reisedokumente mit sich zu führen.

For non-german speaking: it says your ID's can be expired (with a maximum of 1 year), but it's not recommended to use those, as this change is recent and not known to everyone.

As for France - this says as well that your ID can be expired (max 1 year due).

Reisedokumente außer dem vorläufigen Personalausweis dürfen seit höchstens einem Jahr abgelaufen sein.

States basically the same thing, just without the warning.

  • No, it's not safe to assume it works for all EU citizens, it's really country-by-country, here are all the details for Switzerland. Also, the OP specified that he or she doesn't have one so this does not really address the question.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 12:57
  • @Relaxed Should've said Schengen-Citizens, my bad.
    – Daniel M.
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:03
  • @DanielM. In Switzerland, that's not even the case for all nationals of Schengen countries and when there is an exception, it's not necessarily the same. If you look at the table and footnotes, you will see that for German nationals, a passport expired since less than a year is good, for French nationals, a passport expired since less than five years is enough and for Italian nationals, there is no exception at all!
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:21
  • @Relaxed did some research, and i stand corrected. It's not only for Switzerland, every Schengen-State has its own rules for expired ID's and passports. Good to learn something new!
    – Daniel M.
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:28

Yes, in practice you can easily cross the border between Switzerland and France as both are in the Schengen zone and under normal circumstances, there are no border checks between them. You can literally just walk across the border in many areas and there is nobody to check. I've done it many times, with or without ID. If you don't pay attention you might even cross without noticing.

French-Swiss border at Col de Balme
Col de Balme at the border between Switzerland and France. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, different countries still have de jure requirements about carrying IDs, either at all times or when crossing a border, but it is up to you whether you choose to meet those requirements in practice.

  • There are no border checks, but you ARE required to carry your Personal ID with you (or some other document).
    – Daniel M.
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:06
  • @DanielM. The question was not whether there is a requirement to carry a personal ID. The question is whether it is possible to cross the border. In plenty of countries you are required to carry a personal ID at all times, border-crossing or not. It is a different question. Either way, I have edited the question to clarify that my answer does not address whether or not one is required to carry an ID (which was not asked).
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:07
  • Thank you for your answer, this is what I'm currently doing, however I always had my id with me. I'm now asking for the theoretical case that there ARE border checks and I'm stopped - am I in trouble, do I have to pay a fine, is a work permit enough. (my colleagues commute over the border and according to them there are border controls every now and then. Espc after attacks in Belgium/France. I've personally never seen a border control.
    – Gaze
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:16
  • @Gaze If that is your question, please edit your question to clarify, as it's not at all clear.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:16

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