Opening a consular post headed by an honorary consular officer

The regime for establishing consular relations, consular functions and 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. 

Procedure for establishing a consular post 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 

The genuine need for a duly accredited official representative must be objectively demonstrated. Statistical data on the current and forecast size of the foreign community, 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 re-examine at any time, including after opening, the genuine need to keep a post open. 

The limited size of Swiss territory compels the Swiss authorities to restrict the number of consular representations: in addition to a consular section near the Embassy in Bern, they will only consider, in principle, requests to establish a maximum of one additional consular post per language region (in German-speaking Switzerland, French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino). 

The seat of a consular post must be located in a cantonal capital (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 change of address of the seat of a consular post is subject to the prior approval of the FDFA (Protocol). Consular districts may not overlap one another and must coincide with cantonal borders.

Procedure for nominating heads of consular posts

Once the FDFA (Protocol) has granted approval in principle 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 (surname/first names, place/date of birth, civil status, place of origin for a Swiss citizen or nationality/ies if the candidate is a foreigner, 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 foreigner

  • 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 the prior approval of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport. 

The head of the consular post must live in the consular district. 

A head of post’s class must correspond to the category of his consular representation, for example a consul-general for a general consulate and a consul for a consulate. 

Procedure for admission of heads of consular posts

Once the FDFDA (Protocol) has agreed to the candidate nominated by the sending State, Protocol will invite the Embassy to send it the original letter of commission. This letter must contain the surname and first name of the appointed head of post (as it is 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. 

Exequatur

Protocol will send the exequatur to the Embassy for transmission to the head of post. However, the letter of commission, being an integral part of the admission dossier, cannot be returned to the authorities of the sending State. 

Registration with Protocol, issuance of a legitimation card and inscription in the “Consular Corps Member List”

Once exequatur has been received, the Embassy concerned must send the FDFA (Protocol) a request for registration of the head of post with two recent passport photographs.

Only the honorary consular officer who heads the consular post can be issued with a legitimation card and appear on the “Consular Corps Member List”. 

Change of address of the seat of a consular post

Any subsequent change of address of the seat of a consular post is subject to the 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 general consulate”). In the event of such a change, it is mandatory for the Embassy concerned to send the FDFA (Protocol) a new letter of commission (refer to 3rd phase of formalities 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, in principle and, if the circumstances allow, re-enter its consular district under that of the Embassy. In special cases, the Department (Protocol) will contact the Embassy. 

Re-opening a consular post headed by a honorary consular official 

Sending States wishing to open a new post are requested to follow the procedure in accordance with this information notice, starting with the first phase of formalities.

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24.04.1963