The Swiss Abroad have to report events, declarations and decisions affecting their civil status to the competent Swiss representation. Foreign documents must fulfill conditions before being registered into the Swiss civil status register.
Obligation to report
According to the Ordinance on civil status (OCS), Swiss nationals as well as foreigners who are in a family law relation with a Swiss citizen are under an obligation to report events and decisions affecting their civil status to the competent Swiss representation abroad. They are under the same obligation in so far as foreign declarations and decisions are concerned. The Swiss Federal Act on Private International Law stipulates that a foreign decision or document concerning civil status is entered into the Swiss civil status register (Infostar) on the basis of a decision by the cantonal civil status supervisory authority.
The Swiss representation acts in civil status matters according to the instructions of the Federal Office of Civil Status (FOCS) of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ). Foreign documents should in principle be submitted to the competent Swiss representation. The Swiss Abroad report to the Swiss representation responsible for their place of residence abroad the events, declarations and decisions that affect their civil status according to the Swiss Abroad Ordinance (SAO).
Foreign civil status documents
Foreign civil status documents that are to be entered in the Infostar register vary considerably from one country to another. They normally need to be legalised (or provided with an apostille) by the competent authority of the issuing country prior to submission to the competent Swiss representation. In countries prone to civil status fraud such documents often require verification by a law firm approved by the competent Swiss representation. This can require a certain amount of time and effort on the part of those concerned, who must also bear the costs.
Switzerland has not signed with all countries a treaty that would simplify the authentification (legalisation) of public documents for use abroad. Countries can be divided into four categories in this context:
A. Countries that have signed bilateral agreements with Switzerland such as Italy, Germany and Austria or multilateral agreements such as Convention No. 16 on the issue of multilingual extracts from civil status records (International Commission on Civil Status) which allows exemption from legalisation;
B. States that are members of the International Commission on Civil Status (ICCS) and which furthermore have signed treaties with Switzerland or with other member states;
C. Signatory states to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (SR 0.172.030.4);
D. States which have not signed either bilateral or multilateral agreements with Switzerland, are not members of the ICCS and have not signed the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 mentioned under C above.
The table below shows whether or not a civil status document issued by a country in one of the above-mentioned categories does or does not require authentification by legalisation, i.e. by an apostille.
|Authentification category||State category|
|No legalisation required||A & B|
|Legalisation by apostille||C|
|Legalisation by the competent authority of the state issuing the document||D|
According to the OCS, civil status documents that are to be entered in the Infostar register should not be older than six months, and will not be returned. If you have only one original have a duplicate made by the competent foreign authority. Photocopies will not be accepted. Documents that are not in one of the Swiss national languages must be translated.
There is normally no fee for entering a civil status event in the Infostar register, with the exception of costs incurred for verification by a law firm approved by the competent Swiss representation. When verification is required the cost must be borne by the applicant.
On this webpage you will find the information and civil status documents required for entering a civil status event that relates to you in the Infostar register. Do not hesitate to contact the competent Swiss representation if you are unable to find the answer to a specific question concerning such an event.