Last update: December 2012
The acquisition of property for official purposes by institutions benefiting from privileges and immunities and exemptions as defined under Article 2, paragraph 1, of the Host State Act of 22 June 2007 (HSA) is governed in its entirety by Chapter 3 (articles 16 and 17) of the aforementioned Act. The provisions relating to the implementation thereof can be found in Chapter 5 (articles 25 and 26) of the Host State Ordinance of 7 December 2007 (HSO).
Criteria and definitions
Entitled institutions (meaning, in particular, diplomatic missions and consular posts) may acquire property for their official purposes. In all events, the surface area must not exceed what is required for the property’s designated purpose (the floor surface area of buildings designated for habitation must not, as a rule, exceed 200 m²).
Acquisition of property is defined as, any acquisition of rights over property, land or dwelling or of usufruct over property, as well as any acquisition of any other right which confers upon its holder a position analogous with that of owning property, such as long-term leases where the contractual terms entered into exceed what is custom-ary in civil practice.
A change in use is considered an acquisition.
Property allocated for official purposes is defined as, buildings or parts of buildings and adjoining land which are used for the carrying out of official functions by the entitled institution.
The acquirer, or his agent, must address requests for acquisitions of property, accompanied by the dossier relating to the acquisition, to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Direc-torate of International Law, Bundeshaus Nord, 3003 Bern). A copy of the request, accompa-nied by a copy of the dossier relating to the acquisition, must also be sent simultaneously to the competent cantonal authority, as follows:
- Canton of Bern: Beco Berner Wirtschaft, Marktaufsicht, Laupenstrasse. 22,
- Canton of Geneva: Conseil d’Etat de la République et du canton de Genève,
rue de l’Hôtel de Ville 2, 1211 Genève 3
- Canton of Vaud: Département de l’économie, Secrétariat général, Rue de la Caroline 11, 1014 Lausanne
- For the other cantons, please request the necessary information from Protocol.
Following consultation with the competent authority of the relevant canton, the Federal De-partment of Foreign Affairs will check that the acquirer is indeed an entitled institution as con-templated under Article 2, paragraph 1 of the HSA and that the planned acquisition is for offi-cial purposes, and then make a decision. A positive decision is granted on the assumption that all necessary authorisations, in particular those relating to building permits and security measures, have been granted by the competent authorities. Registration of acquisitions of property with the Land Registry office within the meaning of Article 16, paragraph 1, of the HSA is made on the assumption that a positive decision in compliance with Article 16, para-graph 3 of the HSA has been granted.
Contents of the application
The application must contain the following particulars (Article 25 HSO):
- names and address of the applicant, agent and, if applicable, the person disposing of the property and the address of the property;
- draft contract of acquisition giving details as to the type of acquisition (purchase, gift, long-term lease, price, etc.);
- the reason for the acquisition: residence of a head of mission or consular post (for residential purposes) or to house the chancery of a representation, etc.;
- description of the property, including in particular the land registry property (cadastral) number, the surface area in m² of the plot and the building (with number of rooms); if the plot has not yet been built on or if an extension of existing buildings is planned, the request must equally indicate the anticipated surface area of the new building;
- a list of all other property in Switzerland of which the entitled institution is already the owner with a description of such properties including the surface area of the plots and any buildings, and their current use.
- Choice of the place of official residence: see prescriptions on this matter in the infor-mation notice “Regulations on diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities in Switzerland / Stay in Switzerland: Place of private domicile and place of official resi-dence” in this web-site.
- The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs may attach conditions to the acquisition of property. It may, in particular, insist upon reciprocity if the acquisition is made by a foreign State for the official purposes of its diplomatic mission, career consular posts or its permanent missions to international organisations in Switzerland.
- Taking into account the consultation procedure of the cantonal authority, it is difficult to give an accurate estimate of the total length of the application procedure; it could last for two to three months depending upon the particular file.
Ordinance of 7 December 2007 to the Federal Act on the Privileges, Immuni-ties and Facilities and the Financial Subsidies granted by Switzerland as a Host State (Host State Ordinance, HSO) (RS 192.121)