The legitimation card or Cdl, is an authorization to work delivered by the Department of Foreign Affairs to non-Swiss citizens employed by UN organizations, diplomatic missions, international and intergovernmental organizations as well as international conferences and Courts. Cdl holders are allowed to travel in the Schengen area for a period of maximum 3 months without being employed.

This authorization allows the beneficiary to exercise his duties without a visa or work permit in Switzerland. Thus, Cdl holders are exempt from having to deal with the Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations (OCPM) in Geneva, the Swiss Mission handles the delivery and restitution of these authorizations.

Different types of legitimation cards exist (category B, C, D or E, etc) depending on the holder’s position within the organization. Each member of the family receives the same type of authorization. Swiss citizens are not entitled to receive a Cdl.

An important aspect lies in the fact that holders of B or C permit who are already living in Switzerland at the time of their employment with a UN organization or intergovernmental organization must return their current permit to the OCPM as they are required to hold a Cdl during their functions. They can request their permit back to the OCPM once they have terminated their functions, subject to the type of permit they were holding previously. However, the period spent under a Cdl will not be accounted when applying for a C permit, unless if the Cdl holder is retiring in Switzerland at the end of his functions.  (LIGNES DIRECTRICES sur la délivrance des cartes de légitimation du Département fédéral des affaires étrangères aux fonctionnaires des organisations internationales).

The Ci Permit

The Cdl holder is allowed to travel with spouse and dependents under the age of 25 years old during his duties in Switzerland. Consequently, family members are equally granted a Cdl, allowing them to reside lawfully in the country at the same address as the primary Cdl holder. However, if dependents wish to be employed in Switzerland, a Ci permit should be requested to replace the Cdl. In this case, it is the Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations (OCPM) who is responsible for delivering these permits in the canton of Geneva. A work contract signed by the two parties allows the Cdl holder to apply for a Ci permit. A formal application must be lodged to the OCPM joined with an application fee. The Cdl must be returned to the Swiss Mission as soon as the Ci permit is delivered.

The Ci permit functions  the same way as a work permit, allowing the holder to work full-time without any restrictions. However, Permit Ci holders are not subject to work restrictions applying to non-European workers such as job market priority processes and permit quotas. Permit Ci holders pay taxes and insurances according to Federal regulations, immunity privileges do not apply anymore. Ci permits can be delivered for employed or self-employed activities for a maximum period of 2 years, renewable. Children between the age of 21 and 25 years old are not entitled to receive a Ci permit. They must hold the Cdl or apply for a B permit if they wish to work. In this case, non-European applicants will be subject to job market priority access and restricted by annual quotas.

Termination of a CDL

Different types of situation lead to the termination of a Cdl or Ci permit:

First, once the primary Cdl holder has terminated his work assignment in Switzerland, Cdl and Ci permits are cancelled after a short period of courtesy (two months) allowing the Cdl holder to get organized for the next mission. Dependents are not allowed to stay in the country once the Cdl holder has terminated his functions in Switzerland. A six-month “délai de courtoisie” can sometimes be requested to the Swiss Mission to obtain a prolongation when children are enrolled at school and wish to terminate their school year in Switzerland. During the period of courtesy, employed activities are not allowed and Ci permits are not valid anymore.

Secondly, children reaching their 25th birthday are not entitled to benefit from a Cdl anymore and in the majority of cases must leave the country or hold a valid permit allowing them to live in Switzerland. Some exceptions apply for children who are enrolled at university or another higher education institution. In this case, they may apply for a student permit before their Cdl expires.

Lastly, if a Cdl holder applies and receives a L, B or C permit, the Cdl will be immediately terminated and immunity privileges will not apply anymore.

Pathways to a C permit

At the time of retirement, a Cdl holder who has lived in Switzerland for more than 10 years is allowed to apply for a C permit. A courtesy period must be requested by the organization employing the applicant to the Swiss Mission before the end of the contract, in order to leave the Cdl holder enough time to apply. Proof of sufficient funds to cover living costs and a good integration in the commune of residency must be demonstrated. A good level of French or German is also mandatory. It is up to the Swiss authorities to evaluate the application and grant or not the C permit to the Cdl holder and his spouse. In some exceptional cases, children well settled in Switzerland accumulating at least 12 years of residency can also request the C permit once they reach 21 years old.