Visas for entry and stays in the Host States

Applicable to:  members of the personnel and their family members

General

1. Definitions

Schengen Area
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

European Economic Area (EEA):  
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

2. What is a visa? 

A visa is an administrative document authorising nationals of countries subject to the visa requirement to transit, enter and stay in a foreign country.
The numerous types of visa include in particular:

  1. Short-stay visas (the Schengen C-type visa),
    allows their holders to enter and reside in the Schengen Area for a continuous or a non-continuous period not exceeding 3 months within any six-month period with effect from initial entry into the Schengen Area.

  2. Long-stay visas (D-type visa or national visa for the purposes of taking up employment),
    which are required for stays of over three months, allowing the holder to obtain a legitimation document (titre de séjour) from the Host States:

    • A “carte de légitimation” issued by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs ("Swiss card");

    • A “titre de séjour spécial” issued by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs ("French card").

    Since 5 April 2010, the D-type visa is also valid for stays of up to three months in the Schengen Area.

3. Who is subject to a visa requirement?

To enter and stay in the Organization’s Host States, Switzerland and France, any national of a third country (i.e. not a national of a country within the European Economic Area or Switzerland) is in principle subject to a visa requirement.

However, under various international agreements, nationals of some third countries are exempt from the visa requirement, mainly for short stays. This applies, for instance, to nationals of Argentina, Australia, Israel, Canada and the United States for short stays where the person concerned is not engaged in gainful employment.

Holders of a valid passport, together with a residence permit (autorisation de séjour) issued by a Schengen State, may travel or stay in the other countries within the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 3 months. This applies to members of the personnel and their family members in possession of legitimation documents issued by the Host States.
(Cf.: http://www.bfm.admin.ch/content/dam/data/bfm/rechtsgrundlagen/weisungen/visa/vhb/vhb1-anh02-e.pdf

You are also reminded that neither photocopies of legitimation documents currently being renewed nor expired documents are valid for crossing borders.

Persons leaving CERN definitively on completion of their functions may keep their legitimation documents for the period of time required for travel within the Schengen Area provided that the documents are valid throughout the period of travel and that they are returned to CERN once those concerned have reached their new country of residence.  

The detailed legal provisions applying in each country may be consulted on the sites of the Swiss Federal Office for Migration and of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

Given the complexity of the matter and that amendments can be introduced at any time, any persons needing to travel to CERN must make prior enquiries at the competent consulate regarding the entry conditions applying to them, indicating the nature and duration of their projected stay.

4. What type of visa should be applied for?

4.1 Short term (maximum of 3 months in any period of 6 months)

An application must be submitted, accompanied by an official letter of invitation or a Convention d’accueil to obtain a multiple-entry Schengen C-type visa from the Swiss or French consulate competent for the place of residence.

Even if the Schengen C-type visa is obtained from a Swiss consulate on the basis of a letter of invitation, the Convention d’accueil is still required in all cases since it also serves as a work permit in France for nationals of countries who are not members of the European Economic Area (EEE) or who are not Swiss.

Note: This visa does not allow the holder to reside in the Schengen Area for more than three months within a six-month period, nor to obtain a "titre de séjour". Holders of a short-stay visa must leave the Schengen Area when the visa expires, failing which they may be liable to sanctions (a fine and/or refusal of future visa applications for all Schengen countries).

4.2 Long stay (stay of more than 3 months)

  • For taking up residence in Switzerland for the first time

    Prior to departure, a person must obtain a Swiss multiple-entry long-stay D-type visa from the Swiss consulate competent for his place of residence.

    Note: this visa does not allow the holder to reside in France. If the member of the personnel finally decides to reside in France, the following procedure "removals" will apply.

  • For taking up residence in France for the first time

    Prior to departure, a person must obtain a French multiple-entry long-stay D-type visa from the French Consulate competent for his place of residence.

    Spouses and dependent children or ascendants of a Swiss national or of a national of a State within the European Economic Area, except France, if they are already resident in the European Union and holders of an "EU family member residence card" issued by another EU Member State, are exempt from visa requirements.  

    Note: this visa does not allow the holder to reside in Switzerland. If the member of the personnel finally decides to reside in Switzerland, the following procedure "removals" will apply.

4.3 Removals

  • Removals from Switzerland to France

    A French D-type long-stay visa must be obtained from the French Consulate in Geneva with a view to obtaining a special French titre de séjour.

  • Removals from France to Switzerland

    No action is required for members of the personnel who are already in possession of a Swiss legitimation card (carte de légitimation). Family members will obtain a Swiss legitimation card on presentation to the Swiss authorities of a photocopy of their special French titre de séjour

Procedure

1. How to obtain a visa

The official invitation procedure must be complied with.
This procedure is usually initiated by the Recruitment Unit when the member of the personnel concerned is recruited in the framework of the HR programs.
In other cases, the procedure is usually initiated by the Department Secretariat or the Secretariat of the host experiment.
The procedure to be followed by Users is also available as an overview schema.

It is imperative that all the necessary visas be obtained prior to arrival at CERN and that they be valid for the necessary period of time, since no extension of the stay or change in the type of visa is possible.

To summarize, depending on the duration of the contract and the Host State, the following documents have to be initiated to obtain a visa:

  Duration of the contract
=< 3 months > 3 months
full time
France Convention d’accueil Note verbale
Switzerland Lettre d’invitation

1.1 For Switzerland

An official letter of invitation (cf. new model letters of invitation which must be adapted according to whether the length of stay is shorter or longer than 90 consecutive days), signed by an authorised member of the personnel, is sent to the prospective member of the personnel, either by the HR Department or by the secretariat of the group or experiment concerned.

If a visa is required, the member of the personnel submits a visa application for himself and his family to the competent Swiss consulate (normally the one competent for his place of residence) together with the original of the official letter of invitation.

In the event that the family joins the member of the personnel after he has taken up his appointment, family members who are subject to a visa requirement must provide the competent Swiss consulate with a photocopy of the “carte de légitimation” of the member of the personnel concerned in support of their visa application.

1.2 For France

1.2.1 Maximum stay of three months in any six-month period: the “Convention d’accueil

Only citizens of countries outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland who are conducting research work or providing university-level education or training at CERN are entitled to a Convention d’accueil.

The Convention d'accueil is obligatory for any national of a third country (i.e. not a national of a country within the European Economic Area or Switzerland) likely to work on the French territory of the Organization, as it is valid also as a work permit in France.

The Convention d’accueil form duly completed and signed by one of the authorised persons is forwarded to the Relations with the Host States Service. The latter service appends its seal, has the Convention d’accueil signed by the Sub-Prefecture in Gex (on Mondays or Fridays) and returns it the same day to the authorised person concerned. The latter forwards the Convention d’accueil to the scientist concerned, in principle attaching it to the official letter of invitation for Switzerland.

If a visa is required, the scientist concerned submits an application for one from the competent consulate together with the original of the Convention d’accueil. The scientist’s family members are also covered by the Convention d’accueil.  

1.2.2 A stay of over three months: “Note verbale” to the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs

This procedure applies to persons who are entitled to a titre de séjour spécial issued by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

The duly authorised person responsible for issuing the invitation draws up a Note verbale (cf. model) and e-mails it to the Relations with the Host States Service.

The latter Service forwards the Note to the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, which carries out the necessary checks and assents to the issuing of a D-type long-stay visa marked “carte PRO-MAE à solliciter dès l’arrivée.

No sooner than one week and no later than two months after the Note is dispatched, the scientist concerned must go to the Consulate indicated to complete the formalities. However, if the competent consulate is in Geneva (for persons residing in the Cantons of Geneva or Vaud), the person concerned should wait until the Cards Office of CERN’s HR Department contacts him.

In the event that the family joins the member of the personnel after he has taken up his appointment, the family members subject to a long-stay visa requirement must also comply with the Note Verbale procedure described above. It takes about three weeks to complete the various steps to obtain a long-stay visa, and they should therefore be started in good time (up to 3 months, but a minimum of 6 weeks, before the member of the personnel takes up his appointment). The "titre de séjour spécial" must be applied for on arrival at CERN since the D-type visa is valid for a maximum of three months.

2. Persons authorised to sign letters of official invitation

The persons authorised to initiate the official invitation procedure are listed in the document Visas for Switzerland and France - signature rights published on the web site of the Relations with the Host States Service under the “Visas, residence” heading.

Revisions 

No revision Modifications Approuved
1 Information added: the Convention d'accueil is valid also as a work permit in France. 24.03.2011
2 Information added: annotation (+ Etats Schengen) for D-type visa 27.07.2011
3 "Convention d'accueil" replaces "Protocole d'accueil" (Directive européenne2005/71/CE)". 09.01.2012
4 Information added: Croatia in the list of European Economic Area (EEA) 02.11.2015