Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The list of countries members of the Schengen Area is available on the website of the French Government.
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, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The list of countries members of the European Economic Area is available on the website of the European Economic Area.
For entry into Switzerland, consult the following page: Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office and to the other international organisations in Geneva.
For entry into France, consult the following page: French Government.
3. What is a visa?
A visa is an administrative document that authorises nationals of countries that are subject to the visa requirement to transit, enter or stay in a foreign country for a defined period. The numerous types of visa include, in particular:
short-stay Schengen C-type visas,
which allow holders to enter and reside in the Schengen Area for a continuous or non-continuous period not exceeding 90 days within any 180-day period, with effect from the date of initial entry into the Schengen Area. Under certain conditions, such visas may be valid as a “circulation visa” for periods of between six months and five years;
long-stay visas (D-type visa or "national visa for the purposes of taking up employment"),
which are required for stays of over 90 days, allowing the holder to obtain a legitimation document (or titre de séjour) from the Host States:
Carte de légitimation issued by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs ("Swiss card");
Titre de séjour spécial (TSS) issued by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs ("French card").
Since 5 April 2010, the D-type visa is also valid for stays of up to 90 days in the Schengen Area.
120-day visas (Switzerland),
which are valid for stays of up to 120 days in Switzerland in order to carry out a professional activity that is continuous (C-type) or non-continuous (D-type);
temporary long-stay visa (VLST) (France),
which are valid for stays of between 91 days and 12 months in France and obviate the need for a titre de séjour spécial, but neither allow family reunification nor give entitlement to the award of “green plates”.
N.B.: It is strongly recommended that a multiple-entry visa, allowing the holder to travel out of and back into the Schengen Area for the duration of its validity, be obtained.
4. Who is subject to a visa requirement?
All members of the personnel who are citizens of third countries (i.e. who are not citizens of EEA countries or of Switzerland) and are coming to the Host States in the context of their duties for CERN are subject to the visa requirement. This rule also applies to long stays of their family members (family reunification).
In Switzerland only, citizens of Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom are exempt from the visa requirement for all types of stay. Like all members of the personnel, they must apply for a carte de légitimation as soon as they arrive in Switzerland if the duration of their stay exceeds 90 days per 180-day period.
In accordance with international agreements, some citizens of third countries may also be exempted from the visa requirement, mainly in the case of short stays in Switzerland without gainful employment (e.g. attendance at seminars, conferences or meetings for the exchange of general information).
Furthermore, holders of a valid passport and a valid residence permit or D-type visa issued by a country in the Schengen Area are entitled to travel within or stay in the other countries of the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 90 days per 180-day period. This applies to members of the personnel and their family members who are in possession of legitimation documents issued by the Host States (see the website of the State Secretariat for Migration and the website of the Direction Générale des étrangers en France).
You are reminded that neither photocopies of legitimation documents currently being renewed nor expired documents are valid for crossing borders.
N.B.: Persons who are not citizens of Schengen countries and who are leaving CERN definitively at the end of their contract with the Organization must retain their legitimation documents for as long as needed for them to leave the Schengen Area, provided also that the said documents are valid for the entire duration of their journey and are returned to CERN as soon as the holder arrives in the new country of residence. If necessary, one month before the carte de légitimation expires, a two-month extension of the latter’s validity (“courtesy period”) can be requested in order to facilitate the holder’s departure.
The detailed provisions applicable in each country can be found on the following websites: Secrétariat d’État aux Migrations suisse and ministère français de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères.
Given that the subject is complex and that amendments are liable to be introduced at any time, all persons needing to travel to CERN should enquire about the applicable entry requirements with the relevant consulate in advance, presenting their official letter of invitation and indicating the nature and duration of their planned stay.
5.1 Short-stay (maximum of 90 days in any period of 180-day period)
A Schengen C-type multiple-entry visa must be obtained, by submitting an official letter of invitation and a convention d’accueil, from the Swiss or French consulate of the place of residence.
Even if the Schengen C-type visa is obtained from a Swiss consulate, the convention d’accueil is still required in all cases, since it also serves as a work permit in France for nationals of countries that are not members of the European Economic Area (EEA) or who are not Swiss, unless they are in possession of a residence permit issued by a Schengen country. N.B.: The Schengen C-type visa does not allow the holder to reside in the Schengen Area for more than 90 days in a 180-day period, or to obtain a legitimation document, or titre de séjour. Holders must leave the Schengen Area before their visa expires, failing which they may be liable to sanctions (a fine and/or rejection of future visa applications for all Schengen countries, especially under the future Entry/Exit System).
5.2 Long-stay (more than 90 days)
- For taking up residence in Switzerland for the first time
Prior to departure from the former place of residence, a Swiss multiple-entry D-type long-stay visa must be obtained from the Swiss consulate in the place of residence.
N.B.: This visa does not allow the holder to reside in France. If the member of the personnel concerned ultimately decides to reside in France, the “Removals” procedure set out below will apply. Conversely, if the member of the personnel takes up residence in Switzerland, any valid D-type visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen country is sufficient for a Swiss carte de légitimation to be obtained.
- For taking up residence in France for the first time
Prior to departure from the former place of residence, a French D-type multiple-entry, long-stay visa, marked “carte PRO-MAE à solliciter dès l’arrivée”, must be obtained from the French consulate in the place of residence.
Except in specific cases, non-EU citizens holding a residence permit issued by an EU member state and the family members of EU citizens are not exempted from the requirement to hold the French carte PRO-MAE long-stay visa. Thus, before taking up their appointment, members of the personnel must make prior enquiries at the competent consulate regarding the applicable entry conditions, indicating the nature and duration of their stay in France.
5.3 Special cases
5.3.1 Temporary long-stay visa (VLST) - France
Holders of full-time contracts with a duration of up to 12 months are entitled to apply for a temporary long-stay visa (VLST), which exempts them from having to hold a titre de séjour spécial (carte spéciale). N.B. – this visa does not entitle the holder to family reunification or to obtain green car registration plates.
5.3.2 120-day visa - Switzerland
This type of visa can be issued for professional stays in Switzerland of periods between 90 and 120 days. Such stays can be for either 120 consecutive days or 120 non-consecutive days in a 12-month period.
5.3.3 Return visa
This visa is granted in exceptional circumstances when the French titre de séjour spécial or the Swiss carte de légitimation expires while the holder is temporarily travelling outside the local area.
- Removals from Switzerland to France
A French long-stay visa (D-type, marked “carte PRO-MAE”) must be obtained from the French consulate in Geneva with a view to obtaining a French titre de séjour spécial.
N.B.: When taking up appointment, it is essential to present, to either the Cards service or the Users Office, depending on the status of the member of the personnel, a D-type visa issued by the final country of residence. Therefore, members of the personnel must not apply for a Swiss visa if they intend to reside in France. Due to the associated administrative workload, removal to France is not tolerated, in principle, until at least three months have elapsed since the arrival in Switzerland.
- Removals from France to Switzerland
Except changing the address on the EDH document Changement d'adresse locale / Change of local address, no action is required for members of the personnel who are already in possession of a Swiss carte de légitimation. Family members will obtain a Swiss carte de légitimation upon presentation to the Swiss authorities of a photocopy of their French titre de séjour spécial. N.B.: The French titre de séjour spécial must be returned at the time of the removal.
1. How to obtain a visa
The official invitation procedure must be followed.
This procedure is handled either by:
- the Cards Service (firstname.lastname@example.org) when the member of the personnel concerned has been recruited in the framework of a programme managed by the HR department, i.e. in the case of staff members (STAF), fellows (FELL), graduates (GRAD), scientific associates (SASS), corresponding associates (CASS), guest professors (GPRO), students (DOCT, TECH or ADMI) and trainees (TRNE); or by
- the department secretariat or the secretariat of the host experiment in the case of project associates (PJAS), experiment associates (EXAS), cooperation associates (COAS), visiting scientists (VISC) and users (USER).
The procedure to be followed by users is also available on the website of the Users Office.
It is essential 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. A visa can be requested up to six months before arrival in the Host States.
To summarise, depending on the contract duration and the Host State, the following documents must be provided in order to obtain a visa:
|Duration of stay|
|=< 90 days||> 90 days
|France||Convention d’accueil||Note verbale|
|Switzerland||Official letter of invitation|
1.1 For Switzerland
An official letter of invitation (cf. template letters, 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 future member of the personnel, either by the HR department or by the secretariat of the group or experiment concerned.
Members of the personnel who require a visa should submit a visa application for themselves and, if applicable, their family members, to the competent Swiss consulate (normally the one in the place of residence), together with the original copy of the official letter of invitation.
If members of the personnel are joined by their family members after taking up their appointment, the family members (spouses and dependent children up to the age of 21) 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, as well as a “Family reunification in Switzerland” certificate signed by an authorised member of the personnel. In the case of dependent ascendants, the Swiss Mission’s form (available at the Département des Affaires étrangères), approved by the Organization, must be presented to the Swiss consulate.
- Swiss consulates may request the following information from associated members of the personnel (holders of a P-type carte de légitimation):
- a curriculum vitae (CV) with references;
- copies of university diplomas;
- a letter of motivation or, if possible, a short research report that can be used to verify the language skills of the member of the personnel;
- return travel and hotel reservations;
- any information enabling the Swiss representation to confirm that the financial resources allocated to the researcher by the employer are sufficient to cover the costs of residing in the Geneva region.
- in order to benefit from family reunification, dependent ascendants must live in the same household, in Switzerland, as the member of the personnel.
1.2 For France
1.2.1 Maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period: Convention d’accueil
The convention d'accueil is obligatory for nationals of a third country (i.e. those who are not a national of a country of the European Economic Area or of Switzerland, and are not residing in one of these countries) if they are likely to work on the French part of the Organization’s site, as this document is also valid as a work permit in France.
N.B.: From 1 January 2021, while British nationals are exempt from the short-stay visa requirement in France, they must nonetheless obtain a convention d’accueil, which is equivalent to a work permit.
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 original copy of the Convention d’accueil form, duly completed and signed by one of the authorised persons, is sent to the Relations with the Host States service, which stamps it and returns it to the requesting service. The latter sends the convention d’accueil to the scientist concerned, in principle attaching it to the official letter of invitation for Switzerland.
Members of the personnel who require a visa should submit the visa application, including the original of the convention d’accueil, to the competent consulate.
1.2.2 A stay of over 90 days: Note verbale to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
This procedure applies to people who are entitled to a titre de séjour spécial issued by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Only married spouses, partners officially recognised by the Organization and dependent children under the age of 21 are considered to be family members and, as such, are eligible. Exceptionally, the procedure may also apply to dependent ascendants and disabled children under 25 years of age.
The latter service forwards the note verbale to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, which carries out the necessary checks and approves the issuing of a D-type long-stay visa marked “carte PRO-MAE à solliciter dès l’arrivée” or a temporary long-stay visa (VLST).
No sooner than one week and no later than two months after the note verbale is dispatched, the applicant must go to the consulate or to the relevant visa centre to complete the formalities and present the CERFA form, duly completed online at https://france-visas.gouv.fr/ (barcode required to register the application).
N.B.: In the case of a removal, persons residing in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud will be contacted directly by the Cards service and invited to submit their application at the French consulate in Geneva.
If members of the personnel are joined by their family after taking up their appointment, the family members who are subject to a long-stay visa requirement must also follow the note verbale procedure described above.
It takes about three weeks to complete the various steps to obtain a long-stay visa, not including the wait for an appointment, so the process should be started in good time (up to six months, but no less than six weeks, before members of the personnel concerned take up their functions).
N.B.: Holders of a D-type “carte PRO-MAE” visa must apply for their French titre de séjour spécial immediately upon arrival in France, since the D-type visa is only valid for a maximum of 90 days and obtaining the titre de séjour spécial takes approximately six weeks from the date on which the application is sent to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Holders of VLST visas do not need to apply for a titre de séjour spécial, unless their contract is extended beyond six months. In this case, the application must be submitted at least six weeks before the visa expires.
The persons authorised to initiate the official invitation procedure are listed in the document “Procedure for obtaining visas for Switzerland and France – signature rights”, which is available on the website of the Relations with the Host States service, under the “Visas and residence” heading.
|1||Additional information: the Convention d'accueil is valid also as a work permit in France.||24.03.2011|
|2||Additional information: 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||Additional information: Croatia in the list of European Economic Area (EEA)||02.11.2015|
|5||Additional information: when taking up their appointment, members of the personnel must present a D-type visa issued by the country of their final residence.||10.09.2018|
|6||Change references to "3 months" in "90 days" and "6 months" in "180 days" to ensure precision.||08.10.2018|
|7||New revision following UK's Brexit||13.02.2020|
|8||Visas with the COVID-19.||20.03.2020|
|9||Extension of French long-stay visas during COVID-19||18.05.2020|
|10||- Visa type D applications are once again accepted by the French authorities.
- 6-month extension of visas expiring between 16 March and 15 June 2020.
- If the member of personnel is the beneficiary of an expired French D visa, he must download the documents "General information on the extension of residency documents" and present them with his expired French D visa.
- The procedure for issuing D visas "PRO-MAE card" (1.2.2) remains unchanged.
- Exception for members of personnel taking up their duties and their families.
- Update of the Note verbale from the MEAE and a new annex.
|11||The UK ceased to be part of the EEA since 31.12.2020.||19.01.2021|
|12||Update of information related to the COVID-19.||04.02.2021|
|13||Applicability of the procedure in paragraph 1.2.2 A stay of over 90 days: Note verbale to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has been clarified.||15.02.2021|
|14||Modification of the visa procedure (P-card only for MPAs),
Addition of a special case on VLST visas (temporary long-stay visa of less than 6 months).
|15||Modification of the information at the top of the procedure.||08.11.2021|
|16||New status EXAS.||02.03.2022|
|17||Procedure revised by the services in charge and gender-inclusive language applied.||18.08.2023|