The Swiss identity card: What it is and how it works

The Swiss identity card: What it is and how it works

by Leona Quigley

Updated August 2, 2023

Having identity documentation is important no matter where you live in the world, and Switzerland is no different. Whether it be for travel, accessing public services, voting, or bar hopping, you may want a Swiss identity card if you plan on living in Switzerland for an extended period of time.  As with many things Swiss, the Swiss identity card features cutting-edge technology, which helps to protect Swiss citizens and makes for a highly secure national ID system.

If you are interested in claiming a Swiss ID card, here is everything you need to know about Switzerland’s national ID card and how you can apply to get one.

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What is the Swiss identity card?

The Swiss identity card is a personal identification document to which all Swiss citizens are entitled. It serves as official proof of identity and Swiss citizenship within Switzerland. It’s also valid as a travel document for Swiss citizens throughout the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Though Switzerland is not a member of the EU, its citizens enjoy freedom of movement throughout the EU.

The Swiss ID card is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for children and adolescents under the age of 18. 

What does the Swiss identity look like?

The Swiss ID card is a plastic card inscribed with the personal details of the holder, including their full name, photograph, and their place and date of birth. It also features a unique personal identification number and a signature. 

The card contains a microchip that stores biometric data, such as a digital image of the holder’s face and fingerprints. It was a pioneer of modern security standards for ID cards when it was first produced in its modern form in 1995.

The card is printed in Switzerland’s four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansch), as well as in English. One of the special features of the card is that it’s made of polycarbonate, an extremely durable material with excellent optical and fraud-resistant security qualities.

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What is the Swiss identity card used for?

The Swiss ID card is commonly used for various purposes, including travel, access to public services, opening bank accounts and verifying identity in various transactions. It is an important document for Swiss citizens, as it establishes their legal identity and citizenship within the country.

It is worth noting that the Swiss ID card is distinct from the Swiss passport, which is another travel document issued by the Swiss authorities. While the passport is primarily used for international travel, the ID card is mainly intended for domestic identification purposes and

travel within the Schengen Area, the EU and EFTA. 

How to get a Swiss identity card

It is fortunately not too difficult to get your Swiss identity card. You can apply for your identity card online. Your application will be reviewed and, if everything is in order, you will be invited to record your biometric data. 

You can also order an ID card in person through your cantonal passport office or, if you are living abroad, with the Swiss consulate or embassy.

Express yourself

The Swiss identity card is important for personal identification and useful in emergency situations. It can be used to facilitate a variety of transactions in Switzerland and around Europe. In Switzerland and beyond, it’s a handy document to have in hand!

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Leona Quigley

Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.

Leona Quigley

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