St Prex, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Switzerland officially becomes part of the Schengen Area today. To celebrate, and as a reminder that customs officers are still at the borders, GenevaLunch has revised its popular guide, How to make it happily through Swiss customs. (Ed. note: Details on Swiss customs and Schengen 2008, from the federal government). Media coverage in other countries of Switzerland’s membership has been heavy because the change means that people can move along Europe’s main north-south roads without halts for passports, in theory.
What to expect
The change is far from dramatic, and in fact will be invisible to most people, since passport checks at Swiss borders have been reduced gradually over the past few months as cooperation between the other Schengen countries and Switzerland has grown. Citizens of third countries but who are resident in Switzerland do not need their passports, but those who are visiting may need visas where in the past they did not. Officials suggest you travel with your passport, to be safe.
The exception to this is airports, where the difficulty of streaming passengers has resulted in a delay in pulling down the border to March 2009, when summer flight schedules go into effect. At that point about 60% of the passenger traffic through Geneva’s Cointrin Airport will be funneled through an area without regular passport controls. Passengers with flights to or from non-Schengen countries, and this includes the United Kingdom and Ireland, will still have systematic passport controls.
Do expect occasional checks, remember the limits on goods coming in, and have your receipts ready.