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What is Switzerland's 'family certificate' and who needs to have it?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What is Switzerland's 'family certificate' and who needs to have it?
What are 'family books' in Switzerland? Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/mother-and-daughter-reading-book-with-interest-in-bed-3755514/

You probably know by now that the Swiss just love paperwork, and they have an official document for almost everything — from registration with a commune of residence to a family certificate.

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The Swiss are very efficient and well organised in the way they keep track of everyone in the country — where they live, what they do, and all kinds of other personal information.

Everyone is pretty much ‘known’ to local authorities, so staying under the radar in Switzerland is not an option.

That is why every time you move, you must inform not only the post office, but also your commune of residence — de-register from the old  address and register at the new one.

Swiss authorities want to know who is living in their country and where.

READ ALSO: Why you need to tell Swiss authorities where you live

One of the sources of official information are the civil status records, where everyone is registered, from birth to death, and everywhere in between.

One such example is the family certificate.

What is this document?

For many decades, centuries in fact, all Swiss families had an official family record book, which was issued to them by civil registry office upon marriage.

It was updated, often by hand, after each life event, such as births, divorces, and deaths.

These books were in use until 2004. After this date they were no longer issued, but they remain valid to this day for those who still have them, and can still be updated.

But for the past 20 years, however, a ‘family certificate’ has replaced the book.

While no longer as bulky, it is still issued to couples upon marriage, and is updated with each civil status change.

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Does everyone in Switzerland have one?

While originally intended for Swiss citizens only, nowadays everyone who gets married in Switzerland receives this document, regardless of nationality.

People who were married abroad before coming to Switzerland, don’t need one, though births, divorces, and deaths which occurred while in the country, will be recorded in a Swiss civil registry office.

How can you order a copy of the family certificate, or another official document, from a civil registry office?

Depending on your nationality, and when you came to Switzerland, some documents, like your birth certificate for example, may only be available from your country of origin.

But if an event, such as marriage or your child’s birth, happened in Switzerland, you can order this certificate from your local civil registry office.

This link explains how to go about it, as well as what the fees are.

READ ALSO: The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need in Switzerland 

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