Swiss Border Guard

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Swiss Border Guard
(in German) Grenzwachtkorps
(in French) Corps des gardes-frontière
(in Italian) Corpo delle guardie di confine
(in Romansh) Corp da guardias da cunfin
Logo der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft.svg
Logo of Swiss Border Guard.svg
Agency overview
Jurisdiction Federal administration of Switzerland
Minister responsible
Parent agency Federal Department of Finance
Vehicles of the Swiss Border Guard at the EuroAirport (2014).

Swiss Border Guard (French: Corps des gardes-frontière, German: Grenzwachtkorps, Italian: Corpo delle guardie di confine) are a federal law enforcement agency, which acts as both the border guard and customs service for Switzerland. It is a uniformed section of the Federal Customs Administration, which is attached to the Federal Department of Finance. It is the largest civilian security agency on a federal level. Its members are subjected to military criminal law.

The Swiss Border Guard is the federal administrations instrument for:

  • Prevention, intervention and repression, concerning customs and migration related matters.
  • Enforcing border security and national compensating measures under the Schengen treaty.
  • Participation in international missions of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (Frontex).


The Swiss Border Guard controls people and merchandise crossing the Swiss border, while combating smuggling and trans-border crime. It also participates in international missions. Furthermore, the Swiss Border Guard supplies agents (Ground- and Airmarshals) to the Federal Office of Police, the agents being tasked with preventing incidents on board aircraft and at airports. In its entirety, the Swiss Border Guard is tasked with enforcing over 150 national laws.

In essence, the Swiss Border Guard works within the same realm as the customs authorities of Switzerland, with both sides cooperating on a regular basis.

The Swiss Border Guard has three strategic areas of work:

  • Customs related duties.
  • Security and policing duties.
  • Migration related duties.

These strategic areas fall within the original legal framework of the Swiss Border Guard. However, customs related duties are heavily prioritised and customs law is relied upon to fulfil all additional duties. Additionally, the cantons of Switzerland can and have delegated additional competences to the Swiss Border Guard. The Swiss Border Guard has no own aircraft, therefore the Swiss Border Guard is supported by the Swiss Air Force with Helicopters (with and without FLIR) and the RUAG Ranger.

Customs duties[edit]

Customs duties fulfilled by the Border Guard include:

  • The fight against smuggling, including the smuggling of prohibited goods such as weapons, narcotics etc.
  • The collection of taxes and duties such as VAT, customs, and road taxes.
  • The fulfillment of economic, commercial, health and environmental police tasks, such as the fight against undeclared work, the trade in counterfeit branded goods and medicines, as well as the trade in protected animal and plant species.

Security Police duties[edit]

Security duties include:

  • The investigation of persons, objects and vehicles and the detection of counterfeit documents to combat cross-border crime.
  • The control of cross-border cash transactions to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Security operations to ward off criminal acts on board Swiss aircraft in international commercial aviation.

Migration duties[edit]

Migration duties include:

  • Passport controls at the Schengen external borders of Switzerland at the international airports of Geneva, Basel, and Lugano-Agno. (At Zürich Airport, this is carried out by the cantonal police in Zurich, at Bern Airport by the Bernese cantonal police), as well as random passport controls at the land borders (Schengen-Binnengrezen) and inland foreigner controls near the border.
  • The prevention of illegal entry, departure or transit as well as illegal residence.
  • The fight against smuggling and trafficking.


The Border Guard do not have their own aircraft, but are supported with Helicopters and UAVs from the Swiss Air Force


The Border Guard is divided into the following three hierarchical levels:

Strategic level[edit]

The Border Guard Corps Command (Kommando Grenzwachtkorps) (Kdo GWK) based in the Customs Directorate (Oberzolldirektion) (OZD) in Bern forms the strategic level. It is divided into the sections staff services, operations, technology/logistics, teaching association, and special formation. It is managed by the Chief Border Guard (Chef Grenzwachtkorps) (C GWK).

The border guard corps command performs strategic and operational tasks. These include the planning and management of national and international operations, national large scale training, foreign assignments, and training.

Additional elements of management support include:

  • The Situation and News Center of the Border Guard (LNZ GWK) in the Central Customs Directorate (OZD) in Bern evaluates u. a. national and international reports, processes and disseminates findings and compiles information bulletins.
  • The training centers (AZL / KOSIT) of the Federal Customs Administration (AZL) in Liestal and the Competence Center for Security and Intervention (KOSIT) in Interlaken provide training and further education.

Operational level[edit]

Map of seven regional divisions.

The seven border guard regions form the operational level. They are provided with the corresponding Roman numerals and a place name and defined according to geotactic aspects. They are led by border guard commanders (Gzw Kdt).

Border guard regions carry out operational tasks that are not performed centrally. If required, this also includes the supraregional planning and management of major events and operations, large scale training and foreign assignments.

Tactical level[edit]

The 44 border guard posts (Gzw Po) and four operational centers (EZ GWK) of the border guard regions form the tactical level. They are led by post chiefs (Pch). The border guards ensure service operation and daily service execution.

The following organizational units serve as important elements of leadership support: (The Einsatzzentrale Grenzwachtkorps (EZ GWK)

  • The four operational centers in Basel (EZ GWK North), Chur (EZ GWK East), Chiasso (EZ GWK South) and Geneva (EZ GWK West) are responsible for routine work.
  • Coordination Centers (CCPD), the two Police and Customs Co-operation Centers (CCPD) in Chiasso and Geneva enable a rapid exchange of information between Switzerland and Italy and France respectively.

Border Guard Regions[edit]

In addition to the Border Guard Command at the Swiss Federal Customs Administration in Bern, there are seven regional commandos, called Border Guard Regions:

  • Border Guard Region I - Basel (cantons BS, BL, SO, AG, BE, LU, OW, NW) Gren
  • Border Guard Region II - Schaffhausen (Cantons ZH, SH, TG, SZ, UR, ZG)
  • Border Guard Region III - Chur (cantons SG, GR, AR, AI, GL and Principality of Liechtenstein)
  • Border Guard Region IV - Lugano (Canton TI, command in the municipality of Paradiso )
  • Border Guard Region V - Lausanne (cantons VS, VD, FR)
  • Border Guard VI - Geneva (Canton GE)
  • Border Guard VIII - Pruntrut (cantons NE, JU)

The original eight border guard regions were introduced on January 1, 2007, as a replacement for the previous four border guard circles.[1] The Border Guard Region VII (Aargau / Zurich) with command at Zurich Airport was dissolved on April 1, 2011, and divided into border guard regions I (Canton Aargau) and II (Canton Zurich).[2]


Rank insignia of a Stabsadjutant GWK, assigned to working in Border Guard Corps Command

The rank insignia on the shoulder straps of the Border Guard correspond to the military ranks of the Swiss Army. The shoulder straps are additionally provided with the ray cross or Roman numerals (I-VIII). The beam cross indicates carriers assigned to the Border Guard Corps command. The Roman numerals correspond to the respective border guard region in which the guard works.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ NZZ Online: New border guard region Aargau - Zurich started, 12 January 2007
  2. ^ Tages-Anzeiger: More weapons confiscated, 14 February 2011

See also[edit]

External links[edit]