Moving to CERN: An unofficial guide (No Guarantees!)

J. Incandela last updated 21 March 2010


1.       Obtain US passport

2.       Obtain Swiss Visa. You need an invitation. If you are a US member of the CMS experiment you can contact Yasemin Uzunefe-Yazgan to provide you with the invitation which has to go to a Swiss Consulate along with your application (e.g. in Los Angeles). Yasemin's email is <>. There is a lot of useful information on this and other issues for starting work at CERN at the CERN User’s office web page: . Book a room in the CERN Foyer. You should email them at the following address for a room in Building 39 <>. Note that you can stay only a limited time and need to book well in advance (they do not allow more than 2 months in advance though). The link below provides a list of Hotels if the CERN Hostel is full. Hotels

3.       Book Airline tickets: (Must use a US carrier or code-share. )

4.       Documents needed at CERN: See

a.       Registration form, fill out and have the team leader in your group sign it.

                                                              i.      You will need photos for your registration form. Photos can be obtained for from a machine next to the UBS bank in building 500 (See CERN map).

b.      Letter showing proof of employment. Your team leader or department head can give you this. It should be on official letter head, specify duration of your employment and period at CERN, and also specify that you have health and disability insurance. Documents needed:

5.       Benefits. Look over your health and other benefits and make sure they are sensible. Some of them do not hold in Europe, and it is necessary to choose the health plans that cover out of country. You may want to change your benefits at your home institution to minimal medical coverage and buy coverage locally as it is easier to get covered and you avoid the hassles of translating all documents when filing your claims with a US medical carrier like Blue Cross. CERN medical plans are provided at CERN Medical Plans. Look over your health and other benefits and make sure they are sensible. Some of them do not hold in Europe, and it is necessary to choose the health plans that cover out of country.

6.       US Taxes for US citizens working abroad. You should read the IRS info on this or get help from an accountant. The main thing is that if you qualify as a Bona Fide resident abroad, you do not have to pay income taxes on a big part, if not all, of your income. There are a couple of ways to qualify as a “bona fide resident abroad” but most people I know always make sure to satisfy both of them to play it safe. It’s then pretty easy to get the tax exclusion. See Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction.

7.       Once at CERN,

a.       The following link is helpful with the transition of getting to CERN


b.      The following link provides some information about CERN.


c.       You will need to take all the documents in 4) to the User's Office and get an ID No and a CERN access card. The ID No is different from the number on the CERN access card. The User's office is in building 61. (See CERN map).

8.       Getting around CERN: (see below regarding bicycles)

a.       Map of CERN

b.      Map of User's Office:

c.       Users Office webpage:

9.       Phone Book: CERN

10.   Getting Around Town. You can obtain some printouts of Geneva Maps and Bus routes. Annual bus tickets are available in the staff association office of CERN in building 503. Here are some useful links

a.       Staff Association Office

b.      TPG Rates:

c.       Bus Route Maps:

d.      Bus Route Timetables:

11.   Membership Application: Fill out the following form and bring it to the office in building 503. People being paid from away from CERN should mark status as user: Membership Application (pdf.)

12.   Bank Account. Once you have a CERN id, go to the UBS bank at CERN, near restaurant 1, and open a bank account. Once you have a CERN ID No you need to go to the UBS bank at CERN and open a bank account. UBS Webpage. You will be asked for a home address. Give a U.S. home address. Once you get a permanent address in Switzerland or France, be sure to inform UBS of this new address.

13.   COLA Payment. People who are officially working on Maintenance and Operation (M&O) of the detector may get extra money in the form of COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment). You need to verify that you are an M&O worker with your team leader and you need to send your team leader ID number and Bank Account so that he/she can setup your COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) payments direct to your bank account at CERN.

14.   Basic safety training course.

a.       The course is offered in building 55. Location of safety class

b.      Safety course website:

15.   Computer Account: Fill out a registration form (pdf) to setup a CERN computer account with Martti Pimia. His office is in Building 40-3-a20.

16.   Housing: You will need to find housing quickly. The CERN housing page including information on the CERN

a.       Foyer and private market rentals etc. is at CERN HOUSING

b.      Open Market Housing

c.       The following map webpages are useful when locating addresses.




17.   Cheap Eating and Groceries (For start…) For food

a.       CERN has three restaurants:

                                                              i.      Restaurant #1:

                                                            ii.      Restaurant #2:

                                                          iii.      Restaurant #3:

b.      Cheap Restaurants in Switzerland

                                                              i.      Manora: This resteraunt on the Blandonnet bus stop through Bus 9 offers a nice buffet. It is connected to the Carrefour market.

                                                            ii.      Other Manora locations:

                                                          iii.      Groceries

1.      Manor Market

2.      Migros market (on the Servette bus stop through Bus 9)

3.      Carrefour market on the Blandonnet bus stop through Bus 9:

4.      Coop stores throughout the city. Search in Geneve.

18.   Phones The Post Office in building 500 offers prepaid cell phones. The preferred service is Sunrise. The other services are Swiss Com and Orange. I noticed that all the pay phones throughout the city are Swiss Com. I imagine Swiss Com might be a good service also. The word seems to be that Sunrise is a bit better.

a.       Sunrise:

b.      Swiss Com:

c.       Orange:

19.   Bicycles at CERN: PH/SMI manages a loan pool of bicycles for users in physics department.

a.       Map of building PH/SMI:

b.      PH/SMI bicycles website:

20.   Currencies

a.       Euro Coins: Euro Bank Notes:

b.      Swiss Coins: Swiss Bank Notes:

c.       Universal Currency Converter: