16 November 2020

Respiratory mask with world map

Swiss Immigration law has been severely restricted by the implemented governmental measures to contain the coronavirus in order to ensure the safety of the Swiss population. These restrictions have been erratically eased and adapted in the recent months. As a result, the entry to Switzerland from more countries were again allowed, immigration-relevant deadlines were extended and the quarantine obligation only applies to entry into Switzerland from a few countries. 

Who can enter Switzerland? 

Generally, foreigners who wish to enter Switzerland from a country or region considered a high-risk area are subject to entry restrictions. Currently, all countries are considered high-risk countries, except all Schengen states  and the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Holy See (Vatican City), Ireland, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Uruguay. All other countries are still considered high risk and entry restrictions continue to apply to persons entering Switzerland from these countries. Consequently, anyone subject to entry restrictions will be refused entry to Switzerland.

However, foreign nationals, even those arriving from a high-risk country, can still enter Switzerland if they e.g. hold a Swiss residence or cross-border permit, if they were issued a national visa or if they can prove a case of special necessity. A case of special necessity is e.g. in the event of an essential medical treatment in Switzerland or death of a close family member in Switzerland. Furthermore, third country nationals can enter Switzerland if they were granted a work permit by a cantonal migration authority. 

Issuance of visa

Currently a visa suspension for Type C visa (commonly referred to as "Schengen visa" or "tourist visa") is in force. This means, third country nationals who do not form an exception (Schengen states and listed countries above) who wish to enter Switzerland from a high-risk country or region cannot obtain visas for stays up to three months. Exemptions are granted in cases of special necessity.

Extension of deadlines

Certain deadlines relevant to immigration law can be extended upon request if they cannot be met due to COVID-19:

  • Family reunification: In general, the right to family reunification must be exercised within five years. Children over twelve must be reunified with their family within twelve months. If these deadlines cannot be met due to COVID-19, they shall be extended until December 31, 2021.
  • Approval expiry: If a foreign person leaves Switzerland without deregistration with the relevant authority, this person's permit expires in accordance with the deadlines set out in Art. 61(2) FNIA (short stay permit after three months; residence and settlement permit after six months). These periods can be extended until December 31, 2021, if a timely return to Switzerland is not possible due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
  • Collection of biometric data: Biometric data not older than five years are required for the initial issue or renewal of permits. If the timely collection or renewal of these data is not possible due to COVID-19 circumstances, the permits can also be issued or extended until December 31, 2021. 

Who is required to go into quarantine? 

People arriving in Switzerland from certain countries and areas are required to report their arrival to the cantonal authority responsible and to go into quarantine for ten days upon arrival in Switzerland. Currently, people arriving from the following countries are required to go into quarantine: Andorra, Armenia, Belgium, Czech Republic and the following areas of France: Hauts-de-France Region, Île de France Region and Overseas territory of French Polynesia. 

However, there are also exemptions from the quarantine requirement in Switzerland. These exemptions include e.g. Transit passengers who spent less than 24 hours in a country or area with an increased risk of infection or Business travellers who are travelling for an important reason that cannot be postponed such as contract negotiations and signings, business visits or other important representative assignments.

Anyone who fails to comply with the quarantine requirement to report arrival to the authorities and who evades quarantine commits an offence, which can be punished by a fine of up to CHF 10'000 and in case of negligence by a fine of up to CHF 5'000. 

Our immigration team is happy to advise you if you have any questions on travel restrictions for Switzerland or on general immigration law issues. 

Co-Author: Biljana Vasic


Categories: Immigration

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