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10 October 2023 Medical treatment in Switzerland - Is it also possible as a third-country national?

What happens if you travelling in Switzerland and suddenly need to go to hospital? Or would you like to have a medical treatment carried out by a specialist in Switzerland? If you are wondering under which conditions this is possible, then your country of origin is decisive. In this article you will find out what you need to bear in mind as a third-country national (not an EU or EFTA national).

Immigration law requirements

Nationals of third countries may receive medical treatment in Switzerland in two cases.

Preliminary remark: Since BREXIT, citizens of the United Kingdom are also considered third-country nationals. British nationals who have already submitted their application for medical treatment in Switzerland before 31 December 2021 and have fulfilled the necessary requirements at that time are exempt. In this case, the requirements for persons from EU member states continue to apply.

a) Unforeseen treatment

In the case of third-country nationals who require medical treatment during a (short) stay in Switzerland, treatment will only be provided if the costs are covered (e.g. by means of a deposit) or if it is a medical emergency. A medical emergency exists as long as the patient is not fit to travel to their country of residence or home country. If the medical emergency lasts beyond the period of the residence permit, the period of stay in Switzerland may be extended under certain circumstances.

b) Planned medical treatment

Third-country nationals who wish to enter Switzerland for planned medical treatment may do so under the following conditions:

  • Financing of treatment and living expenses from private funds must be guaranteed;
  • Re-entry from Switzerland must appear assured. This is assessed on the basis of the personal, family and professional situation of the applicants, their behaviour and the political, economic and social situation in the country of origin.

If the person concerned stays in Switzerland for less than three months in total, no permit is required. Depending on the nationality, however, a visa may be required for entry (Link to visa information page). Persons requiring a visa must always submit their visa application to the Swiss representations abroad responsible for their place of residence.

A residence permit is required for a stay in Switzerland of more than three months. Before entering the country, foreign nationals must apply for an entry permit at the competent authority at their intended place of residence. As a rule, the following documents are required:

  • Passport copy;
  • Current confirmation from the attending physician, which provides information about the type of treatment and its duration;
  • Proof of income and assets;
  • Proof of health or accident insurance for the duration of the stay;
  • Confirmation that after completion of the treatment, departure will take place without objections and before any deadlines.

The specific documents to be submitted vary from canton to canton. For example, the canton of Zurich requires, in addition to the documents mentioned above, a justification as to why the medical treatment should take place in the canton of Zurich. The canton of Basel-Stadt also requires proof of accommodation in Basel and confirmation of the need for treatment in Switzerland.

The admission requirements for a residence permit may be waived by way of exception in order to take into account serious cases of personal hardship. A poor state of health alone does not constitute a case of hardship. Rather, it must be shown that the necessary medical treatment and care is not or not sufficiently guaranteed in the home country of the person concerned. The cantonal migration authorities are responsible for issuing a residence permit based on a serious case of personal hardship, although the approval of the Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is required first. In practice, the existence of a case of hardship is rarely established in the case of third-country nationals.

Third-country nationals have no legal right to be issued with an entry visa or a residence permit.

Insurance law consequences

a) Unforeseen treatment

Third-country nationals must in principle take out sufficient insurance themselves if they wish to receive unforeseen medical treatment during a (short) stay in Switzerland. Persons who require a visa for the Schengen area to enter Switzerland are obliged to take out private health insurance with a minimum cover of EUR 30,000 anyway. For third-country nationals who do not require a visa, it is advisable to take out travel insurance that covers the costs of medically necessary services in Switzerland. In emergencies, the costs of treatment are covered from social assistance funds if the patients cannot cover the costs themselves. An emergency exists if the person concerned is unable to return to their country of residence or home country due to their health condition.  

A special arrangement exists for British nationals. Like EU and EFTA nationals, they are entitled to medically necessary care in Switzerland, provided they belong to a statutory health insurance scheme in the United Kingdom. More detailed information on insurance cover for EU and EFTA nationals can be found here.

b) Planned medical treatment

Third-country nationals who are in Switzerland exclusively for medical treatment are not entitled to insurance cover under a Swiss health insurance scheme. As a rule, the cantons require proof of foreign health or accident insurance for the duration of the stay in Switzerland. However, the specific requirements vary from canton to canton.

If you have any further questions about receiving medical treatment in Switzerland as a third-country national, the immigration team will be happy to assist you.

Authors: Urs Hägi, Antonia Straden, Selina Bäbler