Switzerland – Covid-19 – Immigration update

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Update: October 13th, 2020

Revised entry requirements for neighboring countries

What is the change?

Switzerland has revised its quarantine requirements for those traveling from neighboring countries.

Key Points:

  • Beginning Sept. 14, only those regions of neighbouring countries where the infection rate is greater than 60 cases per 100,000 will be added to the list of countries and areas that are deemed to have an increased rate of infection, not the entire country.
  • Travelers from high risk regions will need to continue to follow all COVID-19 entry requirements, which includes a ten-day quarantine. The regions that are deemed high-risk include the region in France that includes Paris and the region in Austria that includes Vienna. The full list was updated Oct. 12 and is available here.
  • Border regions may be exempted from inclusion on the list even if they have a high infection rate. Cross-border commuters do not need to quarantine.

Update: June 26th, 2020

Schengen Area, EU, EFTA entry restrictions ending

What is the change?

Switzerland recently announced the lifting of entry restrictions for Schengen Area, EU and EFTA countries.

Key Points:

  • As of June 15, entry restrictions on travelers from Schengen Area countries have been lifted, and Swiss border controls with these countries have also ended.
  • Free movement of individuals between Switzerland and all EU/EFTA countries and the United Kingdom is also allowed as of June 15.
  • The following six countries will remain on the high-risk list after June 15: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom. Restrictions will remain in effect for third-country nationals who wish to enter Switzerland from those countries.
  • Individuals with free movement rights will be allowed to enter the country beginning June 15. Foreign nationals benefitting from the free movement of rights from the six high-risk countries will be allowed to enter Switzerland, as will their family members irrespective of their nationality. Individuals posted to Switzerland for 90 days or less in accordance with the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) no longer need to obtain a confirmation of notification in order to enter Switzerland.
  • The Federal Council has announced that, as of July 6, it will lift all COVID-19-related restrictions on the entry of workers from non-EU/EFTA countries.
  • As of July 6, the cantons will also begin processing residence applications from third-country nationals who are not planning to work in Switzerland, in accordance with the normal criteria.
  • Third-country nationals are still not permitted to travel to Switzerland on vacation, and entry for a stay of less than 90 days that does not normally require a permit, as well as entry for short educational courses, medical treatment and non-urgent business meetings, will only be authorized in cases of special necessity. Switzerland plans to lift these remaining entry restrictions at the same time as the other Schengen states.

Update: May 11th, 2020

COVID-19: Limited cross-border travel, visa processing to resume

What is the change?

The Federal Council of Switzerland has announced plans to gradually re-open the economy, including easing travel restrictions and resuming processing of certain visas and permits.

Key Points:

  • From May 11 onward, authorities will begin processing residence permit and cross-border commuter permit applications for EU/EFTA nationals submitted prior to March 25 but put on hold owing to COVID-19.
  • This also includes applications for cross border permits (G-permits) and online registration for local employment or assignment in Switzerland for up to 90 days.
  • New online registrations for assignment-based work in Switzerland will also be processed, provided the service provision is based on a written contract signed before March 25, 2020.
  • Third-country workers who already have a permit to work in Switzerland, but were not issued a visa because of the restrictions imposed on entry, are now permitted to enter the country.
  • Applications to employ third-country nationals submitted before March 19 will now be processed. The applications will be approved provided the provisions of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act are met and the applicants are able to take up the position.
  • Family reunification for family members of Swiss citizens and EU/EFTA nationals living in Switzerland is again possible.

The current border controls will continue. Nonetheless, additional border crossings will be opened in order to avoid excessive wait times. International flights will still only be able to land at Zurich, Geneva or Basel airports. The authorities have also announced the tentative decision to begin processing, as of June 8, applications from all workers from EU and EFTA states who are able to begin employment in Switzerland, provided the COVID-19 situation so permits. The requirement to give notification of job vacancies, which has been temporarily suspended, will also be reactivated at that time.

Update: March 26th, 2020

Additional travel restrictions announced

What is the change?

The Swiss government recently announced additional travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Key points

  • All inbound foreign travel has been suspended except for Swiss and Liechtenstein nationals, and holders of Swiss residence permits. Individuals who are required to travel to the country due to their work, or who are experiencing an emergency situation can also be admitted. Examples of emergency situations are an urgent medical care scenario or the death of a family member.
  • Individuals trying to enter the country who have a current Assurance or Certificat d‘engistrement and who are traveling in a professional capacity may be denied entry. Exceptions can be made for professionals with such credentials who are working in service of the greater good, such as healthcare specialists and suppliers of necessary products or materials.
  • New work permit approvals are being restricted to ones that are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This restriction also covers pending work permit cases. The new restriction applies to online registrations as well.
  • The new, tighter measures are in effect until further notice.
  • Travelers who are in transit within Switzerland may pass through.
  • Movement of goods is still allowed.

The new travel restrictions will significantly impact travel to Switzerland. It is possible further restrictions may be announced. Employers should account for affected travelers and rearrange travel schedules accordingly.

Update: March 19th, 2020

New travel restrictions issued

What is the change?

The Swiss government recently announced new travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Key points:

  • All foreign travellers from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are banned from entering the country.
  • All residence and temporary stay permits issued by Switzerland and visas issued by and for Switzerland, remain valid for entry.
  • Schengen and national visas for third country nationals will not be issued for a period of three months.
  • Foreigners desiring to enter Switzerland by air can only do so at the Zurich, Geneva and Basel airports.
  • Travelers with cross border permits, assurances of stays, and ID cards issued by the Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs, can be used for entry.
  • A registration confirmation or certificate must be presented by foreign service providers. The registration confirmation requirement applies to all sectors and activities. The registration confirmation requirement also applies to service providers or gainfully employed individuals who were not obligated to register before the new conditions arose. Registration is to be completed by service providers on the first day. The rule providing an eight-day exemption for registration-free employment no longer applies. Before entry, a declaration in accordance with the registration procedure must be made.
  • Until air traffic returns to a normal state, individuals who can not leave the Schengen area or Switzerland due to the COVID-19 situation, before the expirations of their visas or residence permits, or the expiration of a 90-day stay under the permit-free framework, and without other ways of returning, are allowed to stay in the Schengen area.
  • It is recommended that individuals who are experiencing these conditions report them to the cantonal migration offices in the canton where they are staying.
  • Swiss border control authorities will not consider overstaying in the Schengen area as an overstay, for individuals who are affected by the COVID-19 situation.
  • Individuals who are experiencing travel difficulties, who can’t use their current Swiss visas, and who also want to enter the country at a later date, can apply for new ones. There will be a fee for a new visa.The requirement to have valid travel health insurance will still apply as will the measure of reviewing police databases. For visa re-evaluations within six months after the travel restrictions have ended, and visas that were granted for the same travel purpose, it is anticipated a reasonable amount of goodwill will be extended.
  • Residence and/or work permits that are currently pending will most likely require more time to process. Pending applications processing can be suspended by authorities until further notice, due to the COVID-19 situation.

The new travel restrictions will significantly impact travel to Switzerland. It is possible further restrictions may be announced. Employers should account for affected travelers and rearrange travel schedules accordingly. Significant delays may occur for consular and in-country processing.

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Fatia Bouteiller

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