Switzerland Responds to COVID-19; Travel Restrictions and Immigration Processing Limitations

In order to maintain Switzerland’s capacity to cope with the COVID 19 epidemic, and in particular to guarantee the conditions for an adequate supply of care and therapeutic products to the population, the Federal Council issued exceptional entry restrictions at the border on 13 March 2020 and has updated these on 25 March 2020. In this connection, and in light of the fact that several airlines have in between ceased operations on certain routes, the State Secretariat for Migration has issued instructions to the cantonal migration authorities, Swiss representations abroad and the border security authorities.

Specifically, Switzerland has implemented the following policies and procedures:

  • Switzerland has entry restrictions for all countries except the Principality of Liechtenstein. Hence at this time, only Swiss citizens, persons holding a residence (C/B/L)  or cross-border (G) permit in Switzerland or those who are in a situation of absolute necessity (death of a family member, continuation of urgent medical treatments etc.) are permitted to enter Switzerland.
  • However, all residence / temporary stay permits issued by Switzerland and all visas issued by and for Switzerland continue to entitle entry, regardless of the purpose of the journey stated on the visa. Entry will also be granted to cross border permit holders, Assurances of stays (Zusicherung des Aufenthalts) as well as ID cards issued by the FDFA (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs).
  • Anyone who has to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons and are in possession of a valid approval (“Zusicherung”/”Assurance” or “Meldebestätigung”/”certificat d’enregistrement”) but do not hold a permit may still be refused to enter Switzerland unless their activity is connected to a predominant public interest (e.g. Specialists in Health Care Sector, supply of essential goods etc.).
  • Only the national airports in Zurich, Geneva and Basel may be used by foreigners who wish to enter Switzerland by air.
  • The Federal Council is also suspending the issuing of Schengen visas and national visas for third country nationals for an initial period of three months. Entry into Switzerland is now only possible for them in exceptional cases, for example to family members of Swiss citizens who require a visa and have the right to be present in Switzerland, as well as to specialists from the health sector.
  • Foreign service providers must be able to present a registration confirmation/certificate (Meldebestätigung). This includes persons whose gainful employment or provision of services has not previously been subject to registration. Service providers are obliged to register from the first day. The registration confirmation is required for all sectors and activities. The eight-day exemption rule for registration free employment does not In any case, a declaration in accordance with the registration procedure must have been made before entry.
  • Persons who, due to the current situation, are unable to leave Switzerland or the Schengen area before the expiry of the validity of their visa or residence permit, or before the expiry of the maximum valid stay of 90 days within the permit-free framework, and who have no other means of return, may stay in the Schengen area until air traffic returns to normal. Persons affected are recommended to report to the relevant cantonal migration offices in the canton of their current stay. An overstay in the Schengen area due to these circumstances will not be regarded as overstay by the Swiss border control authorities.
  • Persons who have to leave the international transit zone until they can take their onward flight and persons who cannot return to their place of residence via airline but are forced to land transit must be issued with a new Schengen visa; this is issued free of charge, travel documents valid for less than 3 months are also accepted; no travel health insurance is required.
  • Persons who cannot use their already obtained visas for Switzerland due to travel difficulties should apply for a new visa if they wish to enter at a later date. These are subject to a fee. A renewed check of the police databases is essential, and valid travel health insurance must also be available. However, in view of the fact that a visa has already been issued once for the same purpose of travel, it is expected that a reasonable amount of goodwill will be shown in the reassessment within 6 months after the travel restrictions have been lifted.
  • The issuance of new work permits as well as the adjudication of pending cases, are limited to those which are of direct relevance to the current crisis. This includes online registrations.

For more information on Switzerland and other international travel restrictions, contact Jet. Stigter.