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Coronavirus: closing borders and denial of entry

  • Adrian Tüscher, Partner |

As an additional step in the fight against COVID-19, Switzerland closed around 130 borders on Tuesday 17 March 2020 and is channeling entry via the bigger borders only.

Travel restrictions for Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Spain

Only Swiss citizens as well as persons who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons or who otherwise have to enter the country for exceptionally urgent and necessary reasons are allowed to enter by air or land from the five Schengen countries Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Spain. Even though Liechtenstein borders Switzerland, entry from the country is not yet restricted as Liechtenstein and Switzerland share the same customs region.

Transit and transportation of goods is still permitted.

No entry visas to be issued for the next three months

With a few exceptions, entry at the Schengen external borders is strictly prohibited. Switzerland is thus following the practice of the other Schengen countries. This essentially means that Switzerland will no longer issue Schengen visas for 90 days or until further notice.

National visas (i.e. visas for stays of more than 90 days) for nationals subject to visa requirements are also only issued in exceptional cases. Exceptions relate to family members of Swiss citizens who are subject to a visa and have been granted permission for a Swiss residence permit, as well as specialists from the health sector.

Q&A – what does it mean for you?

Can people still enter Switzerland for work purposes?

Yes. Although most companies have ordered employees to work from home, some companies may still require their employees to be present (health sector, production of goods, etc.). If you hold a valid work permit for Switzerland, you are still permitted to enter for work reasons. It is recommended that your employer issues a letter confirming the necessity of your travel to your work place.

Are visits to family and friends in Switzerland allowed?

It depends. If you are entering from one of the above mentioned five countries, your entry to Switzerland will most likely be denied for the time being.
If you require a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland, no Schengen visas will be issued for the next three months.

If the points above do not apply, entry may be permitted for now. However, restrictions can be extended at any time. In general, any non-essential travel should be avoided as new travel restrictions can be enacted anytime and channeling of entry at certain border points can lead to big delays.

Can employees with a valid visa authorization letter obtain an entry visa?

No. The Federal Council is suspending the issue of Schengen visas and national visas for third country nationals for an initial period of three months. Employees will – even if their application may be approved by the Swiss authorities – not receive the required visa for themselves and their family members. As a result, they may not take up work in Switzerland (initially) for the next three months. Visa authorizations are valid for three months. This deadline can be extended by another three months to avoid the authorization becoming expired once the travel restrictions have been suspended.

Can family members of Swiss citizens obtain an entry visa?

Yes. People married to a Swiss citizen who have been granted a residence permit in Switzerland are still allowed to enter. In case you need an entry visa, the responsible Swiss embassy will issue one.

Can Swiss citizens claim support for repatriation from the government?

It depends. Since 16 March 2020, the Federal Council has been recommending Swiss travelers abroad to return to their place of residence as long as this is still possible. Otherwise they risk getting stuck abroad. By law, Swiss citizens cannot claim an organized repatriation from a crisis area or in a crisis situation. All travelers are responsible for their return home.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) supports travel agencies and airlines when it comes to obtaining landing permits or extending deadlines. If required – as anticipated for some destinations – Switzerland will organize return trips. That is possible, but complex. In addition, the funds are limited.

While a disease cannot be contained by man-made borders, countries are making it their priority to protect their own citizens and to confine the further spread by taking the necessary actions.

We make the effort to keep you updated on all immigration-related developments.