New integration rules for foreigners in Switzerland
On January 1st, the second raft of changes to Switzerland’s Federal Act on Foreign Nationals came into force.
The new legal provisions include measures to help get foreigners into the Swiss workforce but also place additional demands on foreign nationals living in the country.
According to Article 58 of the revised legislation (in German), assessment of successful integration of foreigners into Switzerland can be based on adherence to public order and security, respect for the values of the federal constitution, having the necessary language skills, and on economic or educational participation.
Foreigners who fail to meet the above criteria could be made by authorities to sign a so-called "integration agreement". Failure to meet the conditions established in one of these agreements without reasonable cause could see people stripped of their temporary residence permits. Permanent resident (C permit) holders could also see their status downgraded and their permit replaced by a B permit.
Television licence fees
As of January 1st, households in Switzerland will begin to receive bills for the country’s compulsory television and licence fee from the collection agency Serafe. Previously these bills were sent out by the Billag firm. The licence fee is now 365 francs a year, down from 451 francs in 2018.
Health insurance premiums
Compulsory health insurance premiums in Switzerland will go up by around 1.2 percent in 2019. The average premium across all age groups is now 315 francs. Young adults aged 19 to 25 will be the biggest winners with their average premiums dropping a full 15.6 percent to 274.10 Swiss francs. Older adults will pick up the slack. Read more here.
Purchases made online from foreign websites could get more expensive in 2019. This is because changes to the value-added tax system mean deliveries from larger foreign firms like Amazon will be taxed in the same way as domestic deliveries.
Easier access to some medications at pharmacies
A variety of medications, such a hay fever treatments, that previously required a doctor’s prescription can now be bought over the counter at pharmacies without the need for a doctor’s sign off.
Post office rules
Under new rules designed to ensure people continue to have good access to postal services (including bill payment), post offices or their agents must now be distributed in such a way that 90 percent of the population can reach them on foot or using public transport within 20 minutes.
Most people will no longer have to pay tax on lottery winnings. As of January 1st, only winnings of over more than one million Swiss francs (€890,000) will be taxable.
In other gaming and gambling changes, poker tournaments will now be legal outside of casinos, but holders will have to apply for a permit.
As of 2019, it will be easier for the children of sperm donors to receive information about their biological fathers. These people will no longer have to visit the Federal Office of Civil Status in Bern in person and can now apply by post. Children aged under 18 will be able to apply for this information in special circumstances.
Medical tests for older drivers
Drivers aged 75 and over must now undergo a medical examination every two years. Previously, this rule applied to drivers aged 70 and over.