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HEALTH

Coronavirus border closures: How does Switzerland’s family reunion exception work?

Switzerland has confirmed it will relax the coronavirus border restrictions to allow for families to again see each other.

Coronavirus border closures: How does Switzerland’s family reunion exception work?
Swiss flags along the border. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In an official statement issued by the Swiss Government late on Wednesday, the Federal Council said entry restrictions into Switzerland would begin to be lifted. 

“For Swiss and EU citizens, family reunification in Switzerland will become possible again from 11 May. Border controls will however remain in place” said the statement. 

The statement did not provide any clarification as to whether residence permit holders of EU countries would be allowed to enter Switzerland for the purposes of family reunions, nor did it provide an indication as to the documentation needed to prove that entering Switzerland was being done for the purposes of visiting a family member. 

READ: Bars, restaurants and gyms in Switzerland to open sooner than expected so country 'can live with the virus'

Border control authorities have discretion as to whether they can allow someone to enter, the police confirmed to Swiss tabloid Blick on Thursday

The police said on Thursday that while this includes spouses, registered partners and children. Justice Department boss Karin Keller-Sutter emphasised during her press conference on Wednesday that visiting grandparents was not included in the scope of the relaxation. 

This was confirmed by a FAQ published by the Swiss government, which said that unmarried or unregistered couples are not allowed to visit each other, unless they have children and have the appropriate documentation. 

Those entering neighbouring countries from Switzerland will need to check with the authorities of those countries to see if they can enter, however many have put in place restrictions which are largely similar to those in Switzerland. 

As it stands, all Swiss citizens as well as residence permit holders and cross-border permit holders are allowed to enter Switzerland – but tourists and other visitors were restricted.

Crossing the border into Switzerland to go shopping – even for people with valid permits – has been prohibited since April 16th. 

Switzerland’s borders were shut swiftly at midnight on Wednesday, March 25th, separating families who had previously crossed the border unfettered. 

Karin Keller-Sutter, Head of the Swiss Justice Department, said that the government would not stop residents of Switzerland from leaving in the summer and would not prevent them returning. 

She did however indicate that anyone intending to do so may encounter difficulties getting out of Switzerland, as many neighbouring countries are set to keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future. 

 

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HEALTH

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
 

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