What you need to know about travelling from the US to Switzerland

Borders around the world have begun to reopen as countries emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. But who can travel to Switzerland and when?

What you need to know about travelling from the US to Switzerland
A Swiss plane sits on the tarmac at Geneva airport. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Although travel between most European countries has now been opened, restrictions are still in place for travellers from outside Europe from entering Switzerland. 

But while tourist travellers from the United States and elsewhere will be restricted from entering Switzerland, Swiss nationals and residents have always been allowed to enter. 

European travel

Beginning in June, Switzerland – in tandem with the European Union – has begun to slowly wind back border controls. 

As The Local Switzerland reported last week, travel to most other European countries was again allowed from June 15th onwards. 

Officially, travel restrictions were relaxed between Switzerland and all other European Union and EFTAA countries on that date, with exceptions for Norway, Finland and Denmark. 

UPDATED: Where can you travel to from Switzerland – and when? 

In the vast majority of cases this has been done pursuant to a reciprocal arrangement – meaning that residents of these countries are also allowed to enter Switzerland. 

Travel to and from non-EU countries

As we discussed on Monday, Swiss residents cannot enter the United States unless they are a resident, a citizen or have some other connection. 

For Americans – or anyone else without European citizen/resident status – the rules are similarly restrictive. 

Currently, residents non-European countries are restricted indefinitely from entering Switzerland. 

READ: What you should know before you travel abroad from Switzerland 

The Swiss government said on May 27th that authorities “will decide on lifting entry restrictions for third countries at a later date and in consultation with the Schengen member states.”

As reported in The Local France, the European Commission is considering opening the EU's external borders from July 1st onwards. 

While Switzerland is not an EU member, it has up until this point largely mirrored the decisions of the EU when it comes to border openings. 

There are some exceptions for work travellers, although this travel must be essential – i.e. it needs to take place in person – and special approval must be granted.

Anyone needing this approval must contact Swiss authorities at [email protected] 

Swiss nationals and residents may enter. As it currently stands, there are no quarantine requirements upon arrival in Switzerland. 

How do I get there (and back)?

If you do qualify and you’re travelling from the States, there are several flights that connect Zurich and Geneva with US airports: four flights a week to New York (JFK), three flights to Newark (NJ), and twice a week to Chicago. 

Starting in July, flights to Las Vegas and Tampa, Florida are also planned.

While you can book these flights on the SWISS website, keep in mind that they could be operated by sister airlines Edelweiss, United, or Lufthansa.


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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