Switzerland agrees to open borders to unmarried couples

Following the lead of Denmark, Norway and Austria, Swiss authorities will exceptionally lift restrictions on entry to people from third nations whose ‘significant other half’ lives in Switzerland.

Switzerland agrees to open borders to unmarried couples
Foreign partners of Swiss residents will be allowed to come to Switzerland. Photo by AFP

As residents of many countries outside the EU and Schengen zone are not allowed to enter Switzerland, couples where one partner lives in Switzerland and the other abroad have been separated since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The only third-country nationals permitted to come to Switzerland at the present time are people from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Also residents of some EU states outside the Schengen area — Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus — are granted access.

READ MORE: Switzerland opens borders to travellers from certain countries outside Europe 

But people from other nations considered to be ‘at-risk’ due to the high number of coronavirus infections are kept away.

A large-scale social media campaign, “LoveIsNotTourism”, has been launched in Denmark, Norway and Austria to demand that states make an exception and lift their restrictions on unmarried couples waiting to be reunited.

The governments of these three countries agreed to let the foreign partners in.

Now Switzerland is set to follow this example.

“We have a lot of understanding for people in this situation. We will adjust our entry conditions as quickly as possible”, Barbara Büschi, deputy director at the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said in an interview.

However, strict criteria will be set regarding the eligibility of foreigners to reunite with their partners in Switzerland.

“We are in contact with customs and the Department of Foreign Affairs to set the criteria for entry clearance”, Büschi said.

What is certain is that people who met on online dating sites but who have not yet met in person will not qualify to enter.

Nor will anyone trying to immigrate to Switzerland under the guise of a reunion.

Switzerland will decide on the controls to be implemented before the end of July, and enforce the policy by the beginning of August.

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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