‘Foreigners rather than equals’: How Switzerland is failing immigrants

Switzerland has been ranked below most of its neighbours when it comes to immigration policies towards its non-European population, a new and extensive study on integration has concluded.

'Foreigners rather than equals': How Switzerland is failing immigrants
A sign, which reads 'too much is too much', lies on the floor ahead of Switzerland's September 2020 referendum on restricting immigration. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s immigration policies – which include “one of the longest and strictest residency requirements in Europe” – “encourage the public to see immigrants as foreigners and not fully as equals and neighbours,” according to the study by the EU-sponsored Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX). 

These policies “do not provide immigrants with a secure future in the country”, the research found. 

While 80 percent of immigrants to Switzerland come from European Union countries and thereby benefit from freedom of movement, the study only took into account non-European immigration. 

Switzerland ranked 25th of 52 countries surveyed – behind France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and most of central and western Europe – with the authors looking at the ‘basic rights’ that immigrants can access, along with ‘equal opportunities’ and a ‘secure future’. 

READ MORE: The Swiss cantons with the strictest citizenship requirements 

The authors found that Switzerland’s immigration policies favoured “temporary integration” rather than setting up a framework which allowed this to be comprehensive. 

Austria and Denmark ranked alongside Switzerland when it came to integration outcomes. 

The two major failings of the Swiss system for immigrants was the degree to which they are protected from discrimination and the difficulties in obtaining citizenship. 

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide  

As noted by the authors, the problems arise due to Switzerland’s legal framework surrounding immigration, which leads to less legal protections and difficulties becoming naturalised. 

“The obstacles emerge throughout the legal framework. Victims of discrimination are less protected and supported in Switzerland than anywhere else on the continent.”

“Faced with some of the most restrictive policies in Western Europe, non-EU citizens in Switzerland are less likely to reunite with their family, enjoy a secure status or become a full citizen,” the report read.

Immigration is frequently a topic of debate in Switzerland, as approximately one quarter of Swiss residents are foreigners. 

In a September referendum, the Swiss voted against a plan to limit EU freedom of movement in Switzerland. 

A facemask with the SVP's slogan supporting the anti-migration initiative. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Final results showed that 61.7 percent of Swiss voters had balked at an initiative to tear up an agreement permitting the free movement of people between Switzerland and the surrounding EU. 

The initiative, backed by the populist right-wing SVP — Switzerland's largest party — had been opposed by the government, parliament, unions, employer organisations and all other political parties out of fear it would jeopardise overall relations with the bloc.

‘Switzerland’s approach to integration has remained relatively unchanged’

The research also finds that things have not been getting better for immigrants in Switzerland recently, making it a global outlier when compared to all other countries surveyed. 

“Over the past decade, federal policies have changed little for immigrants across Switzerland,” the authors wrote. 

“The MIPEX score for Switzerland has not changed since 2007. In contrast, the average MIPEX country increased by +2 points in the last five years, from 2014 to 2019.

“While the federal government has provided greater standards, support, funding, monitoring for integration at local and cantonal level, Switzerland’s approach to integration has remained relatively unchanged.”

Top ten countries for integration

1. Sweden 

2. Finland

3. Portugal

4. Canada

5. New Zealand

6. United States 

7. Belgium

8. Norway

9. Australia

10. Ireland

25. Switzerland

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Travel: What documents do tourists need to visit Switzerland?

Tourists are now allowed to visit Switzerland again. What travel documents do they need to be allowed entry into the country?

Travel: What documents do tourists need to visit Switzerland?
What documents do you need to enter Switzerland? Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

This report was last updated on November 9th. 

Before the pandemic struck and travel restrictions were implemented, it was easy for tourists to enter Switzerland.

In most cases, a valid passport was sufficient.

Now, more documents – including proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus or a negative test – are often required. 

In late June, Switzerland changed its entry rules. Previously those from inside the Schengen zone and outside were treated differently.

From June 26th onwards, Switzerland introduced the ‘variant of concern’ classification for countries where mutations of the virus were spreading. The current list of variant of concern countries includes India, the United Kingdom and Nepal. 

This is laid out below. 

Entry from the Schengen zone and EFTA countries

People arriving from Schengen and EU countries or from the small European states like Andorra, the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino will need to either be vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid or have a negative test in order to enter. 

In addition, you will also need to fill out the entry form

The date of full vaccination must be in the past 12 months. For those recovered from the virus, you must have had the virus in the previous six months (and received a confirmation, i.e. a positive test). 

If you have not been vaccinated or recovered from the virus, you will need to present a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a negative rapid antigen test (not older than 48 hours) before boarding your flight to Switzerland. 

What about outside the EU/Schengen/EFTA zone?

On June 26th, Switzerland’s rules were relaxed to allow entry from outside the bloc. 

This means that people can enter from non-Schengen zone countries, provided they have been vaccinated in the past 12 months or have recovered from the virus in the past six months. 

This includes the United States, the United Kingdom and other non-Schengen countries which are not on the ‘variant of concern’ list. 

Entry from outside the bloc is not permitted for people who have neither been vaccinated or recovered from the virus. 

More information is at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms only vaccinated Americans and Brits can enter

What documents are needed? 

Before boarding the plane, an electronic entry form must be filled out. Once you complete it online and send it back, you will receive a personalised QR code as proof of registration.

You will be asked to show this code at the airport check-in, at all transit airports, and at arrival in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

Only vaccinated and recovered tourists from outside the Schengen zone can come to Switzerland and remain here without further requirements. 

You must be inoculated with your second dose at least two weeks previously with one of the vaccines approved by the European Union, Swissmedic and WHO, which currently are Moderna, Pfizer / Biontech, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, along with the two Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac. 

Also, you must have proof showing you have been fully vaccinated — an official document issued by a recognised health authority.

It can be either in digital or in paper form, must have your full name and date of birth, dates when both doses were administered (or a single dose in case of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine), as well as the name and batch number of the vaccine.

This does not need to be the internationally known yellow vaccine booklet or a QR code, although if the documentation is in a form that people recognise, it’s likely to go a little more smoothly. 

One thing to keep in mind is that travel should take place at least 14 days after the final dose, which is when immunity to coronavirus is believed to fully kick in.

What about tourists who arrive to Switzerland after holidaying in other European countries?

It doesn’t matter whether a person transits through or stays in another country before arriving in Switzerland.

The same rules — that is, either the vaccination / immunity certificate or negative test or quarantine apply, even if the traveller arrives from a high-variant area like the UK.

These are the rules and regulations right now, bit they may change if the epidemiological situation in Switzerland and / or the US worsens.

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms vaccinated Americans and Brits can enter from June 26th