How can I visit my family in Switzerland?
Some travel restrictions that were enforced at the beginning of the pandemic have been relaxed, but others, relating to people from third countries, still remain in place. Here's what you need to know.
Say you have relatives or a partner living in a foreign country and they want to visit you in Switzerland. Can they?
If they are Swiss citizens or permanent residents living abroad, then they can come to Switzerland at any time.
If they live in a EU / Schengen state or in the small European states like Andorra, the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino, they can come for a visit as well, but some rules apply in both of the above cases.
At the moment, everyone entering Switzerland must register online by filling in the electronic passenger locator form.
Also, anyone over the age of 12 must have a negative Covid test, not older than 72 hours, in order to enter Switzerland. This can be either a PCR or antigen test.
What about people from non-EU / Schengen countries?
Entry to Switzerland is more complicated for visitors from third countries.
Generally speaking, these people are not allowed to enter Switzerland at the moment, except for a handful of nations deemed low-risk, including Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus, Rwanda, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.
However, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) does have exceptions for families and partners of Swiss residents.
This what the SEM website says:
“Entry by the immediate family members of a Swiss citizen who are registered with a Swiss foreign representation and are entering Switzerland with that Swiss citizen for a stay here does not require authorisation. Immediate family means the Swiss citizen’s spouse or registered partner and minor children (including step-children). In certain circumstances it also includes unmarried partners”.
SEM then goes on to specify entry rules for unmarried partners:
Entry to visit a partner to whom one is not married or in a registered partnership with and with whom one does not have children is possible if:
- The person wishing to enter the country has an invitation from the partner living in Switzerland and the partner is a Swiss citizen or has a short-stay permit, temporary or permanent residence permit.
- Confirmation of the existing partnership is submitted.
- Proof can be given that at least one face-to-face visit or meeting took place in Switzerland or abroad.
- Entry is not permitted on the basis of a mere holiday acquaintance. Proof must be given that a relationship has already lasted for some time and is regularly cultivated. The persons concerned must provide credible evidence that they have been in regular contact.
There are other exemptions as well, which SEM defines as “cases of special necessity”.
They include people coming to Switzerland because a close relative is dying; to visit close relatives who have medical emergency; to continue essential medical treatment; or for important family events like funerals, weddings or births.
The full list of exceptions and other entry-related information for visitors from third countries can be found here.
If your family or partner are eligible based on the above exceptions, they may need a visa to enter Switzerland, depending on their country of residence. They have to apply for one at the Swiss foreign representation in their country, explaining and documenting why they are a case of special necessity.
In certain cases, the foreign representation may be able to provide documents confirming the situation.
For those who don’t need a visa, the border control officers in Switzerland or at a Schengen airport decide whether the requirements of necessity have been met, SEM said.
Keep in mind that all the above rules apply only to family visits, not general tourism. Rules for third-country tourists are here.