Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?
Family reunification can be tricky in Switzerland, depending on where you and your family are from. Here is what you need to know.
If you live in Switzerland, you might want to bring your family from abroad to live with you. However, this will not be possible in every case, as the rules for family reunification vary broadly depending on where you and your family are from and how closely related you are.
Family reunification might not be a given right for those living in Switzerland on a permit. Instead, it may be a possibility left to the discretion of the authorities. Unlike those on a B permit (residence permit), people in Switzerland on a C permit (settlement permit), for example, don't necessarily have a right to bring their family.
Additionally, you can't bring just any family members to Switzerland. Who you are allowed to bring, and under what circumstances, will depend on your nationality.
For Swiss citizens
If the person living in Switzerland is a Swiss citizen, they are allowed to bring their spouse or registered partner, any children and grandchildren under the age of 18 (or 21 or dependent if the child comes from an EU/EFTA country), your dependent parents and grandparents if they come from an EU/EFTA country.
For citizens of an EU/EFTA country
Citizens of the European Union or an EFTA country can bring a spouse or registered partner, any children or grandchildren under the age of 21 (or dependent), and any dependent parents or grandparents.
For citizens from a third country
Citizens from a third country such as the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, South Africa or Australia, for example, are only allowed to bring a spouse or registered partner and children under the age of 18.
How to bring them?
It's important to mention that there are time limits to applying for family reunification. In general, people have five years to apply for family reunification, but only one year if the application is for children over 12 years old. The Swiss government says it is "so that they can integrate more rapidly into Swiss society".
There are several other conditions that need to be met. For example, you need to prove the relationship to the person you want to bring, and you need to have a large enough accommodation to house the whole family.
Additionally, those who are self-employed or unemployed need to show proof of sufficient financial resources.
The family members need a valid identity card or passport, a visa (if necessary), and a certificate proving the relationship and proving they are dependents (if required). In addition, a spouse needs to show proof of A1 language or a certificate of enrolment in a language course of the area where they apply for the permit.
The application must be made with the immigration authority in your canton, who may ask for extra documents or further information.
If the application is accepted, the family members will receive a residence permit - the exact type depends on the person in Switzerland's status. The family will be allowed to work in Switzerland unless they are parents or grandparents.
Children are required to attend free compulsory schooling at least until the age of 16 and all family members need to have a Swiss health insurance.
Each canton may have its own particular rules and minor differences in status and documents may lead to different outcomes depending on the case. Therefore, don't forget to check with your cantonal immigration authority what applies to your particular case.