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03 June 2020

In order to prevent or contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Switzerland has ordered several measures applying to the Swiss population and organizations. These measures aim at reducing the frequency of transmission and ensuring Switzerland’s capacity to cope with the pandemic. For Swiss immigration law, however, these restrictions represent a major limitation.

The entry to Switzerland of persons from risk countries or regions has been restricted, whereby in the current situation all countries are considered risk countries or regions (except the Principality of Liechtenstein). As of March 24, 2020, the following restrictions apply:

  • Prohibition of entry: Entry to Switzerland from all countries (except the Principality of Liechtenstein) has been prohibited (with few exceptions);
  • No Schengen visas and national visas: The Federal Council is suspending the issue of Schengen visas and national visas until June 15, 2020. Also, persons who already obtained a Schengen visa, but have not yet used it, cannot enter the country;
  • Exception for visas D and return visas: Visas D (i.e. long-term visas) may continue to be issued, provided that the visa authorization has been issued before March 3, 2020. Return visas can still be issued after consultation with the relevant canton;
  • No processing of work permit applications: Swiss immigration authorities will not accept or process any new work permit applications until June 15, 2020 and pending applications have been suspended. Applicants may resubmit their application after the entry restrictions have been lifted;
  • Applicable period of validity of the restrictions: These restrictions will apply for a maximum period of six months from the date of entry into force, thus no longer than September 13, 2020.

As Switzerland is a federal state, each cantonal authority decides, at its own discretion, on the implementation of federal laws and directives. Therefore, implementation practice varies from canton to canton.

Furthermore, the Federal Council decided to ease the corona-based entry restrictions step by step, in parallel with the economic opening stages. From June 8, 2020, all applications from workers from the EU/EFTA area will be processed again. In addition, Swiss companies can employ highly qualified workers from third countries if the assignment is in the public interest and, for example, serves the national economic supply or if a company is urgently dependent on these skilled workers from an economic point of view and the assignment cannot be postponed or completed from abroad.

The intentions of the Federal Council is to fully restore the free movement of persons and freedom of travel throughout the Schengen area by July 6, 2020, at the latest. With regard to Germany, Austria and France, border controls are to be lifted on June 15, 2020.

Our immigration team is happy to advise you if you have any questions.

Authors: Biljana Vasic, Ann-Sofie Benz

Topics: ImmigrationCoronavirusCOVID-19immigration restrictions

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