On September 25, 2020, the Federal Act on the Statutory Principles for Federal Council Ordinances on Combating the COVID-19 Epidemic (Covid-19 Act) was passed. The Ordinance 3 on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19 Ordinance 3) issued by the Federal Council is based on this, which contains, among other things, restrictions on the entry to Switzerland.
I. Risk list of the State Secretariat for Migration ("SEM")
In order to maintain Switzerland's capacity to cope with the COVID 19 epidemic and, in particular, to ensure that the population is adequately supplied with care and medical products, restrictions on the entry of persons from countries or regions at risk apply. The list of countries or regions at risk is set out in Appendix 1 of COVID-19 Ordinance 3 and updated by the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) on an ongoing basis.
As of February 8, 2021, entry restrictions apply to all countries outside the Schengen area, with the exception of:
- Holy See
- Korea (South)
- New Zealand
- San Marino
Exception to the entry ban and consequences in case of violation
The entry into Switzerland from a risk country or a risk region for a stay without a work-related permit is not permitted for persons unless the person is within the scope of the AFMP or the EFTA Agreement or can prove that he/she is in a situation of extreme necessity. The consequences of a breach of these rules should not be underestimated. Violation of the entry regulations is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine. In addition, an entry ban can be issued.
The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) issues the necessary guidelines to answer the question of which situations are considered to be an extreme necessity (hardship case). According to these guidelines, entry must be granted in the following situations, for example:
- Visit due to the death or because of a dying person of a close family member living in Switzerland, in particular spouse, partner, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren or brothers and sisters in law. Entry is possible together with the visiting person's core family, which includes spouses, registered partners and underage children;
- Continuation of necessary medical treatment initiated in Switzerland or abroad;
- Visitation of first- and second-degree relatives in medical emergencies (grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren);
- Exercising the right to visit children and their accompanying person as provided for under civil law; this also includes the entry of the child into Switzerland;
- Visiting the core family. The core family includes the spouse, the registered partner and underage children resident in Switzerland.
- Taking care of judicial or non-postponable business appointments or meetings that require personal attendance. This includes, for example, contract negotiations and signings, business visits, practical training or important representative assignments;
- Foreign nationals from third countries who provide a crossborder service for up to eight days per calendar year or who are temporarily employed in Switzerland on behalf of a foreign employer from a third country, provided that their personal presence is required (for example, practical training and further education or training on the job);
- Entry of members of the core family of Swiss nationals registered with a Swiss representation abroad who enter Switzerland together with the Swiss national for a permit-free stay. The core family includes the spouse, registered partner and minor (step-)children of the Swiss national. Under certain conditions this also applies to cohabiting partners;
- Entry for the purpose of visiting couples, love affairs or other close partnerships of unmarried or registered partners or of persons without common children (civil partnership) is possible if:
- there is an invitation from a partner resident in Switzerland who is a Swiss citizen or a foreign person with a short stay, residence or settlement permit;
- a confirmation of the existing partnership is submitted;
- and at least one personal physical visit or meeting in Switzerland or abroad before the entry restrictions are issued.
The existence of a hardship case must be substantiated by presenting documents to the border control authorities or the Swiss representation abroad. The border control authorities have the discretion to decide whether or not there is a case of hardship.
It should be noted that regardless of whether entry is granted, the quarantine and testing requirement as well as the obligation to collect contact data for these persons must be observed (cf. below under point II).
II. Risk list of the Federal Office of Public Health ("FOPH")
A distinction must be made between the SEM's risk list and that of the FOPH. Even if a country is no longer on the SEM risk list, it may be on the one of the FOPH. In this case, people entering Switzerland may need to fill out an entry form, carry a negative PCR test result and/or undergo quarantine. The current FOPH list of risk countries can be found on the FOPH website (www.bag.admin.ch, List of countries and areas with an increased risk of infection).
In principle, all persons who enter Switzerland must fill in an entry form. Exceptions to the entry form requirement exist in the following cases:
- Persons entering from border areas do not have to fill in the form. This exception only applies if the person is not entering the country by plane.
- Travelers from countries and areas with an increased risk of infection do not have to fill in the form if:
- in the course of their professional occupation, goods or persons are being transported across borders and they are only entering Switzerland for transit purposes with the intention and possibility of travelling directly on to another country;
- in the course of the professional occupation, goods or persons are transported across borders and the stay in Switzerland lasts a maximum of 24 hours;
- the person is only entering Switzerland for transit purposes with the intention and possibility of travelling directly to another country.
The entry form can be filled in electronically via a computer or smartphone. If this is not possible, a paper version of the form can be completed. The electronic entry form can be found here: https://swissplf.admin.ch/home
Negative test result
The following persons must now be able to present a negative Corona test result when entering Switzerland:
- Persons entering Switzerland by plane. The negative test result must already be presented at boarding.
- Persons who have stayed in a country with an increased risk of infection within the last 10 days before entering Switzerland (cf. FOPH list of risk countries). In this case, a negative test result must always be presented, even if the entry happens by bus, car, train, etc.
The Corona test must be carried out within the last 72 hours before entering Switzerland. In addition, it must be a molecular biological analysis, e.g., a PCR test. The result of a rapid antigen test is not permitted. The test result must be negative. The obligation for a test does not apply to children under 12 years of age and, among others, to business travelers who travel for important reasons that cannot be postponed, persons who travel for important medical reasons that cannot be postponed and transit passengers who have spent less than 24 hours in a risk area (further exceptions according to Art. 8 of the Ordinance on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in International Passenger Transport (COVID-19 Ordinance on International Passenger Transport Measures) of January 27, 2021).
Quarantine for persons arriving in Switzerland
Adults and children who have stayed in a FOPH risk area before entering Switzerland must undergo quarantine for 10 days. A negative test result or a Covid-19 vaccination does not release from the quarantine obligation. Only certain persons are excluded from the quarantine obligation, such as business travellers travelling for an important reason that cannot be postponed, persons travelling for an important medical reason that cannot be postponed, and transit passengers who have stayed in a risk area for less than 24 hours (further exceptions according to Art. 8 of the Ordinance on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in International Passenger Transport (COVID-19 Ordinance on International Passenger Transport Measures) of January 27, 2021).
The travel quarantine can newly be terminated prematurely from the 7th day onwards. For this, the following conditions must be fulfilled:
- From the 7th day of quarantine, a new Corona test must be taken. PCR or antigen rapid tests are permitted. The test result must be negative.
- The negative test result must be submitted to the competent cantonal authority. The quarantine period may be shortened with the approval of the cantonal authority. Until the actual end of the quarantine (until the 10th day), a mask must be used outside the accommodation and a distance of 1.5 metres from other persons has to be maintained.
FAQs on coronavirus and entry restrictions (see for this and for further questions and answers www.sem.admin.ch, Latest News):
Q: I have a cross-border commuter permit. Can I still enter Switzerland for work?
A: According to the current status (February 15, 2021), the conditions of the AFMP and the usual rules of application apply to EU/EFTA citizens and their family members, irrespective of their nationality. For UK citizens, this only applies if they acquired rights of free movement before January 1, 2021. Entry into Switzerland is therefore possible with a cross-border commuter permit under these conditions.
Q: I am a service provider from the EU/EFTA and have a mandate in Switzerland. May I send my employees to Switzerland to fulfil the contract?
A: Providers of cross-border services who can rely on the AFMP are also subject to the conditions of the AFMP and the usual application provisions. This also applies to service providers from the United Kingdom for services up to 90 days per calendar year.
Q: What is the situation regarding entry for employment for third country nationals?
A: Since July 6, 2020, the responsible cantonal authorities are able to process all applications for foreign employees from third countries again.
Q: Who is still subject to a visa stop?
A: Foreign nationals coming from a risk country or region who wish to enter Switzerland for a permit-free stay for non-work purposes and are not entitled by law to freedom of movement or do not belong to any of the exemption categories of Covid-19 Ordinance 3.
Q: I have received a visa, but due to the situation I cannot enter Switzerland. What should I do?
A: It is not necessary to submit a new application. However, in order for the entry permit or the assurance of a residence permit to be updated, the applying employer must contact the competent cantonal migration authority.
Q: Due to the situation, I cannot leave Switzerland before the expiry of my visa or residence permit / before the expiry of the maximum valid stay of 90 days in a permit-free area. What must I do?
A: In this case the person must contact the cantonal migration authorities. The number of days of stay after the validity of the visa or after expiry of the maximum possible length of stay is counted towards a later stay. A reentry within the framework of a permit-free stay can only take place after an interruption of at least 90 days.