Authors: Stefan Müller, Sabine Taxer
Subject Area: Immigration Law
Entry restrictions in times of the COVID-19 pandemic
Since March 25, 2020, strict entry restrictions have been in force for all Schengen countries (except the Principality of Liechtenstein) and all other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain persons are nevertheless allowed to enter Switzerland if certain requirements are met.
On 13 March 2020, the Federal Council issued the Ordinance 2 on Measures to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) (COVID-19 Ordinance 2), which has been continuously updated. Based on Article 7 of the Epidemic Act, which provides that in the event of an extraordinary situation, the Federal Council may order necessary measures for the entire country or for individual parts of the country, the Federal Council has issued entry restrictions, which were tightened with effect from 25 March 2020.
The aim of these entry restrictions is to ensure Switzerland's ability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, to avoid overburdening the Swiss healthcare system. The list of countries and regions at risk is set forth in Appendix 1 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 and is constantly updated by the Federal Council. Since 25 March 2020, entry restrictions have been in force for all Schengen countries (except the Principality of Liechtenstein) (in each case including air traffic) and all other countries (air traffic).
Despite the introduced entry restrictions, the following persons are still permitted to enter Switzerland (Art. 3 para. 1 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2)
- Swiss citizens;
- Foreign nationals with a valid travel document and a valid residence permit, namely a Swiss residence permit, a cross-border commuter permit (for professional purposes only), a visa D issued by Switzerland or a visa C issued by Switzerland for the purpose of "business meetings" as specialists in the healthcare sector or for the purpose of "official visits" of major importance or an assurance of a residence permit (an employment agreement is not sufficient for entry);
- Foreign nationals who have to enter Switzerland for professional reasons and who are in possession of a notification confirmation, which is issued electronically within the framework of the notification procedure for short-term employment for up to 90 days;
- Foreign nationals who are in transit;
- Foreign nationals who are engaged in the commercial transport of goods and who can present a delivery note;
- Foreign nationals if there is an extreme necessity to enter the country; and
- Foreign nationals who are proven specialists of great importance in the healthcare sector.
According to the explanatory notes to the COVID-19 Ordinance 2, there is an extreme necessity in the following situations:
- Death of a close family member living in Switzerland, such as a father, mother, sibling or child;
- Entry for the purpose of continuing medical treatment begun in Switzerland which cannot be postponed because the life of the person concerned would otherwise be at risk;
- Urgent official visits within the framework of Switzerland's international obligations;
- Entry of crew members of public transport vehicles such as trains, buses, trams, scheduled and charter flights, ambulance flights, etc.
The entry of spouses and underage children of a foreign nationality of an EU/EFTA national or a third-country national living in Switzerland is not considered to be a situation of extreme necessity if the family members do not yet have a residence permit. In the case of spouses and underage children of Swiss citizens, a situation of extreme necessity only exists if the Swiss citizens wishes to return with the family.
While notifications under the notification procedure are currently still possible, notifications for cross-border service provision can be suspended in accordance with further entry restrictions if these do not serve a public interest. Without a positive notification confirmation, foreign nationals will not be able to enter Switzerland.
Violations of the entry restrictions issued by the Federal Council is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine. In addition, persons who violate the entry restrictions may be banned from entering Switzerland (Art. 3 para. 4 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2).
Against the background of these entry restrictions, Switzerland currently does not issue Schengen visas, national visas or authorisations to issue a visa to all foreign nationals (Art. 4a of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2). The only exceptions are in cases of extreme necessity and for specialists in the healthcare sector. The discontinuation of Schengen visas, national visas and authorisations to issue visas is initially valid until 15 June 2020.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. This content is not meant to replace individual advice from competent professionals in a specific case.