FAQ on refusal of entry, free movement of persons and suspension of visas

On this page you will find the most important answers and background information on the Ordinance on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19 Ordinance 2) and on entering, travelling through and leaving Switzerland.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the official ordinance and the directive of 24.03.2020 to the Swiss authorities.

If you cannot find an answer to your question, you can contact us by email at: corona@sem.admin.ch


General issues

What is the objective of the amended ordinance?

The Federal Council is pursuing two objectives with its measures.

  • Firstly, it wants to halt the further spread of the pandemic by limiting travel to journeys that are absolutely necessary. The safety of the population has the highest priority.
  • Secondly, by exempting cross-border commuters, it wants to ensure that the population’s essential needs continue to be met. Switzerland’s healthcare system is dependent on cross-border commuters.

What does the policy of refusal of entry actually mean?

Any foreign nationals who wish to enter Switzerland country and do not hold a valid residence or work permit will be refused entry.

The following persons in particular are affected by the entry ban:

  • Persons who wish to obtain services in Switzerland;
  • Tourists, visitors and participants in events;
  • Persons who wish to come to Switzerland for medical treatment;
  • Persons seeking employment in Switzerland;
  • Persons who wish to submit an application for a residence permit.

Which countries are high-risk countries?

All countries except Liechtenstein.

How long do these measures apply at the Swiss border?

The ordinance applies for as long as necessary, but for a maximum of 6 months.


Questions on border closures, cross-border commuters and free movement of persons

What exceptions apply to this border closure?

The border control authority will not allow you to enter Switzerland unless you meet as least one of the following requirements:

  • You are a Swiss citizen.
  • You hold a travel document and a residence permit, i.e. a Swiss residence permit (permits L / B / C / Ci), a cross-border permit (G permit), a visa D issued by Switzerland of a visa C issued by Switzerland for the purpose of attending professional consultations as a health sector specialist or for making an official visitof vital importance or an assurance of resident permit.
  • You have rights under the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons, have a work-related reason for entering Switzerland and have official documentation to confirm this (Meldebestätigung / attestation d’annonce).
  • You are transporting goods for commercial purposes and have a delivery order for your merchandise.
  • You are simply travelling directly through Switzerland to another country that you are permitted to enter.
  • You need to enter Switzerland because of a serious emergency, for example in the event of the death of a close family member
  • You are a specialist in the healthcare sector and need to enter Switzerland for important professional reasons.

You must be able to prove that you meet the abovementioned requirements. The border control authority will assess whether a situation is an emergency in terms of letter f.

What exceptions are made in cases of particular necessity or in emergencies?

In cases of particular necessity, it is possible to enter Switzerland despite the entry ban. In particular, the following circumstances are considered to be good reasons:

  • The death of a close family member in Switzerland, e.g. father, mother, brother, sister or child;
  • When medical treatment begun in Switzerland cannot be postponed because the life of the person concerned would otherwise be at risk;
  • Urgent official visits as part of Switzerland’s international commitments;
  • The entry of crewmembers of trains, buses, trams, scheduled and charter flights, emergency medical service flights, etc.

In principle, spouses and minor children of foreign citizens of an EU citizen living in Switzerland or third-country nationals are not recognised as hardship cases if the family members do not yet have a residence permit. Spouses and minor children of Swiss citizens are generally only recognised as cases of hardship if the Swiss citizen wishes to return with their family.

What should I do if one of these situations occurs?

If you explain that the circumstances apply, you will be granted entry at the Swiss border. No additional precautions are necessary.

However, Switzerland has no influence on whether persons who wish to travel to Switzerland in such situations will be able to actually get on a flight.

How many cross-border commuters are affected?

  • Around 330,000 cross-border commuters mainly from Italy, Germany, France and Italy work in Switzerland.
  • They may continue to enter the country if they hold a cross-border permit as long as they are still able to carry out their activities in Switzerland.
  • They are subject to Schengen border controls.

What rights under the Agreement on Free Movement of persons (AFMP) are restricted?

  • Nothing changes for persons holding an existing residence permit, a cross-border permit or official documentation confirming a reason for entry into Switzerland. 
  • On the other hand, persons who wish to enter Switzerland for the first time and do not have a permit are restricted in their AFMP rights. Furthermore, entry is no longer possible for a 90-day stay not subject to authorisation. And visits to Switzerland in order to obtain a service are no longer possible.
  • The cantonal authorities may suspend new applications and reports if they do not serve a public interest.

Questions about third countries

What about people from third countries who work in Switzerland? Can they still enter the country?

Persons who already have an entry permit including visa or the assurance of a residence permit can still enter the country. Applications from persons from third countries who want to work in Switzerland for the first time are suspended until further notice.


Questions on the suspending the issuing of visas

Why has Switzerland stopped issuing visas until 15 June 2020?

The Federal Council considers that all non-essential travel must be stopped to reduce the spread of the virus. Suspending the issuing visas and restrictions on border crossings help to achieve this goal.

Are there exceptions to the visa suspension?

Yes, exceptions will be made for healthcare specialists, such as doctors, nurses and scientists, since their work is of great importance for Switzerland. Applications can still be submitted and processed for these persons.


Questions on travelling through and leaving Switzerland

Can you still travel abroad and back into the country if you are resident in Switzerland?

Whether you will be allowed to enter our neighbouring countries is a matter for the authorities in those countries. Switzerland will not stop anyone from leaving the country. Anyone wishing to enter Switzerland from abroad must be able to present one of the following documents:

  • For Swiss citizens: a Swiss ID card or passport
  • For citizens of other countries: one of the documents mentioned above under question 2 on the exceptions to border closures

Will it still be possible to travel through Switzerland?

Transit traffic will not be restricted unless there is reason to believe that it will no longer be possible to leave Switzerland after transit, for example because of the entry requirements of the destination country.

What regulations apply to the transport of goods to and through Switzerland?

Entry is permitted for persons carrying out a transport order and who can produce a bill of lading. A ‘bill of lading’ is any accompanying document that lists in detail the goods delivered in the shipment.


Questions on asylum

Why will asylum seekers be turned back at the border?

In principle, asylum seekers are treated in the same way as any other people. The new ordinance does not contain special provisions on asylum seekers. Anyone on Swiss territory is still entitled to apply for asylum.

Is Switzerland breaching its international law obligations in turning back asylum seekers?

No. The procedure is based on emergency law in accordance with our constitution. Emergency law allows for this ordinance and permits the suspension of non-essential international law provisions. However, binding international law provisions such as the non-refoulement principle continue to apply and will be respected by Switzerland.


Information for international travellers

There is no ban on public transport in Switzerland, since people can keep a safe distance from each other in railway stations. You should avoid travelling during rush hours and avoid leisure trips altogether. 
Information from the Federal Office of Transport FOT 
(webpage available in German, French and Italian)

Travelling abroad

If you are unable to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of your Schengen visa due to a cancelled flight, please contact the relevant migration authority in your canton of residence.

Contact information: 
Cantonal immigration and labour market authorities

Transit Switzerland

It is possible to stop over at one of the Swiss airports, as long as the transit zone of the airport is not left.

If you are unable to board your flight and are stuck in an international transit area of an airport, contact the local border control authorities directly.

If you are subject to visa requirements and have to leave the international transit zone until you are able to continue your onward flight, or if you are unable to fly home and are forced to travel by land, a Schengen visa may be issued at the border on the following special terms. These visas are valid for a maximum of 15 days:

  • Travel documents valid for less than three months are accepted.
  • No travel health insurance is required.
  • Nationals subject to the Schengen consultation requirement are issued a visa with limited validity for Switzerland (C-VrG);
  • The visa is issued free of charge.

If you are not subject to the visa requirement, you will be granted entry to the Schengen area, provided no entry restrictions apply. You will need to report to the competent cantonal migration authority of your place of residence within 15 days: 
Cantonal immigration and labour market authorities

Entering Switzerland from abroad

Any foreign nationals who wish to enter Switzerland directly from a high-risk country will be refused entry. The following persons in particular are affected by the entry ban:

  • Persons who wish to obtain services in Switzerland;
  • Tourists, visitors and participants in events;
  • Persons who wish to come to Switzerland for medical treatment;
  • Persons seeking employment in Switzerland;
  • Persons who wish to submit an application for a residence permit.

The following are considered high-risk countries:

  • All countries except Liechtenstein.

Travellers who have been issued visa who are not allowed to enter Switzerland or the Schengen area due to the entry ban and whose visa therefore expires unused should contact the relevant Swiss representation. 
Swiss representations abroad

Here you will find contact information, and how to reach us via email for urgent questions. 
Contacts & Helpline

Documentation

(This document is not available in English)

  • Weisung (Fassung vom 24. März 2020) (PDF, 286.19 KB)

    Umsetzung der Verordnung 2 über Massnahmen zur Bekämpfung des Coronavirus (COVID-19-Verordnung 2) sowie zum Vorgehen bezüglich Aus-/Einreise aus dem, resp. in den Schengen-Raum

  • Directive (version du 24 mars 2020) (PDF, 392.77 KB)

    Mise en œuvre de l'Ordonnance 2 COVID-19 et sur la procédure à l’entrée et à la sortie de l’espace Schengen

  • Istruzione (versione del 24 marzo 2020) (PDF, 276.71 KB)

    Attuazione dell’Ordinanza 2 COVID-19 nonché procedura per l’entrata e l’uscita dallo Spazio di Schengen
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(This document is not available in English)

  • Rundschreiben vom 24. März 2020 (PDF, 414.80 KB)

    Umsetzung der COVID-19-Verordnung 2 bei der Bearbeitung von Bewilligungsgesuchen und Meldungen nach dem Freizügigkeitsabkommen

  • Circulaire du 24 mars 2020 (PDF, 413.44 KB)

    Mise en œuvre de l'Ordonnance 2 COVID-19 dans le cadre du traitement des demandes d'autorisations et des annonces au sens de l’Accord sur la libre circulation des personnes

  • Circolare del 24 marzo 2020 (PDF, 399.47 KB)

    Attuazione dell'Ordinanza 2 COVID-19 nel quadro del trattamento delle domande di permesso e di annuncio ai sensi dell'Accordo sulla libera circolazione delle persone

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