13 July 2021

Switzerland's double risk list

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  • Employment / Immigration

Since July 2020, the Confederation has compiled a list of countries and regions where there is an increased risk of infection with the coronavirus (so-called FOPH risk list). In addition, the SEM maintains a list of risk countries (so-called SEM risk list) showing the countries for which special restrictions apply regarding a potential entry into Switzerland.

1.            FOPH risk list: Measures on entry

Since July 2020, the Confederation has compiled a list of countries and regions where there is an increased risk of infection with the coronavirus (so-called FOPH risk list). The Federal Office of Public Health FOPH compiles this risk list on behalf of the Confederation according to specific criteria and has since updated it regularly (usually every 14 days). At its meeting of 23 June 2021, the Federal Council decided to greatly reduce and simplify the measures against the coronavirus. This includes that the current FOPH risk list will be reduced from 26 June 2021 and will only contain states where virus variants of concern for Switzerland are circulating. The current FOPH risk list can be found on the FOPH website here and the Federal Council's media release of 23 June 2021 here.

Certain rules apply to people entering Switzerland from a country that is on the FOPH risk list at the time of border crossing into Switzerland. Depending on the country, an entry form must be filled out, a proof of a negative coronavirus test must be presented and/or a quarantine must be completed. These restrictions have also been eased as of 26 June 2021:

  • people entering Switzerland from the Schengen area are no longer required to quarantine in principle;
  • a test must be presented upon arrival by plane from a non-FOPH risk list country only if the person entering Switzerland has not yet been fully vaccinated or has not recovered from COVID;
  • contact data will only be required when entering Switzerland by plane;
  • fully vaccinated and recovered persons from states listed on the FOPH risk list can enter Switzerland without testing and quarantine requirements as long as it is certain that the vaccination provides good protection;
  • anyone who has neither been vaccinated nor recovered from COVID must present a negative PCR test or rapid antigen test when entering Switzerland from states listed on the FOPH risk list and must go into quarantine after entry.

This means that vaccinated and COVID-recovered persons do not have to show a negative test even when travelling from states where the delta variant predominates (such as India or Great Britain) and are not required to quarantine after entry. An overview of the applicable regulations can be found on the FOPH website here .

The FOPH risk list may therefore influence "how" to enter Switzerland. However, it says nothing about "whether" you are allowed to enter Switzerland at all, because the competence for Switzerland’s entry regulations lies with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), not the FOPH.

2.            SEM risk list: Entry restriction for third-country nationals

The SEM maintains a list of risk countries (so-called SEM risk list) showing the countries for which special restrictions apply regarding a potential entry into Switzerland. The list contains countries or regions whose authorities have ordered extraordinary measures to prevent and combat the COVID-19 epidemic. Entry from countries on the SEM risk list is subject to entry restrictions in addition to the usual entry requirements in order to maintain Switzerland's capacity to cope with the COVID-19 epidemic and, in particular, to ensure conditions for the provision of sufficient care and medical supplies to the population. The SEM risk list is maintained in Annex 1 of COVID-19 Ordinance 3 and is continuously updated by the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). The current SEM risk list can be found here .

Regarding the scope of the SEM risk list, it should be noted first of all that entry is possible at any time for Swiss citizens and persons in possession of a valid residence permit (irrespective of whether they are entering from a country on the SEM risk list). In this case, when entering Switzerland it is only necessary to check on the basis of the FOPH risk list which measures may apply to you (see above).

According to the currently valid SEM risk list (as of 26 June 2021), entry restrictions apply to all states and regions outside the Schengen area (third countries), with the exception of: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Holy See, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea (South), Croatia, Lebanon, Macau, Monaco, New Zealand, Northern Macedonia, Rwanda, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Cyprus.

All other third-country nationals are generally subject to an entry ban or entry restrictions apply if they travel to Switzerland for a permit-free stay without gainful employment of up to three months, provided they enter directly from an SEM risk country.

However, the Federal Council has eased the existing entry restrictions for demonstrably vaccinated third-country nationals as of 26 June 2021. Third-country nationals who have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved in Switzerland are therefore not subject to the entry ban. For these travellers, only the usual entry requirements for third-country nationals and the entry rules according to the FOPH apply (see above).

2.1         Exceptions to the entry restrictions (case of hardship)

Persons who can credibly demonstrate that they are in a situation of extreme necessity (case of hardship) and are therefore absolutely dependent on entering Switzerland are exempt from the general entry ban. Thus, according to the Directive of the SEM, entry is to be granted in the following situations (you can find the Directive of 26 June 2021 here):

  • Visit due to death or dying of a close family member living in Switzerland (in particular spouse, partner, parent, sibling, child, grandchild, brother-in-law). Entry is possible together with the core family of the visitor;

  • Continuation of a necessary medical treatment started in Switzerland or abroad;

  • Urgent official visits in the context of Switzerland's international obligations;

  • Entry of crew members of public means of transport (scheduled and charter flights) plus crew members of cargo, work and ambulance flights, flights for maintenance purposes and private flights (business and general aviation) for the carriage of persons entitled to entry;

  • Visiting first- and second-degree relatives (grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren) in medical emergencies; the admission requirements for gainful employment pursuant to the FNIA and para. 4.7.15 of the FNIA Directives remain reserved;

  • Exercise of the right to visit children and their accompanying persons under civil law. This also includes the entry of the child and its accompanying person into Switzerland;

  • Visit of the core family (spouse, registered partner and minor children) residing in Switzerland;

  • Visiting first- and second-degree relatives (grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren) residing in Switzerland, if there is an important family reason (birth, marriage, serious illness). This also applies to the core family of the persons entitled to entry, provided that the entry is made together. The admission requirements for gainful employment pursuant to the FNIA and section of the FNIA Directives remain reserved;

  • Attending court or non-deferrable business appointments or meetings that require personal presence (e.g. contract negotiations and signings, business visits, non-productive practical training or important representative assignments);

  • Foreign nationals from third countries who provide a cross-border 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 their personal presence is required (e.g. non-productive practical training or supervision);

  • Entry of professional athletes and their coaches for participation in competitions or training camps (e.g. participation in football qualifying tournaments, international tennis tournaments);

  • Accompanying persons entering or leaving Switzerland whose entry is permitted under Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance 3 and who are in need of special assistance, g. children, the elderly, the disabled, the sick;

  • Infants under 6 months of age without their own travel document, provided that they are travelling accompanied by one or both parents, the accompanying parent or both parents meet the entry requirements and the parenthood can be proven by appropriate documents;

  • Members of the core family (spouse, registered partner and minor children) of a Swiss national residing abroad, provided that they enter Switzerland together with the Swiss national for a permit-free stay. This also applies to cohabitant partners (“Konkubinatspartner”) if the requirements set out in Directive I – immigration area Section 5.6.3 and 5.6.4 are met;

  • Entry for the purpose of visiting couples, romantic relationships or other close partnerships of unmarried or registered partnerships or of persons without children in common (civil partnership) is possible if:

    • a) an invitation from the partner residing in Switzerland (Swiss citizen or foreign person with a short stay, residence or settlement permit) has been received;

    • b) a confirmation of the existing partnership is submitted;

    • c) and at least one personal physical visit (meeting) in Switzerland or abroad is proven.

    • Mere holiday acquaintances do not qualify for entry. The relationship must have lasted for a longer period of time and be maintained on a regular basis. The persons concerned must be able to credibly demonstrate that they have been in regular contact.

The border control authority shall decide at its full discretion on the existence of a case of hardship. Exceptions must not conflict with the pandemic response or FOPH orders.

2.2         Laissez-passer certificate

In fact, it often happens that the booked airlines do not allow third-country nationals to take their flight to Switzerland at all if the corresponding documents for a case of hardship are not available. To avoid the risk of being turned away at the gate or at the border control in Switzerland, we recommend obtaining the certificate of hardship in advance with a so-called laissez-passer (French: let me pass).

This certificate can be issued by the Swiss representation abroad in the third country (consulate or embassy) or, in exceptional cases, by the SEM. For this purpose, it must be explained to the competent authority and substantiated with evidence that a situation of extreme necessity exists for entry into Switzerland. We recommend that in addition to such application, a letter of invitation from a person living in Switzerland (e.g. a member of the core family, the doctor treating the patient or the company receiving the service) should also be presented. Together with a copy of the passport, these documents must be sent to the competent authority. As a rule, the relevant certificate can then be issued within a few hours or days. The document must be printed out and presented when boarding the plane as well as at the border control in Switzerland. In possession of such a certificate, entry into Switzerland is generally to be granted, provided that the regular entry requirements are met.

MME will be happy to advise you on questions concerning entry into Switzerland in general or from an SEM risk country and will support you in applying for a laissez-passer certificate.