Coronavirus border closures: How does Switzerland’s family reunion exception work?

Coronavirus border closures: How does Switzerland’s family reunion exception work?
Swiss flags along the border. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Switzerland has confirmed it will relax the coronavirus border restrictions to allow for families to again see each other.

In an official statement issued by the Swiss Government late on Wednesday, the Federal Council said entry restrictions into Switzerland would begin to be lifted. 

“For Swiss and EU citizens, family reunification in Switzerland will become possible again from 11 May. Border controls will however remain in place” said the statement. 

The statement did not provide any clarification as to whether residence permit holders of EU countries would be allowed to enter Switzerland for the purposes of family reunions, nor did it provide an indication as to the documentation needed to prove that entering Switzerland was being done for the purposes of visiting a family member. 

READ: Bars, restaurants and gyms in Switzerland to open sooner than expected so country 'can live with the virus'

Border control authorities have discretion as to whether they can allow someone to enter, the police confirmed to Swiss tabloid Blick on Thursday

The police said on Thursday that while this includes spouses, registered partners and children. Justice Department boss Karin Keller-Sutter emphasised during her press conference on Wednesday that visiting grandparents was not included in the scope of the relaxation. 

This was confirmed by a FAQ published by the Swiss government, which said that unmarried or unregistered couples are not allowed to visit each other, unless they have children and have the appropriate documentation. 

Those entering neighbouring countries from Switzerland will need to check with the authorities of those countries to see if they can enter, however many have put in place restrictions which are largely similar to those in Switzerland. 

As it stands, all Swiss citizens as well as residence permit holders and cross-border permit holders are allowed to enter Switzerland – but tourists and other visitors were restricted.

Crossing the border into Switzerland to go shopping – even for people with valid permits – has been prohibited since April 16th. 

Switzerland’s borders were shut swiftly at midnight on Wednesday, March 25th, separating families who had previously crossed the border unfettered. 

Karin Keller-Sutter, Head of the Swiss Justice Department, said that the government would not stop residents of Switzerland from leaving in the summer and would not prevent them returning. 

She did however indicate that anyone intending to do so may encounter difficulties getting out of Switzerland, as many neighbouring countries are set to keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future. 


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