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UPDATE: When will Brits be allowed to travel to Switzerland again?

Citizens of the United Kingdom have been effectively restricted from entering Switzerland since December. With the UK leading the charge on vaccines, when will this change?

UPDATE: When will Brits be allowed to travel to Switzerland again?
A Union Jack - the flag of the United Kingdom - next to a Swiss flag in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

As things stand now, while travel restrictions have been somewhat relaxed, tourist travel from the UK to Switzerland is still not allowed.

This does however not mean that all entry is banned. 

Also, there is a difference between the quarantine restrictions and entry restrictions. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Travellers from the UK are banned

Travellers from the UK have been banned from entering Switzerland since December 21st, due to the new virus strains originating in that country. 

Since then, while arrivals from the UK have again been allowed to enter Switzerland in some circumstances (Swiss citizens, residents, etc), tourist travel has been restricted. 

The website of the UK Embassy in Switzerland states that “due to COVID-19 restrictions, UK nationals and other non-Swiss / EU / EFTA citizens arriving from the UK or a ‘high risk country’ are not permitted entry to Switzerland”.

Although EU citizens are given certain rights to enter Switzerland, this has not been possible for UK citizens since Brexit was finalised. 

How can people from the UK enter Switzerland? 

Travellers from the United Kingdom are permitted to enter Switzerland in some circumstances. 

They include people with Swiss citizenship, permanent residents or valid visa holders returning to Switzerland, as well as transit passengers who connect to other flights at one of Switzerland’s airports.

In this sense, ‘valid visa holders’ refers to people with entry rights connected to their work, for instance work permits or permissions to enter on a diplomatic basis.

Unfortunately for people wanting to holiday in Switzerland, this does not include tourists. 

EXPLAINED: Can people from the United States and Great Britain come to Switzerland?

What about quarantine rules? 

There was some excitement in March when Switzerland removed the United Kingdom and the United States from its mandatory quarantine list. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to remove United States and United Kingdom from quarantine list

Some saw the news and felt that this meant they would again be allowed to enter Switzerland without restrictions – but unfortunately this is not the case. 

In fact, what it actually meant was that people arriving from the UK – i.e. those in the above categories who had permission to enter – would not be required to quarantine for ten days on arrival. 

Therefore, while this may have made things a little easier for Swiss citizens living in the UK or vice versa, it did not mean that tourists can again come from the UK to Switzerland. 

When is this likely to change? 

Unfortunately, at this stage we do not know when tourists from the UK will again be allowed to visit Switzerland. 

Switzerland has not said anything definite about opening its borders for foreign travellers.

There has been no official announcement about allowing British tourists back anytime soon. 

However, there is mounting pressure from the Swiss tourism and aviation industry to ease restrictions on tourist travel. 

READ MORE: Swiss airlines and unions unite to demand return of air travel

OK, so when will Brits realistically be allowed to enter Switzerland again?

Practically, it is more than likely that Switzerland will not lift any travel restrictions unilaterally; rather, it will act in accordance with EU guidelines as it has done since the start of the pandemic. 

French president Emmanuel Macron said on a US news programme in April that France is planning to allow entry to vaccinated American tourists this summer.

In such a case, Switzerland, as France’s neighbour and part of the Schengen area, will probably open its borders to residents of non-EU countries, including the UK and the US, as well.

The development of the so-called ‘green pass’ – the immunity passport which will again allow people to travel – is likely to be a key indicator. 

While this is happening at a ground level in Switzerland, it will be incorporated into a broader EU plan which will allow vaccinated people along with those who have tested negative and who have recently recovered from the virus to travel again. 

UPDATED: Everything you need to know about the ‘green pass’, Switzerland’s coronavirus immunity card

But ultimately, the evolution of the Covid pandemic will determine whether travel between the US and Switzerland is a possibility this summer.


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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.