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Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?

Family reunification can be tricky in Switzerland, depending on where you and your family are from. Here is what you need to know.

little girl and little boy walking together
Bringing your family to live with you in Switzerland can be a complicated ordeal. (Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash)

If you live in Switzerland, you might want to bring your family from abroad to live with you. However, this will not be possible in every case, as the rules for family reunification vary broadly depending on where you and your family are from and how closely related you are.

Family reunification might not be a given right for those living in Switzerland on a permit. Instead, it may be a possibility left to the discretion of the authorities. Unlike those on a B permit (residence permit), people in Switzerland on a C permit (settlement permit), for example, don’t necessarily have a right to bring their family.

READ ALSO: Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Additionally, you can’t bring just any family members to Switzerland. Who you are allowed to bring, and under what circumstances, will depend on your nationality.

For Swiss citizens

If the person living in Switzerland is a Swiss citizen, they are allowed to bring their spouse or registered partner, any children and grandchildren under the age of 18 (or 21 or dependent if the child comes from an EU/EFTA country), your dependent parents and grandparents if they come from an EU/EFTA country.

For citizens of an EU/EFTA country

Citizens of the European Union or an EFTA country can bring a spouse or registered partner, any children or grandchildren under the age of 21 (or dependent), and any dependent parents or grandparents.

For citizens from a third country

Citizens from a third country such as the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, South Africa or Australia, for example, are only allowed to bring a spouse or registered partner and children under the age of 18.

How to bring them?

It’s important to mention that there are time limits to applying for family reunification. In general, people have five years to apply for family reunification, but only one year if the application is for children over 12 years old. The Swiss government says it is “so that they can integrate more rapidly into Swiss society”.

READ ALSO: What is the EU’s ‘single permit’ for third-country nationals and can I get one?

There are several other conditions that need to be met. For example, you need to prove the relationship to the person you want to bring, and you need to have a large enough accommodation to house the whole family.

Additionally, those who are self-employed or unemployed need to show proof of sufficient financial resources.

The family members need a valid identity card or passport, a visa (if necessary), and a certificate proving the relationship and proving they are dependents (if required). In addition, a spouse needs to show proof of A1 language or a certificate of enrolment in a language course of the area where they apply for the permit.

The application must be made with the immigration authority in your canton, who may ask for extra documents or further information.

READ ALSO: How long can I stay out of Switzerland and keep my residency rights?

If the application is accepted, the family members will receive a residence permit – the exact type depends on the person in Switzerland’s status. The family will be allowed to work in Switzerland unless they are parents or grandparents.

Children are required to attend free compulsory schooling at least until the age of 16 and all family members need to have a Swiss health insurance.

Each canton may have its own particular rules and minor differences in status and documents may lead to different outcomes depending on the case. Therefore, don’t forget to check with your cantonal immigration authority what applies to your particular case.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the cost of living soaring due to inflation, many consumers in Switzerland are looking for ways to save money. Could buying goods abroad through foreign websites be a good solution?

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the Swiss franc still stronger than the euro, ordering your products online from European distributors could indeed be cheaper than paying Swiss prices.

A recent report by the RTS public broadcaster, found that even some Swiss products are cheaper when purchased abroad — for instance, capsules for Nespresso coffee machines cost less on the company’s German site than they do in Switzerland.

This applies to a variety of products, ranging from food and beverages to clothing.

In fact, shopping on foreign platforms became a lot easier for the Swiss in January 2022, when ‘geoblocking’ — the practice that restricts access to Internet content based on the user’s geographical location — was banned in Switzerland.

This means Swiss customers are no longer denied the possibility of buying on foreign shopping platforms.

However, there are things to consider before you go on a shopping spree “abroad”, such as additional charges.

While something may appear to be a really great deal in comparison to Swiss prices, keep in mind that the purchase may be subject to customs duties.

According to the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (BAZG) “the customs duties are generally calculated according to the gross weight (including packaging), and are often less than 1 franc per kilo. Particularly alcoholic beverages, tobacco goods, foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery items are subject to higher customs duties”.

In other words, before you order something that you think is a really good deal, find out if any additional charges will be due; depending on the amount, the final cost may not make it worthwhile for you to purchase abroad.

The good news is that, as BAZG points out, goods ordered from “countries with which Switzerland has concluded a free trade agreement or from developing countries can usually be imported duty-free or at reduced rates”.

You can find out more information about which countries are included, here.

But you could face other problems as well.

As the RTS reported, while ordering items abroad is easy, having them delivered to Switzerland may not be.

As a test, the RTS team tried to order common products, such an Ikea piece of furniture, a vacuum cleaner, and brand-name sneakers — all of which are more affordable abroad — but discovered that “it was impossible to get these objects delivered to Switzerland”.

That’s because on some shopping platforms a customer can’t change the destination country — it is embedded on the site and blocked.

At some of these  merchants, “the customer is even directly redirected to the Swiss site if an address in Switzerland is indicated”, RTS said. This means you will end up paying Swiss prices.

Sophie Michaud Gigon, general secretary of the consumer protection association FRC, told RTS that some foreign sites have not yet adapted to the law prohibitng geoblocking.

And there is something else too that you should pay attention to online.

Say you prefer to avoid foreign sites and shop in Switzerland instead. This could be a problem as well.

Under the Swiss law, it is possible to obtain a domain name ending in .ch, even though these companies are  located abroad. This has proven to be misleading to many Switzerland-based customers.

That’s why many clients who believe they are ordering from a supplier in Switzerland are actually buying from a foreign company — a fact that they only discover when they have to pay customs duty.

The only way to avoid this trap, according to FRC, is to call the number on the company’s website and ask where they are located.

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