Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

"What does the FDFA advise?"

Many Swiss nationals travelling abroad ask the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA for recommendations and advice on their return journey. A list of questions and answers.

03.04.2020
 A man studies the departure schedule in the departure hall of an airport.

The return journey to Switzerland is currently difficult for many Swiss tourists. © Keystone

Travel Admin App

  

Why is it important to register with the Travel Admin App?

Basically, the app gives tips and advice on how to prepare for trips. However, especially in crisis situations, the registration of Swiss citizens is also important because it allows the FDFA to contact those affected and provide them with information. Therefore, in addition to the registration, you should also enter the time and place of your trip. This will give the FDFA an overview of where Swiss travellers are currently in the world. It is therefore also important that you delete your stay if you were able to return to Switzerland early because of the coronavirus. This will prevent the FDFA from taking unnecessary measures.

It is primarily the responsibility of the individuals to organise the return with the help of a travel agency or directly with the airline. The FDFA helps with the return by, among other things, providing support in obtaining landing permits, extending deadlines for flight connections or providing information via the Swiss representations on the ground. If an independent return is not possible despite all efforts, the FDFA will examine possibilities for an organized return.

I have contacted the FDFA via the Travel Admin App, but have not yet received any information - not even about the flights planned for the next few days. What should I do now?

Those who have not yet received information should contact the embassy in the country of residence by email. Give the embassy your contact details. In the list of official Swiss representations or on the Travel Admin App you will find the contact details of the corresponding Swiss representation.

Organised return

  

How can someone who wants to be repatriated find out where to go, when etc.?

  1. such a person must register on the Travel Admin App. Thus, the embassy can contact this person.
  2. if a flight is imminent, the embassy will send the registered person a message requesting him/her to indicate the interest in the trip.
  3. the embassy then contacts the interested persons via the indicated means, i.e. phone, e-mail, whatsapp etc. and informs them about venue, time etc.
  4. there are also variants: For example, there are embassies that already include a link to the booking platform under point 2. Or they refer to the embassy’s website where you can organise your departure. The specific procedure depends on the respective embassy.

What quarantine regulations apply if I enter Switzerland by plane?

Information by the Federal Office of Public Health on the rules of conduct after return can be found here.

Who gets on the flights? Conditions and justifications

Tourists / travellers have first priority. This includes:

  • Swiss travellers residing in Switzerland with their closest family members (partner and children);
  • Liechtenstein citizens residing in Liechtenstein or Switzerland;
  • Foreigners with permanent residence in Switzerland (with a valid residence permit)

If sufficient seats are available, consideration may be given:

  • passengers from neighbouring countries (Italy, France, Germany, Austria);
  • Travellers from EU countries, provided that their onward journey from Switzerland to their home country is verifiably confirmed and practicable. However, EU citizens residing in an EU country primarily register for repatriation with their own representation.
  • Swiss nationals registered in the host country.

Persons with COVID symptoms

  • Sick persons, i.e. with typical COVID symptoms according to the FOPH list (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever and feverish feeling, muscle aches) are not allowed to fly.
  • With the FDFA's declaration of consent, a person confirms that there is no positive COVID test and no COVID symptoms according to the FOPH list.

Who organises the transfer to the airport on site?

In principle, Swiss travellers must travel to the airport on their own responsibility. If this is not possible due to regulations imposed by local authorities or travel restrictions (e.g. cancellation of domestic flights), the Swiss representation on site can provide assistance.

I heard that Country X is organizing a return flight for its citizens. Can the FDFA help me to register for this flight as well?

Please contact your local Swiss representation in this regard. In the list of official Swiss representations or on Travel Admin App you will find the contact details of the corresponding Swiss representation.

Are Swiss citizens organised to continue their journey (transit) to Switzerland on arrival in a third country?

In principle, there is no provision for organised departure from the transit state to Switzerland, except in extraordinary cases. Travellers are responsible for their own reservations and the costs of their return journey to Switzerland.

Example Germany: Possibility of continuing your journey to Switzerland by air (with Swiss/Lufthansa) or by Deutsche Bahn (online timetable). ATTENTION: Due to border closures, the Deutsche Bahn only offers connections as far as Basel Badischer Bahnhof (direct connection every 2 hours). From Basel Badischer Bahnhof you must travel by tram to Basel SBB. Information on international connections.

Example France: For Swiss citizens it is still possible to travel through France to return to Switzerland, either by train (although the offer is greatly reduced), by plane or by road.

Is it possible to enter Switzerland without a visa and without a valid residence permit and documents if the return flight is organized?

No.

All foreign spouses and minor children of Swiss nationals who wish to return to Switzerland because of the current situation require a residence permit, a visa type D issued by Switzerland or an assurance of a residence permit (authorisation to issue a visa, assurance of a permit or authorization for entry). Entry for a short-term stay is no longer possible for family members.

Swiss citizens must be able to prove their Swiss citizenship at the border. Swiss abroad who do not have a Swiss passport or an identity card need a provisional passport, a "laissez-passer" or confirmation of nationality and registration. To cross the border with a confirmation of nationality and registration, the person also needs a valid foreign travel document.

Which return flights have already taken place and which are still planned?

Information about planned and already performed return flights can be found here: Flights organized by the FDFA - an overview

What effort must the FDFA make to make retrieval operations possible?

The effort required to organise such flights is considerable. A return operation is only successful if all the authorities involved in the country of departure and in Switzerland work together in a non-bureaucratic, creative and solution-oriented manner. The FDFA's main goal is clear: to bring as many blocked citizens back to Switzerland as possible. Starting tomorrow, some 80 FDFA staff in Bern alone will be working on the implementation of this unprecedented recapture operation.

Why does the federal government not cover all the costs, how much do the tourists have to pay?

Each flight has a cost and it is normal for a traveller to pay the cost of the return flight, which is what they do under normal circumstances. Travellers will have to pay the cost of a ticket at a normal fare. 

What do you say to those people who returned on their own following the call of the Federal Council and now feel taken aback?

We thank all those who were able to help themselves. Without this it would not have been possible. And we are still happy about all tourists who are still able to help themselves. This allows us to concentrate on those for whom it is impossible to travel back independently.

Who will pay for these flights. The federal government or the tourists?

The federal government will pre-finance the charter flights. However, the tourists will have to bear part of the costs.

Can you guarantee that they will bring back all stranded tourists?

No. That won't be possible. The tourists are scattered all over the world. Many are currently unable to reach the capitals and thus the airports. Others have decided to stay where they are. The FDFA also recommends that those who cannot or do not want to return should register on the Travel Admin App and report their whereabouts to the FDFA. The representations abroad (embassies and consulates) are responsible for consular protection and support for these persons.

We focus our available resources on people who can no longer help themselves and who are exposed to unacceptable risks. We count on the cooperation and solidarity of all concerned, so that those most in need of help can receive it.

What happens to the Swiss who do not make it home?

For tourists who want to/must stay in the country, the Swiss representations are responsible within the framework of consular protection. The FDFA examines possibilities of support for these persons and provides assistance abroad in accordance with the Law on the Swiss Abroad (e.g. bridging assistance).

How is the FDFA in contact with Swiss tourists - and what does the FDFA say when people feel let down?

The FDFA understands the difficult situation of blocked tourists abroad. Since the beginning of the corona crisis, the FDFA has operated a 24-hour helpline to provide Swiss tourists abroad with the best possible support. The number of helpline staff has doubled. We receive up to 1000 telephone calls and over 1500 e-mails per day. Our representations abroad also provide local tourists with the best possible support under these difficult circumstances. The FDFA is in close contact with tour operators, airlines and neighbouring countries in order to overcome the major challenges together.

Nevertheless, the FDFA would like to point out that under the law on the Swiss Abroad, each person is in principle responsible for preparing and carrying out a stay abroad. Whenever possible, tourists must organise their return journey independently. There is no right to an organised return journey.

Why is the FDFA reacting so late?

The FDFA does not react too late. It is strongly and continuously committed to the interests of the Swiss abroad. We have been in an extraordinary situation since the beginning of the crisis week. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the FDFA has been working around the clock to manage the crisis and help Swiss tourists abroad as much as possible. The FDFA has already been carrying out actions of this kind over the past few weeks. One example is the return trips from the Hubei region in China organized with foreign partners.

The FDFA is in close and permanent contact with tour operators. We have two objectives here: 1) to solve common challenges together; 2) to define together what we call hotspots. All this is for the benefit of the Swiss people concerned.

Swiss Abroad

  

I am a Swiss abroad; can I receive financial support from the FDFA?

Under certain conditions, the Confederation grants welfare benefits to Swiss abroad who find themselves in a financial emergency on a subsidiary basis (i.e. if the host state's own resources and any assistance it may provide do not improve the emergency situation). Please contact the Swiss consular representation responsible for you. 

Swiss representations abroad  

Forms social welfare 

Is repatriation to Switzerland possible for Swiss abroad?

Swiss abroad who wish to return to Switzerland should contact their Swiss representation responsible for consular matters to obtain information about possible return flights. Please note that the first priority for repatriation is given to Swiss nationals and persons residing in Switzerland with a temporary stay abroad (tourism etc.). In certain cases, this priority also applies to tourists from other countries who cooperate with Switzerland in repatriations in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. The costs of a return journey are generally passed on to you. 

When entering Switzerland, what do I have to be aware of as a Swiss citizen abroad?

Swiss nationals can enter Switzerland at any time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have changed their entry and residence regulations (e.g. closing of border crossings, curfews, quarantine). The freedom of movement of persons is currently severely restricted worldwide. As a result, you may not be able to leave your host country or only leave it under certain conditions. Each country issues its own regulations. For your own safety, we recommend that you consult and observe the regulations of your host country. In an emergency, Swiss abroad can contact the Swiss representation responsible for their consular affairs. You should also regularly consult the website of the representation.

I am destitute and have no relatives/friends in Switzerland. Do I receive financial support to cover my board and lodging in Switzerland?

To submit an application for social assistance, Swiss abroad who wish to return to Switzerland should contact the Swiss representation responsible for their consular affairs. 

I am a self-employed person abroad and a Swiss abroad. Can I receive financial support (e.g. in case of loss of income) from Switzerland?

The Confederation does currently not provide any financial support for companies or self-employed persons abroad within the framework of Regulation COVID-19. Please clarify your possibilities with the authorities in the host country. 

I have lost my job abroad and would like to return to Switzerland. What help can I get with my job search?

In principle, you can make use of the Swiss public employment agency before you return. Information and forms can be found here

Can I receive benefits from Unemployment Insurance (ALV)?

Swiss abroad who live in an EU/EFTA country must in principle claim their benefits in the last country of employment. To do this, you should contact the unemployment insurance in your host country. 

If you return from a country outside the EU/EFTA, you are entitled to unemployment benefit under certain conditions (including 12-month periods of employment abroad and in Switzerland). Clarify questions regarding entitlement and benefits of ALV with the Unemployment insurance in Switzerland in advance. 

We recommend that insured persons contact the Regional Employment Agency RAV or the Unemployment insurance by telephone or e-mail. 

Guide to returning to Switzerland 

arbeit.swiss - Return to Switzerland (SECO)

Other questions

  

Are repatriations organised to return Swiss nationals stranded abroad due to flight cancellations?

The situation is very different depending on destination and country.  

The Confederation may provide subsidiary assistance and support within the scope of its possibilities and in accordance with the principle of proportionality. However, the Confederation cannot ignore the orders of the local authorities; the travellers must also follow these orders. In such cases, special flights can be considered, organised either directly by the FDFA (e.g. the passengers of the cruise ship «Grand Princess» in the USA) or in cooperation with third countries (e.g. two return flights from Wuhan to France).

How many Swiss citizens who are blocked abroad are registered with the FDFA?

Due to the COVID 19 crisis, returning to Switzerland is a difficult matter for many Swiss tourists around the world. The situation is unstable. It is not possible to give precise details of blocked Swiss citizens because not all Swiss tourists have registered on the FDFA's Travel Admin App or directly with the embassies. Moreover, Swiss travellers can leave a country and return to Switzerland without notifying the FDFA of their return. Around 17,000 Swiss tourists are currently registered as staying abroad. This number may be higher, however, as a registration can always include members of a family or group.

What are the possibilities for repatriation? Are the costs covered? Can Switzerland consider organising repatriation for the most critical cases? If not, what does the FDFA advise?

There are numerous possibilities for repatriation and, depending on the context, correspond to the usual means of transport (road, rail, air). As long as these commercial possibilities exist, it is the responsibility of Swiss citizens to use them. According to the Swiss Abroad Act, Swiss citizens have no right to have the Confederation organise an exit from a crisis area or situation.

The Confederation may provide subsidiary assistance and support within the scope of its possibilities and in accordance with the principle of proportionality. However, the Confederation cannot ignore the orders of the local authorities; the travellers must also follow these orders. In such cases, special flights can be considered, organised either directly by the FDFA (e.g. the passengers of the cruise ship “Grand Princess” in the USA) or in cooperation with third countries (e.g. two return flights from Wuhan to France).

I am not a tourist or business traveller, but a student who is on a school exchange year in the USA. Following the Federal Council's appeal, do I now have to return quickly and abandon the school year here?

The Federal Council's appeal is aimed primarily at Swiss travellers abroad who are planning to return to Switzerland in the near future. The decision, whether to continue or cancel your exchange year, is at your personal discretion and your own responsibility. We recommend that you consult with your exchange organization and your family. You must be aware, that it is not possible to predict today whether the return travel options will improve or whether they will be completely interrupted for a certain period.

My son is abroad and cannot travel back because the airline does not react or flights are cancelled. Can the FDFA help here?

Keep trying to contact the airline or tour operator. It is also important that your son contacts his travel insurance company and enquires about alternative travel options either by himself or through a travel agency. For its part, the FDFA is trying to organise additional flights with airlines and states. However, we cannot guarantee that it will work because various countries do not give landing permission to foreign aircraft.

Because of the cancelled flights my visa has expired and without a visa I cannot buy a plane ticket. What should I do?

The first step is to contact the immigration authorities to extend the validity of your visa. Otherwise you risk being fined for illegal residence in the country. In a second step, you can then purchase a plane ticket.

I am in London and would now like to return to Switzerland. As the flights are difficult, I plan to take the car or the train. Can I travel through France or will I be stopped there?

FranceFrench website French Embassy
Website info: "European citizens and British, Icelandic, Norwegian, Liechtenstein and Swiss nationals living in France or entering their country of residence through France may travel through France by transit".

GermanyWebsite German Embassy
Info from website: "The return journey of EU citizens and third-country nationals to their countries of origin or to the state in which they are entitled to stay (long-term residence permits) by means of transit through Germany remains permissible".

For questions about other countries, please contact the corresponding foreign embassies in Switzerland.

Do I need a return travel permit to travel through country X (e.g. Spain and France) to Switzerland?

This depends on country X, so please contact your local Swiss representation.

Example Spain: The Swiss representation in Madrid issues such documents, a request to the embassy is sufficient. The embassy sends it by e-mail to the person concerned.

Example France: The CH embassy in Paris does not issue such documents, because France requires all people on the road to carry a form with them (link to the form). In this case the embassy refers to the form that Swiss citizens have to fill in.

During controls, proof of the shortest and quickest transit route (e.g. receipts for successive tolls in the country of departure and in France), identity papers and the form must be presented. Otherwise they risk being fined and prevented from continuing their journey.

I am blocked in country X. How can the FDFA give me financial assistance?

The FDFA examines possibilities of support blocked persons and can offer assistance abroad in accordance with the Law on the Swiss Abroad (e.g. bridging assistance in the form of financial support; emergency loans for medical assistance) until the first possible departure. Please contact your local representation. Before any support can be provided, the following points in particular should be noted:

The personal responsibility of the applicant is claimed. This responsibility includes that the person has first contacted relatives or acquaintances to obtain financial support. Applicants must also contact their financial institutions (e.g. increase in credit card limit). If none of these contacts are able to help, an emergency loan can be considered. Logic also requires that the majority of these people have an income (salary, AHV/IV pension, etc.). If they have a monthly income, it must therefore be used to cover the financing of the extended stay. 

The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) offer the Western Union money transfer service at more than 140 stations in Switzerland. This allows you to send money to more than 200 countries around the world. Within minutes the money is available at one of the numerous agencies around the globe.

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