Estate planning

Family reunification of third country nationals by EU/EFTA nationals, third country nationals and Swiss nationals – comparison of legal and practical basis – Family Law


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Our primary business is to obtain work permits for administrative transfers as well as for other foreign expatriates and other employees who wish to work in Switzerland. However, a large majority of these residents come with their families to Switzerland. For all three major groups (EU/EFTA, third-country nationals, and Swiss), in principle, couples’ reunification is not a challenge, even if the reunification periods are sometimes very short. When it comes to relatives in the ascending line, i.e. parents, grandparents and in-laws, the legal basis is different for all three main groups.

Given the upcoming changes in the context of the new parliamentary initiative in Switzerland on the equality of Swiss citizens and EU/EFTA citizens when it comes to relatives in the ascending line, the compilation of these three case studies from our practice is essential to understanding the current situation in Switzerland.

Case Study #1: The applicant is an EU/EFTA national, and the father is Indian.

Mr. Singh is an Italian citizen and has lived in Switzerland for several years. He has a permanent permit C. Following the death of his mother in India, Mr Singh wishes his father, aged about 73, to move to Switzerland indefinitely to join his eldest son Mr Singh. Mr. Singh works for a well-known company and earns over CHF 120,000 annually. He lives with his wife and two children in a 4.5-room apartment. Mr. Singh Senior suffers from health problems and is unable to perform normal daily life tasks.

Legal basis and procedures:

  • Article 3, Annex I, of the Convention on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Union gives Mr Singh the right to family reunification with his Indian father, even if he is a third-country national living in India. Mr. Singh simply must have an apartment that meets his needs.

  • The application must be submitted with the usual documents to the relevant immigration office. In particular, the homeland certificate must be proven regarding lineage and the need for relatives to whom alimony is granted. The need must exist before submitting the application. The applicant’s financial means must also be presented.

  • In most cases, after examining the documents, the person to immigrate is required to register at the Resident Registration Office and the residence permit is issued after submitting the biometric data. There is no decision in paper form.

Exception: If Mr. Singh is a national of a third country, the father must provide evidence of language proficiency at A1 level of the official cantonal language of the relevant canton or provide confirmation of a language course. On the next renewal, Mr. Singh Senior will have to present a recognized language certificate.

Case Study #2: The applicant is a national of a third country, and his mother lives in Pakistan

Ms. Iman, a Pakistani national, has been living in Switzerland with a C residence permit for more than 20 years. Her mother, 80, lives alone in Pakistan. She has no income of her own but is supported by her Swiss daughter. Her assets consist of her apartment only. Ms. Iman works in a leadership position and earns CHF 140,000 annually. To support her mother in Switzerland, she has a special fund of CHF 30,000 as a guarantee for the first issuance of her mother’s residence permit.

Legal basis and procedures:

  • Iman, as a third-country national, cannot derive a legal claim to grant the required entry permit, neither on the basis of an international treaty nor on the basis of other legal provisions. Legally, this application is dealt with in the context of the unemployed stay with the daughter. You must provide the necessary financial means and the minimum age of 55, as well as the personal ties of Switzerland.

  • The list of documents is quite long and mainly refers to proof of degree of relationship, need including asset status, various documents related to offer of health insurance, declaration of commitment, employer confirmation of daughter, wage statements, etc.

  • These cases are generally rejected due to the lack of a relationship with Switzerland. Even if all other aspects are met, the photographic evidence of the holiday visits since the daughter’s stay in Switzerland does not fulfill the close relationship with Switzerland. Independent relationships of a social, cultural or personal nature, independent of relatives, are required, such as contacts with the local community, participation in cultural events or direct contacts with the local population. During reunion visits with her daughter, although she attended various cultural events during this period, the mother (no/) did not establish any deep relations with the local community as per the continuous practice.

Case Study #3: The applicant is Swiss, and the father is from the United States

Mr. Snow White was born in Switzerland and obtained Swiss citizenship through his mother. His father, Mr. Forster, has lived in the USA since the separation, but contact has always continued. Now Mr. Snow White wants his father to be with him in Switzerland during the last years of his father’s life.

Legal basis and procedures:

  • Family members of Swiss nationals can only be reunited if they reside in an EU or EFTA country. Exceptions are only allowed in cases of difficulty. Under these circumstances, Mr. Forster is not considered eligible for a hardship situation, as is the case when there are humanitarian reasons for migrant workers who have fallen ill or disabled to remain in Switzerland.

This discrimination against citizens should be abolished through the new parliamentary initiative. While the Federal Council approved this initiative, it is surprising that some cantons (Glarus, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Solothurn and Zug) as well as the political party SVP, reject this initiative. Until the final text of the bill is reached, it will take some time.

More information about the parliamentary initiative can be found at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject. It is advised to take the advice of specialists in such circumstances.

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