The Swiss Federal Constitution guarantees the right to respect for family life. However, the legal situation varies according to the applicant’s origin and residence status. It plays an important role whether the applicant comes from an EU/EFTA Member State or from another foreign country (third country).

Family reunification for EU/EFTA nationals

Thanks to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (APMF) between Switzerland and the EU, EU/EFTA nationals who hold a right of residence in Switzerland can join their family members, or those they can accompany them when they enter Switzerland. Their nationality is therefore irrelevant.

Family members are considered:

  • Spouse or partner in a registered partnership
  • Parents in the descending line (own parents, but also those of the spouse, i.e. children and grandchildren or stepchildren and step-grandchildren) aged under 21 or receiving child support .
  • The ascendants (his own, but also those of the spouse) who benefit from alimony.

Trainees can only be accompanied by their spouse or dependent children.

Those who wish to join their family must have a residence that can adequately accommodate the whole family. The self-employed and people without gainful activity must also prove that they have sufficient financial means to meet the needs of the members of their family who join them.

Spouses and children – regardless of their nationality – have unlimited access to the Swiss labor market. However, ascendants are not entitled to gainful employment.

Family reunification for third-country nationals

For third-country nationals, family reunification is governed by the Aliens and Integration Act (AIG). The requirements are higher and the group of people allowed to join is smaller than for citizens of the EU/EFTA area.

Third-country nationals holding an establishment permit C (unlimited and unconditional right of residence) generally have the right to family reunification. If the applicant holds a residence permit B or a short-term residence permit L, he can also apply for family reunification.

The following family members are eligible to join:

  • Spouse or partner in a registered partnership
  • Children under 18

Family reunification must be requested within five years of the granting of the establishment or residence permit or the establishment of the family relationship. Children over 12 must join the family within 12 months. A subsequent application can only be filed if there are very important family reasons (eg protection of the best interests of the child).

Family members joining the applicant must live in the same household as the applicant, who must have suitable accommodation for each of them.

In addition, family members joining the applicant should not receive social assistance or supplementary benefits. Spouses must be able to communicate in the language spoken at the future place of residence (does not apply to spouses of short-term residents with an L permit). If they do not have an appropriate language qualification (level A1 or higher) at the time of application, proof that they have enrolled in an appropriate language course at a Swiss language school is also sufficient.