Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

The most frequent questions to the FDFA Helpline

The FDFA's Helpline regularly handles several hundred enquiries a day. At present the most frequently asked questions to the Helpline are about possibilities for travel abroad in the near future and current restrictions at the borders with neighbouring countries. Hans-Peter Heiniger, head of the FDFA Helpline, talks about some of the most frequently asked questions put to the helpline in the last couple of weeks of April.

The FDFA Helpline in action. Photo of two members of the Helpdesk team in their office in Bern.

Several weeks on from the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, the FDFA Helpline is still handling a large number of telephone and email enquiries. © FDFA

Hans-Peter Heiniger
Hans-Peter Heiniger © FDFA

The COVID-19 pandemic is a completely unprecedented situation. For weeks now, the FDFA Helpline has been answering questions from Swiss citizens and residents affected by the crisis.

The Helpline is currently handling slightly fewer enquiries than it was a few weeks ago, but the daily numbers remain very high. The Helpline is currently receiving 200–300 phone calls and 150–200 emails each day, mostly in relation to COVID-19. Only 25% of current enquiries concern consular services. Hans-Peter Heiniger, head of the FDFA Helpline, talked to us about some of the most frequently asked enquiries.

What is the most frequently asked question these days?

We are receiving a large number of enquiries about entry restrictions at Switzerland's borders or traffic to and from neighbouring countries. The Swiss Border Guard is responsible for cross-border traffic into Switzerland. Strict restrictions on cross-border movements are still in place. Cross-border travel is only possible in exceptional cases. The best place to find information on current border restrictions and exemptions, for example for parents visiting their children, is the website of the State Secretariat for Migration. We advise people planning to travel to another country to contact that country's embassy or consulate in Switzerland.

 

Now that the FDFA's repatriation flights operation is drawing to a close, are you still receiving enquiries from Swiss citizens stranded abroad?

We have been providing information to Swiss citizens unable to return to Switzerland for several weeks, but the number of such enquiries has decreased in recent days. Many Swiss nationals have been able to return home.

That said, there are still a number of Swiss nationals as well as foreign nationals living in Switzerland who have not been able to return home for a variety of reasons. We're still being contacted by people stranded abroad, who are trying to find a way to return to Switzerland.

The FDFA's repatriation operation has been virtually completed but we are still providing information about flights organised by EU states we have been working with. That's where Swiss representations step in.

We also advise people contacting us to do research on the internet or to contact travel agencies or airlines to find out what commercial flights are still available. Some airlines are beginning to resume operations. Swiss travellers abroad can also contact or go the Swiss embassy or consulate of the country where they are currently located. We advise all Swiss nationals and residents stranded abroad to download the FDFA's Travel Admin app and enter their journey and current whereabouts.

Many Swiss people are wondering whether they will be able to go on holiday abroad this summer or autumn. What do you say to them?

Many people want to know whether they'll be able to travel abroad this summer or autumn. Some are already making travel plans. Others had already booked their trips months ago, before the crisis.

Unfortunately, no one in the world can predict how the situation will evolve. The FDFA is not in a position to predict what will happen either. But this much is certain: the crisis is not over. The Federal Council is still advising people to avoid non-urgent travel abroad until further notice. Even if this recommendation is lifted here in Switzerland, people wishing to travel abroad should bear in mind that other countries have their own entry and exit restrictions in place. Every traveller is personally responsible for planning their own trip and taking all necessary precautions. The FDFA advises all persons intending to travel abroad to take every possible precaution and to contact the foreign embassy in Switzerland for information before beginning their journey.

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