By Susan Misicka
A Vietnamese woman had to share intimate relationship information to get a short-term Swiss visa. The case highlights the potential for discrimination when visa applications are processed.
The woman, whose case was described in the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, was applying for a 30-day tourist visa to visit her boyfriend in Switzerland. She got the visa, but only after letting a clerk in Hanoi read her digital love letters – a stream of smartphone chat messages, including kissing emojis, that she and her partner had been sending to each other.
“It is an exceptional case. The error was corrected immediately,” George Farago, spokesman for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), told swissinfo.ch.
The application had been handled by an external provider tasked with processing visa requests for Switzerland. Globally there are about 60 such external offices that have been engaged to reduce the visa-related workload of the Swiss embassies and consulates. However, the Swiss authorities keep watch to ensure quality and fairness of service.
“Regular inspections, announced or not, are carried out by the competent consulates. In addition, we send mystery clients,” explained Farago, adding that the FDFA’s internal audit department also conducts on-site evaluations. “Failure to comply with the contract may result in a penalty being imposed or the contract being suspended or terminated,” Farago said.
In the cases where the Swiss authorities need to know more about a potential visitor to Switzerland, they handle it themselves.
“Additional information may be requested for both entry and visa procedures. Whether and what additional information is required is determined by the responsible consulate – and under no circumstances by the outsourced companies,” Farago said.
Getting into Switzerland
Depending on the type of visit and the bilateral agreements that exist between Switzerland and the applicant’s country of origin, there are sundry supporting documents that must be submitted when applying for a visa.
Vietnamese citizens who’d like a short-term (under 90 days) visa need to provide proof of financial means in the form of original bank statements, payslips and an employment contract. If sponsored and/or hosted in a private home, the applicant needs to fill out a form and provide and original letter of invitation from the host, along with a copy of the host’s passport or residence permit, and perhaps the host’s financial details for the past three months. The visitor also needs to be in possession of a ticket home as well as travel medical insurance with a minimum coverage level of €30,000 (CHF34,300).
As another example, Afghani citizens need to provide translations of their national ID cards, evidence of family background in the form of a marriage certificate and children’s ID cards, proof of sufficient means to cover the cost of the stay (bank statements for the previous six months), plus “proof of income and socio-professional standing (e.g. letter from the employer stating professional position, monthly salary and holiday granted, documents confirming real estate ownership, company registration, retirement benefits). If visiting family or friends, they need to show proof of accommodation – such as an official housing certificate, as well as “information on the private affairs of those visited, such as identity card, certificate of employment, certificate of house ownership”.
The requirements for entry into Switzerland are explained in more detail on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration.