The new Federal Law on Foreigners and Integration (LEI) introduced on January 1st 2019 brought a few changes to the previous Swiss Federal law regulating foreigners on Swiss territory. The enforcement of the LEI means stricter conditions for Swiss permit applicants as the notion of integration gains importance in Swiss immigration policy. Hence, a foreigner can see his permit revoked or downgraded (from a C to a B for example) in the case of criminal proceedings or if not meeting integration conditions (art. 58a al. 1 LEI).
In addition to the Swiss Criminal Code (CP), the Federal Law on Foreigners and Integration adds some precision about unlawful activities impacting residency rights in Switzerland (art. 62 and 63 LEI).
Foreigners should be aware they risk losing their permit or being expelled from the country from three to fifteen years if they are convicted for any infractions mentioned in art. 66 CP. These infractions, such as murder or theft linked to breaking and entering a private property lead to severe punishments from federal jurisdictions. Moreover, committing crimes in Switzerland is considered a direct violation of article 58a LEI. In some cases, a C permit can be recovered after five years if the foreigner showed a willingness to integrate and depending on the nature of the crime.
The following actions can be taken by authorities in the case of criminal proceedings:
- revocation of the foreigner’s authorization of entry or permit (art. 62 al. 1 and 63 LEI);
- issue a decision of expulsion (art. 64 al. 1 LEI);
- entry ban on Swiss territory (art. 67 LEI);
- refusal to extend an existing permit to the foreigner (art. 32 al. 3 LEI).
Regarding less severe crimes, it must be remembered that competent authorities appreciate the whole situation by taking in consideration public interests, the foreigner’s individual situation and his integration in the country (art. 96 LEI).
A criminal excerpt is requested by authorities when applying for a C permit or for the Swiss citizenship. The existence of past criminal proceedings in the last five years prior to applying severely impacts the applicant's chances to obtain Swiss permanent residency or to become a Swiss citizen.
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