Various new or tweaked Swiss laws entered into force on January 1, governing a range of issues from foreigners and online shopping to the children of sperm donors. Here are some of them.
Foreigner law: Foreigners living in Switzerland now have to meet certain criteria of good behaviour, for example respect for public security and order and constitutional values, before their residence permits are granted or renewed. Economic participation and language skills will also be considered.
Those who show no willingness to integrate may be obliged to sign an integration agreement listing the expectations that need to be met. Failure to comply with such an agreement could affect the renewal of the residence permit. For example, someone with a permanent residence permit (C permit) who doesn’t meet the integration criteria may be relegated to temporary resident status (B permit)external link.
Child protection law: All professionals in regular contact with children now have to report their suspicions of child abuse to the authorities.
Previously only those with an official function, such as teachers and social workers, were obliged to notify the authorities in cases of suspected abuse. The new rules see this duty applied to anyone in regular contact with a child, such as day-care staff, music teachers and sports coaches.
Another significant change concerns doctors, lawyers and psychologists. Until now, these professionals have been exempt from the obligation to report because of doctor-patient or lawyer-client confidentiality – they could only file a report if an offence had been committed. Now, they can contact the protection agency despite their professional confidentiality if it is in the interest of the child.
Driving law: Older drivers in Switzerland now enjoy five more years on the road before facing obligatory medical tests. They will have to take a medical every two years from the age of 75 instead of 70.
The government had argued the health of older people today was much better than when the obligatory health checks were introduced in the 1970s. Opponents had warned of a higher risk of accidents.
At the same time, the age for doctors who are officially recognised by the cantons to do these tests has also been raised from 70 to 75.
Reproduction law: Children born via sperm donation have easier access to the identityexternal link of their biological father. Information can now be delivered by mail; it is no longer necessary to travel to the Federal Office of Civil Status in Bern, where the father’s data are kept for 80 years after donation, to receive the information in person. This is, however, still possible if preferred.
When a child turns 18, they can submit a written application to the civil status office to obtain data about the sperm donor’s identity and physical appearance. Anonymous sperm donation has been illegal in Switzerland since 2001. If they are not 18, or if they want to access other data, for example the results of the donor’s medical tests, they must prove a legitimate interest. This could be needing the results of the donor’s medical tests to clarify the state of their own health.
VAT law: Online purchases made from companies overseas are now subject to Swiss value-added tax (VAT).
All firms with turnover of over CHF100,000 ($100,800) will be obliged to impose Swiss VAT for Swiss customers. The aim is to reduce the attractiveness of buying from foreign multinationals like Amazon, whose prices are very competitive compared with those in Switzerland.
Indeed, since December 26, 2018, customers shopping on Amazon.com and other non-EU Amazon websites haven’t been able to ship orders to Switzerland. Exceptions have been made for e-books and apps.
Doing-your-washing-at-lunchtime law: Finally, more of a social development than a legal change.
Because energy demand traditionally shoots up at lunchtime, several energy providers in Switzerland had banned the useexternal link of washing machines or tumble dryers around noon. In several cities in the northern Swiss cantons of Solothurn and Aargau, for example, you couldn’t wash and dry your clothes between 11am and midday.
Now, however, the Electricity Supply Lawexternal link has been adapted so that customers must give their approval for such network bans (if they do, their energy bill is lower). Consumer behaviour had changed, the head of one energy provider explained, with fewer people cooking at lunchtime.