Immigration: Indian family forced to leave Switzerland after 20 years

An Indian family who has lived in Switzerland for 20 years - with two children born in the Alpine nation - has been forced to leave after a court decision upheld a decision not to extend the father’s residence permit.

Immigration: Indian family forced to leave Switzerland after 20 years
Switzerland's former President Doris Leuthard (L) walks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the leave for a meeting in New Delhi on August 31, 2017 Image: Money SHARMA / AFP

The Bern administrative court ruled on Monday that the decision of cantonal immigration authorities not to extend the father’s residency permit was valid. 

The story has made waves in Switzerland and abroad as the family’s two children – aged 16 and 11 years – will also be forced to return despite having never lived in India

The parents arrived in Switzerland from India in 2000. 

The man’s residency permit extension request was denied due to a string of business-related offences, including embezzlement, fraudulent bankruptcy and mismanagement. 

In 2017, he served six months of a 30-month sentence in relation to the offences. 

In dismissing the man’s appeal, the court said that the man was poorly integrated into Swiss society and that the family had accrued too much debt. 

The judges did however give the potential for a reprieve to the family’s 16-year-old daughter, who began a vocational training program in mid-2019. 

The court said that the daughter may be able to stay in Switzerland due to her “special circumstances”, provided that she can prove she has sufficient financial resources and supervision. 

The court said that while the issuing of residence permits to minors was unusual in Swiss law, it was not expressly prohibited. 

The notion of ‘integration’ is a prominent consideration of migration authorities in deciding whether or not residency permits will be approved. 

Switzerland will vote on an initiative to restrict immigration in late September. 

READ: What is Switzerland's referendum to restrict migration and will it pass? 


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Three Swiss cantons overlooked by foreigners

Many foreigners are drawn to Switzerland thanks to factors like the high quality of living. But which cantons are less popular with international residents?

Three Swiss cantons overlooked by foreigners

In 2021, 26 percent of the permanent resident population in Switzerland were foreigners, 31 percent were born abroad, and 39 percent had a migration background.

Many foreigners moving to Switzerland choose to live in big cities and areas surrounding urban centres. Unsurprisingly, the cantons of Geneva, Basel City and Vaud have some of the largest proportion of foreign residents at 41, 37 and 33 percent, respectively.

But while The Local has covered the Swiss cantons – and smaller towns – most foreigners choose to settle down in Switzerland, let’s have a look at the cantons that fail to pique their interest.

READ ALSO: Five small towns that attract lots of foreign nationals

Appenzell Innerrhoden

At just 11 percent, Appenzell Innerrhoden is the Swiss canton with the least number of permanent foreign residents. This however doesn’t come as a surprise as the small canton with its 16,578 residents is also Switzerland’s least populated. So, if the Swiss aren’t dying to move to Appenzell Innerrhoden, surely neither will foreigners. But why is that?

First things first, the canton is far from well-connected, and this is in stark contrast with the country as a whole which is known to have one of Europe’s best railway systems. Located in Eastern Switzerland, Appenzell Innerrhoden is off the beaten track as it to this day has neither a national road connection nor does it link to the national standard-gauge train tracks.

Though the canton has a train station – the Bahnhof Appenzell – it is only serviced by the St. Gallen S-Bahn (S20, S21, S23), covering Trogen, Gossau and Wasserauen. This makes a daily commute to Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, all of which are popular working cities for foreigners, inconvenient.

If you’re thinking of skipping a commute by getting a job in the canton itself, you may be looking at a career change. Appenzell Innerrhoden is known for its agriculture (and little else), specifically cattle breeding and dairy farming, with Appenzeller cheese widely available throughout Switzerland.

Interestingly, Appenzell Innerrhoden was the last canton in Switzerland to give women the right to vote at a cantonal level, only allowing them to do so in 1990 – 19 years after they were allowed to vote at a national level (1971).

READ ALSO: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?


The Swiss canton of Uri borders an impressive eight cantons where all four official national languages are spoken, yet despite this accessibility the canton has failed to attract foreigners. In 2021, only 13 percent of its 37,000 residents were foreign nationals, compared to 26 percent Switzerland-wide.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to visit Uri as a tourist – if a permanent move to the canton feels too daunting. As one of Switzerland’s founding cantons alongside Schwyz and Unterwalden, Uri boasts some of the country’s most stunning sights, such as the Teufelsbrücke (devil’s bridge), Wilhelm Tell Museum and the infamous Rütli where the Rütli Oath was sworn.

Unsurprisingly, tourism is one of Uri’s major industries and the canton has an exceptional road network that reaches remote areas in the mountains.

Following SBB’s updated timetable as of December 2022, you can now reach Altdorf – the capital of Uri – even easier. There are 90 train connections every working day from Altdorf (Intercity, Interregio and S-Bahn) to the north and south of the country. You can hop on a train to Uri every two hours from Zurich and Lugano.


Despite being the Swiss canton closest to Paris – from Delémont it takes barely three hours to reach the French capital – Jura is the third least favourite canton for foreigners to permanently settle in. As of 2021, just 15 percent of Jura’s 73,798 inhabitants were foreign nationals.

The French-speaking canton is also Switzerland’s youngest and was established on 1st January 1979 when it split from German-speaking Bern following a series of polls held to decide on the separation. Bern’s districts got to choose whether they wanted to remain with the canton – as they had for 165 years – or join the new Jura. In the end, six districts remained and seven stayed.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

Today, the canton stands out in many ways – not least due to its non-existent traffic lights. In fact, Jura, unlike other Swiss cantons, does not have a single traffic light, relying instead on its residents to keep the traffic running smoothly with a generous number of roundabouts. Traffic lights are only used as a temporary measure during construction.

The canton is also a focus of horse breeding in Switzerland and home to the Freiberger horse breed, formerly known as the ‘Jura-Pferd’ (Jura horse).

Despite its quirks, economically, Jura is one of Switzerland’s weakest cantons which is reflected in its many empty and decaying properties. The canton also has the country’s highest unemployment rate alongside Geneva at 3.7 percent compared to 2.1 percent at the federal level (December 2022).

More recently, Jura’s cantonal police presented the police crime statistics for the year 2022 which showed that crimes against property increased by 14 percent with 1,921 offenses recorded in 2022 compared to 1,684 in 2021. The most frequent property offenses are larceny, burglary, vehicle theft and fraud.