For those who don’t know, Switzerland has a rather pesky requirement that when you intend to leave the country permanently, you’re required to “deregister” with the local immigration office.  For us, that office is SPoMi (Le Service de la population et des migrants), in Fribourg.  The simple intent is to let the appropriate officials know that you’ll be vacating their country.  The process of deregistration is supposed to be quite simple.  It should look something like this:

  1. Arrive at the Fribourg canton immigration office on Route d’Englisberg 11 in Granges-Paccot.
  2. Complete a single-page deregistration form in French asking for name, DOB, date of physical departure from Switzerland, and your address in the new country of residence.
  3. Relinquish your residency permits for the SPoMi officials to destroy.  For some reason I can’t get rid of the image of them having a daily card-cutting party with cake and refreshments to celebrate the departure of pesky foreigners.
  4. Pay 30 chf per person.
  5. Receive an official letter of deregistration.

This letter of deregistration is critical since it’s required to cancel services such as utilities, mandatory medical insurance, cell phone contracts, etc and receive reimbursements for any services you may have pre-paid.  It also dictates when you’re no longer liable to pay into Swiss taxes and will likely be required to show Customs if you’re moving to another European country with household items so as to avoid paying import taxes on your possessions.

Simple, right?

While in theory it should be, it hasn’t proven so for us.

Last week we visited SPoMi and made our first attempt to deregister.  We were denied.  Why?  Because we were supposed to have already left.  Say whu?

Travis’s final work contract in Switzerland expired September 30th, so that was the same expiration date for our residency permits.  According to the gentleman at SPoMi last week, he couldn’t deregister us for October because we should have left Switzerland September 30th.  Nor could he backdate our departure to September because the date is set by the actual date we’ll physically leave the country.  Clearly, we’re still here and don’t yet have a date of departure.

Apparently this employee isn’t aware of the allowance for US citizens to remain in Switzerland for an additional 90 days (and 180 days for EU citizens) after the expiration of residency.  Not quite sure how to explain to him the irony of the situation – that he wouldn’t let us leave because we should have already left – we simply left the office.

When we returned to SPoMi this week,  we were armed with a letter from our landlord stating we’d be vacating our flat October 31st.  In addition to that, we had an email from a helpful employee from the Swiss Federal Dept of Foreign Affairs confirming that we’re legally allowed to remain in Switzerland after the expiration of our residency permits for 90 days as “tourists”, until December 29th.

Take that, SPoMi.

The same employee served us at SPoMi today, but this time he didn’t say a word about our expired residency permits, nor did he ask for any additional documents (though he did keep a copy of our landlord’s note).  He simply told us they would deregister us for October 31st – just like that.

I would deem our visit a success except that we couldn’t complete the process.  For some reason, he told us we’d have to come back yet again on Friday to pay the fees and receive our official deregistration papers.  So we’ll go back a third time on Friday, which will hopefully be our last visit ever required to SPoMi.

Here’s what I still don’t understand, even after all the blogs I’ve sifted through from other expats leaving Switzerland and all the convoluted stories I’ve read on English Forum.

How is it possible for Switzerland to disallow residents (or expired residents) from deregistering until they physically leave the country?  Shouldn’t we be allowed, or even required, to deregister when our residency expires if our residency expires before we physically leave?  As residents, we’re required to continue to pay for monthly health insurance, renter’s insurance, and taxes, all mandatory, yet we’re not technically even covered under said insurance since we’re now “tourists”.

For example, we called SwissCare, Travis’s health insurance provider, who assured him that they can’t insure him for October since he’s no longer a resident.  However, we won’t be reimbursed for the October premiums we already paid because SwissCare will cancel our coverage based on the date of our deregistration paperwork – ie, October.

Sorry ya’ll, but that’s just sketchy.  Talk about shaftin’ expats.

Perhaps someone will eventually enlighten us as to the rationale (or even legality) behind the process of deregistration, but in the meantime, we drift in Swiss No Man’s Land as non-residents who are still required to pay taxes for services we can’t access.  Ahhhh, bureaucracy at its finest!

Update as of October 23rd!

After two unsuccessful visits to SPoMi, Travis and I were finally able to officially deregister in Switzerland.  Apparently the third time really is a charm!

This time around, we walked in, gave them 60 chf, handed over our expired residency permits for them to destroy, and waited five minutes.  We left with multiple copies of the official deregistration letter confirming our date of departure from Switzerland for October 31st.

It’s a bummer we’ll be homeless again, this time on Halloween, but it must be a sign that we’ll be leaving on the most spooktacular day of the year.  I love Halloween!  It’s tempting to dress as superheroes that day, but I’ve a feeling it might cause some serious problems if Batman and Wonder Woman were to show up at the border – any border – and expect to be allowed passage.

Still tempting though.

8 Responses

    • Two Small Potatoes

      It sums up a year and a half of phone calls, emails, and visits to the Swiss consulate in the US and the immigration office here, all of which have been convoluted, expensive, and frustrating. It really has been a pain, but on a brighter note, we successfully deregistered yesterday during our third visit!

      Reply
    • Two Small Potatoes

      Only his short story, “The Metamorphosis.” The entire process of deregistering here has definitely been Kafkaesque! It sounds like you guys didn’t have a problem though, did you?

      Reply
      • Two Small Potatoes

        Well I’m glad you didn’t have the same problems! I saw your new blog, but I still don’t have a way to really connect to it with mine. I’ll keep looking for a plugin for that. Hope you’re all ready for the holiday season!

      • cvanryswyk

        I, too, find some things elusive with WordPress… However, you have more important things to think about right now! Following your story with every post and hoping for a good move for you guys!

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